There are few instant death moments. Checkpoints, save points and health and magic top-ups are spread widely enough that you don’t have to repeat ten minutes of hard work, but not so close that you whistle through the levels in a thrice. It has Ico’s brilliant dangle-before-you-fall mechanism cutting in when you take a wrong step off a thin walkway, and there’s a brilliant finishing move system, acting like a mini rhythm action game, which lets you kill off creatures in style for extra power-ups. God of War even has the sense to use a Devil May Cry 3 style weapon and special power upgrade system, where blood points can be used to charge up your blades, an alternative heavy sword weapon, or your god-given magic powers as you see fit.
And while concerns are raised by the number of block-shuffling, lever pulling puzzles in the game, they are all actually quite well handled, requiring a little more thought or the use of a particular capability to prevail. In other words, there are block puzzles, but they don’t detract from the general, crimson-splattered mayhem.
By any yardstick, God of War is a stunning game. Visually, it has few peers, the game mechanics are streamlined but finely polished, and it provides more standout moments than just any other game this year (Resident Evil 4 being the only real exception). Yet somehow, it’s more than the sum of these parts. Like all truly great games, God of War has a ‘feel’ all of its own. There’s something about Kratos and his desire to put his troubled soul at peace, about the game’s beautiful settings and coherent art design that elevates God of War’s violent spectacle to something approaching masterpiece status. Like the best heroic fantasy, it connects with something primal and mythical, sets the heart racing and the pulse pounding, and leaves you desperate to know – where next? We can only hope the answer is a PS3 sequel.
A solid gold PS2 classic, God of War doesn’t so much redefine the console action game as supercharge the existing formula, but this is cinematic blood and thunder at its best.