An excellent fighting adventure, marred only slightly by a heavy overdose of pointless gore
God of War is one of the better action / adventure games to come out in some time. It incorporates a Greek mythological theme, a solid & intuitive fighting game engine, mild platforming action sequences, intriguing puzzle sections and top-notch graphics in a successful blend.
One of the elements that I found refreshing were the mini-challenges required to dispatch different foes with. In some cases, one must enter a button sequence quickly to finish off an enemy (such as a hydra), or in others, one must button-mash quickly to defeat a Minotaur.
I very much enjoyed the puzzle elements. God of War is not by far a puzzle game, but the puzzles / riddles included in the game are just enough to separate the many fighting action sequences. As well, they're challenging without being too difficult. Some particularly rewarding puzzles involve moving stone blocks in such a sequence that you can hop up to reach a special weapon or health bonus, choosing the right path on some girders so that there are fewer enemies to fight, and resting statues on top of switches that allow you to pass though gates.
The best accomplishment of the game, however, I think would be the fighting engine. It's difficult to make a "brawler" of this kind without it become boring and repetitive. God of War manages enough in the way of weapon and enemy selection and combos available that it never truly becomes tedious. There are a huge variety of ways to attack opponents, including multiple throws, jump attacks, jumping throws, throw-combos and all kinds of crazy nonsense. In a few sequences your character is climbing on a horizontal rope and you must basically fight other climbing enemies on the same rope with your feet. I took especially devilish pleasure in catching foes in a head-scissor and then hurling them into the dark chasm beneath.
While God of War makes no secret that its theme is dark and not for the feint of heart, it goes too far in the way of over-the-top blood and nasty stuff. I'm not offended by it by any means, but it's clear that the makers spent just a little too much time catering to the fourteen-year-old boy crowd who will surely coo and yelp with delight over how gross their new bloody game is. You spend time cracking harpies' spines, jamming a dagger into the pried-open mouth of a Minotaur, ripping foes ribcages apart with chains and all kinds of fairly unnecessarily rough stuff. The end effect of all these things on me was a general feeling of slight disgust and distaste, which unfortunately discolor my enjoyment of the game significantly. And no, I wasn't expecting Super Mario Sunshine or anything along those lines. But this game is many, many levels dirtier and more gory than any Mortal Kombat or similar title, and I didn't see why it needed to be. On a related note, Mortal Kombat: Shaolin Monks is a pretty "gross" game that never really seemed to overdo it in a way that turned me off like God of War did.
The Bottom Line
God of War is a really great game in terms of almost every level of design. It's a superbly put together product that is only slighted by me for being pointlessly dark, bloody and full of gory grime at almost every turn. The action, graphics, puzzles, control and nearly everything else that really affects gameplay are all top notch. It would easily be one of my favorite games if it didn't take on the personality of a teenage boy trying to impress girls with boogers and dead frogs. "Hey everyone, look at how gross I can be!" is a pick up line that just simply doesn't work for me at all.