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God of War: The Greeks Would Be Proud

I?m generally pretty good at keeping my fan-boyish excitement under wraps, but when it comes to a game as cool as God of War, the effort becomes really, really hard. So I?ll just let it out:

God of War owns on every level imaginable!!!

Now that I got that out of my system...

God of War takes the stylish combat of Devil May Cry, mixes in Ico-style puzzles, and throws in a little Ray Harryhausen for good measure. The game opens with the Spartan warrior Kratos (that would be you) jumping from atop a cliff to his death. Normally the main character?s death isn?t the best way to start a game, but Kratos? fall gives him just enough time to think back on the past few days of his life. As it turns out, all Hades has been unleashed on Greece by the ?God of War,? Ares. Since Zeus has decreed that no god may attack another god, Kratos is sent out to stop him. Ultimately, his quest leads him to unlocking the powers of Pandora?s Box which, based on our hero?s current mental state, doesn?t go as planned.

God of War is a Classical Studies major?s dream come true. Nearly every Greek myth is represented in the game in one form or another, forming the basis of the game?s levels. You?ll face skeletons, harpies, and even square off against the hydra. The gods will also intercede on your behalf from time to time. While they can?t openly attack Ares, there?s no rule against them giving Kratos a little magical help, paving the way for Zeus? thunderbolts and other gifts from the gods. Kratos is also able to find help from fallen foes. Kill Medusa and you can use her head to turn other enemies into stone. It?s all the fun of ?Clash of the Titans? without having to subject yourself to Harry Hamlin in a toga.

Kratos? main weapons are his two chained swords that can be whirled around with deadly efficiency. Moves can be linked in massive combos, making for some really viscious combos and bloody dismemberment. Kratos can also grab opponents and submit them to punishing moves like aerial power slams or even spin them around like helicopter blades. You haven?t lived until you?ve pulled the wings off of a harpy -- or at least I think it was a harpy. But after slicing it with blades and ripping off its wings, who can tell? Taking out enemies produces energy orbs that can be used to pull off berserker moves that make normal attacks look like a slap fight.

Boss battles are a mix of both combat skills and quickness. After reaching a certain point in battles, icons will appear on screen. Timing button presses correctly lets Kratos pull off flashy moves. The more buttons you hit in correct succession, the more devastating the kill. What really makes these moves incredible is the camera work, adding an almost movie-like quality to the sequences. It also adds a little something different to battles.

Puzzles add a very Ico- or Prince of Persia-like element to the game. Puzzles are just a little different and require more interaction than mindlessly pulling levers. One puzzle, which takes place on a sinking ship, has Kratos nimbly crossing a maze of skinny planks while certain death rages below. Then there are the requisite box puzzles, which are also a little different than what you might expect. Instead of merely pushing the boxes to reach higher levels, they first have to be used as a shield against a legion of fire-arrow wielding archers. Basic science tells us that wooden boxes and fire never mix, which means the use of other boxes in the area to protect Kratos? step stool.

All of the action takes place through stylish, hi-resolution cinemas and a top-flight graphics engine that seamlessly blend into each other. In fact, the two match up so well that there are times when you?d swear some of the in-game cinematics were CGI. The entire game is also presented through a cinematic camera system that smartly tracks all of the on-screen action, giving you the best looking shots while keeping the game playable.

By all indicators, God of War is shaping up to be a true masterpiece. When I first saw it at E3 2004, I was pretty impressed. But now, almost a year later, I?m completely blown away by the amount of polish showcased in the game. Time will tell if the entire game plays as well as the demo, but one thing is certain -- do not dismiss this one as just another action game.

-Starscream, GameVortex Communications
AKA Ricky Tucker
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