Platform Playstation 2
Release Date US: March 22, 2005
EU: June 17, 2005
Developer Sony Computer Entertainment of America (SCEA)
Publisher SCEA
ESRB M - Blood and Gore, Intense Violence, Nudity, Sexual Themes, Strong Language

Unleash the power of the Gods and embark on a merciless quest as Kratos, an ex-Spartan warrior driven to destroy Ares, the God of War. (Description taken from US Playstation website, url can be found here.)

User Review: Spectacular. Remember that feeling you got as a kid, picking up that new action figure and then sending it on all sorts of wild and crazy adventures? That's what this felt like, except grown up. The combat system is so wildly fluid that you can't help but get euphoric playing it. Kratos's weapon of choice, a pair of swords welded to chains that are in turn welded to his arms fit the system so well that when you get the only other weapon in the game, you go back to the original Swords Of Chaos after an hour or two just because they feel so much more natural. Two of the designers were Street Fighter II tournament players, and it shows1; the combat system includes reversals, juggles, and throws. It is worth mentioning the originality of the combat here: almost all of the harder-to-fight enemies have a special minigame finishing sequence, ala WarioWare. Three or four button presses, or a few twists of an analog stick, and you plunge a sword into a gaping maw or rend heads from shoulders in extremely satisfying death animations.

It is also worth noting that this game should probably have come with a somewhat larger rating symbol. To my knowledge, this is the second console game to contain nudity and an M rating. This isn't just a quick nipple-slip, either. Kratos lives in Greece, after all. The climate in Greece lends itself much more to filmy see-through halter tops (or nothing at all, in a couple cases) than it does to sweaters.
The gore level is a step or two above most of the bloodier games out there. Eyes are gouged out, heads are removed or stabbed through, men and monster alike are rent apart, set on fire, eaten, and trampled. All of this is standard fare, by the way; I'm not going to mention the boss sequences, save to say that they are, uh, more intense.

The pacing of the story, combat,and puzzles is very refreshing, not to mention almost seamless. At one point, you fight a boss on the sublevels of a half-sunken ship. After his defeat, he flees the ship, and all the intensity and energy built up in the fight goes with him, replaced with a minor puzzle and a rather nice view. The relief is tangible.

Only three or four times did I see a Loading screen over the course of the entire game besides the one shown when loading a saved game, and those lasted for twenty seconds, tops. However, you will probably be seeing that save-game loading screen a lot, as some of the puzzles require very close timing, and the combat in the later stages can go bad on you very quick if you don't pay attention. Aside from one puzzle involving a bridge and an uncooperative civilian, everything was very well laid out and intuitive.

The only real issues with the game are the total time, and the nagging lack of replayability. It only takes about ten hours to finish. Once you're done with it, there aren't a whole lot of reasons to go back and play it again. Once you finish it the first time, you unlock God Mode, a very hard mode set so that Kratos only deals half damage and takes five times damage. There's also some unlockable costumes in an extra challenge mode that change Kratos's stats during the main game, except during God Mode. There are fewer bosses than one would expect in an action platformer, and I have heard complaints about that, but I prefer less boss battles, so I am not really qualified to comment. Also, there is one level involving an almost exclusively red palette. It will hurt.

This is a very good rental. There's no two player or online, of course, but I imagine a hotseat combo competition would be fun at parties. I personally couldn't justify paying MSRP after seeing how short this game was. All in all, though, a very solid rental, and very deserving of the reviews it's getting in gaming magazines. Give it a shot on a weekend or a day off. It's very much worth your time.

Sources: 1Electronic Gaming Monthly, May 2005, p. 128,

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