Written by G. James-Weir
It’s ok…come back. I’m not going to do some quasi-review of a game you all know about. I mean, it came out 10 years ago…you ALL know about this series. But instead, I’m going to waffle about the combat. Take a seat, pour yourself a tea, it’s ok, it’s not been brewing for too long. Biscuit? Oh a diet…yeah, me too, a ‘SEE FOOD AND EAT IT DIET RIGHT?!!? Ha!
Anyway. The combat.
I’ve mentioned before on this very blog how I see the God of War/DmC/Bayonetta games as the evolved form of the brawler genre, and since the brawler was about brawling, the combat plays a big part in this. Your simple ‘B, B, B,BB’ combo (Street of Rage standard attack obv) has become a mix of timing and Tekken style multi-button combos to remember. Your light attacks, your heavy attacks, launchers, grabs and air juggles are a staple of the genre and a clear evolution of that old SoR/Final Fight/ way of dealing with a screen full of bad guys who need their jaws dislocating. Not that GoW is the creator of this style of combat, no no sir. Many games have had this mechanic before it, but GoW has refined it to a total art form.
God of War as you know has what can only be described as a ‘basic as fuck’ story, so thankfully the developers spent of lot of time making sure the combat has some meaty weight behind it. Whereas it’s not quite as refined or tactical than Ninja Gaiden or as show off-y as DmC, or as finally tuned as the ‘madder than a bag of Snakes tripping on ketamine‘ combat from Bayonetta, but what God of War has is impact. Big, chunky, visceral impact.
Landing a powerful combo on a group on enemies feels SO good. There’s a serious feeling that you’ve landed a colossal hit on a group of enemies when you do a combo like Spirit of Hercules’, with it’s enormous vertical slams into the ground. Watching enemies go flying, often with a deftly timed bit of slow motion to emphasis the impact that makes you feel like an all conquering Spartan warlord…which you are. So that’s a good thing.
Visually as well, the sense of impact on enemies is great. They go flying into walls, recoiling from getting a chain-blade in the face, blood splattering all over the arena. The standard ‘Blades of Chaos’ look incredible in motion, whirling chains of death, swinging through crowds with speed and some incredible animations; Kratos looks like he’s giving every swing his all as he launches the blades forward. Starting out, the blades aren’t much to look at, they glow occasionally when you hit a big combo, but once you level them up they become cyclones of fire and blood…there’s no equal to them in any game. The Blades have become the defining weapon of the genre, with lesser games like the quite terrible ‘Angry Poet with Mummy issues’ simulator Dante’s Inferno tried to ape them with it’s bendy..scythe? Axe? Spear-Axe? Whatever it was, it really wasn’t very good and it shows that whilst dumb in content, God of War’s weaponry is perfectly balanced between visuals and pleasing feedback.
But that is a *bit* unfair of me. I was at the time comparing Dante’s Inferno to God of War 3, which is without a doubt a total masterpiece of a game and my first foray into Krato’s violent version of ancient Greek Gods. And what an introduction is was, a powerhouse of spectacle that still game still looks damn impressive – and I was surprised to find out the PS2 games hold up really well. The Vita port as mentioned is a bit lacking in polish but the environments are all gargantuan in scale, including a temple chained to the back of one of the last living Titans who you see in glimpses miles below you as you scale the outside of said temple.
Of course, the levels are all there to provide a little environmental puzzling and some utterly awful platforming to break up the combat and a little pacing goes a long way. As good as the combat is, it would be a total slog if it was combat, combat, combat. The little breaks give you *just* enough time to recover from the last fight and get you craving more of that meaty combo system.
I’m glossing over something here: the games are totally childish. Totally over the top violence with nothing else. I mean, this is a series that lets you repeatedly punch Kevin Sorbo’s Hercules in the face in a QTE that only stops when you stop mashing.
And sometimes you need a mindless blockbuster just to sit back and not think too much about. Like I said up there, God of War’s focus is making you feel like a steamrolling machine of death and it does that really, really well.