Developer(s) – Santa Monica Studios
Publisher(s) – Sony Computer Entertainment
Director – David Jaffe
Producer – Shannon Studstill
PEGI – 18
Released back in 2005 to universal acclaim, the original God of War game introduced gamers to the exploits of the Spartan warrior Kratos, and the series has since become one of Sony’s flagship franchises alongside the likes of Little Big Planet, Uncharted, The Last of Us and Ratchet & Clank. The first game in the series won several Game of the Year awards for 2005 and is considered one of the better games on the PlayStation 2, and since playing it the first time, I have become an avid fan of the series, but this title provided a ground-breaking starting point for the franchise.
Graphics – 8.5/10
The first game is primarily set in ancient Athens, but the game takes Kratos to a plethora of locations across the ancient Greek landscape like Pandora’s Temple and the depths of Hades; as such it is also littered with creatures, characters, and enemies that featured prominently throughout the medium, such as harpies, minotaurs, hydra, and gorgons. It presents players with a wonderfully dark and gritty take on the whole Greek mythos, which was quite a unique medium to take on at a time when a lot of games focused on other prominent mythological subjects like medieval fantasy, post-apocalyptic futures, or steampunk universes. On a technical level, it also did extremely well to showcase what the PlayStation 2 could do, as the sixth generation of gaming was a year or so away from drawing to a close; impressively, it play out at 60 frames per second, which for a game of its graphical quality, was outstanding at the time.
Gameplay – 8.5/10
According to David Jaffe, the creator of the original game, he designed it in mind for the player to let their inner beat free, and go nuts, and this game certainly affords the opportunity to do that. Playing God of War is a wonderfully brutal experience from start to finish; definitely not for the faint of heart, who dislike violence, but a whole lot of fun for those who don’t mind it. As a hack and slash game, the objective is to cut through wave after wave of enemies as the game progresses, and with the more enemies thrown at the player over time, and more the violence is ramped up. The combat is intense to an unfathomable degree, and it gets progressively more so; not to mention the sheer quality and clever handling of the boss fights. One thing players will notice about this game, as well as every other game in the entire series, is that they always strive to leave a lasting first impression on players; and this game does that better than others in the series, with the first boss being a towering Hydra at sea. But besides which, there are also instances in the game, particularly later on, where combat is swapped out for elaborate puzzle-solving, which gives the game a fair amount of variety; again, something that would go on to become a staple of the series.
Controls – 10/10
The God of War games has also become renowned throughout the industry for its clever implementation of game controls; most notably the context-sensitive sequences during puzzle-solving and boss fights. They would go on to become more elaborate with each installment, but even in the first game, they’re handled particularly well, leaving no room for unnecessary frustrations in a game designed to challenge players.
Lifespan – 6/10
The biggest problem with the original game, which would eventually be something the developers would go on to address over time, is the lifespan, with the original game only being made to last there sound 6 hours in total. Jaffe also said in an interview that the original idea was to make a game like Onimusha, just set in Greek mythology; although they succeeded in terms of gameplay, it’s a pity they couldn’t have even made it last as long as the former, which didn’t have an overly impressive lifespan itself. I think there was definitely room for expansion on the idea, which of course was demonstrated in the sequels, but it would’ve been nice to see it in the original game.
Storyline – 9/10
The story of God of War centers around Kratos, a former Spartan warlord championed by the gods as a divine warrior. He is tasked by Olympus to kill the god of war Ares, who has laid waste to the city of Athens in defiance of Zeus and Athena on the promise that if he succeeds, the gods absolve Kratos of his past sins that have tormented him for ten years. Throughout the story, Kratos’s extensive backstory is gradually revealed and the player will get more of a sense of the kind of character that he is, which all fits in perfectly with the tableau of a classic Greek tragedy. The story is expertly written and the dialogue never comes off as forced or comedic as what a lot of video games before this were prone to doing. It presents players with a fantasy world grounded in realism, as the themes like human mortality and moral conflict play significant parts in not only the original story, but throughout the series as well.
Originality – 8.5/10
As I alluded to, the game presents players with a theme of Greek mythology; something that was uncommon in gaming at the time. It also helped to break the mold of there simply being plain good and evil, with no shades of grey to contend with. Nowadays, a lot of stories that are portrayed in fiction are gritty and morally ambiguous with no true sense of right and wrong; but this game was among a handful of others, such as those of the Legacy of Kain series, that tackled the subject before it became cool to do so; therefore it helped to make it stand out among many other titles of the sixth generation.
Overall, God of War is a triumph in its own right, which later spawned one of the most recognizable and successful series in all of gaming. The original game did the job to establish the wonderful staples that the series would later adapt for future installments, but still, it remains a certified pleasure to play through every time.
8/10 (Very Good)