Thursday, March 31, 2005

God of War/rior Within

I'm about 2 hours into God of War (decent, short review over at Wired, another at the Onion), which has successfully drawn my attention away from any other games I may have been playing or thinking of playing. Here's a few initial impressions:
  • Similarity to Prince of Persia: In some ways, this is the game that Warrior Within should have been. If you're going to go all dark and goth, go all the way. Where PoP:WW let the player chop baddies in half, God of War has the player character ripping enemies in half with his bare hands (not to mention tearing the wings off harpies, and the heads off gorgons). Where PoP:WW has female characters with silly proportions and skimpy outfits, God of War has full-on nudity and a playable sex scene (off-screen, but still...). In terms of theme/style, God of War takes the safe, sanitized, teen-angsty, "generic rage" of PoP:WW and pushes it so far into the ferocious and brutal that it actually becomes interesting. In my opinion, PoP should stick to the fantastic navigation of complex spaces that both The Sands of Time and Warrior Within pulled off so well. Leave the darkness and ultra-violence to those who are willing to go all the way.
  • Story: Told in classic flashback form, the story starts at the end, leading to a sense of inevitability that plays off the palpable rage and frustration of the main character, Kratos. Kratos himself is an enigma that draws the player in. He's disarmingly simple in his savage disregard for life, but there are hints at a deeper complexity to his character, hints that he has a reason for being this way, which make the player all the more curious to learn his story.
  • Combat: Joyfully brutal. I can't add much to what's already been said. But it is the core of the game, and it's executed in superb fashion.
  • Puzzles: So far, the few puzzles I've come across are well integrated into the action, some even involving combat and the use of special powers. Turning an enemy to stone in an opportune place, for instance. Generally, these are not the spacial navigation puzzles of Prince of Persia, but rather they elegantly combine Kratos's combat abilities with environmental elements, leaving the player feeling clever and satisfied without having to change gameplay modes. There's no feeling of "Ok, now I've got to think about this puzzle" or "It's time to switch to the combat mindset."
  • Camera: Unlike just about every other game of its kind, God of War doesn't give the player any control over the camera. Every once in a while this bothers me, but I think that's just because I haven't internalized the fact that it's essentially unnecessary for the player to look around. Whereas in PoP, I would have looked around with the camera control to find solutions to a puzzle, I've found that movement and exploration in God of War will often acheive the same end.
  • Violence: And Hillary Clinton's worried about GTA. Clearly, she hasn't witnessed the gleeful decapitations and constant, unrelenting gore of God of War. This game is extremely cathartic in its violent release of pure anger. Whether this is a good thing could be debatable, but I'm certainly enjoying it. It's not for kids, though, in case you haven't figured that out by now.

PS. Did anyone else find it a little disturbing that the same left thumbstick twiddling is used both for popping the heads off gorgons and for pleasuring the two ladies in Kratos's bed on the way to Athens?


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