Friday, June 18, 2010

PS3 Look - God of War 1 & 2 Collection

On one hand I'm supposed to say "Wow this is great you get two highly-rated games with a bunch of extras at a cheap price" but on the other hand I'm going to say "Wow these games might have been fun when I first played them but today they bore the crap out of me." No I didn't make this blog so I can talk bad about mainstream games and brag about whatever obscure nonsense I just played through. When a game like God of War Collection rolls around though I kind of get that feeling. While the both of these games get a lot of things right in terms of presentation and value it may as well be meaningless when I couldn't even get myself through one of them.

Actually that's not entirely accurate. I played through both God of Wars when they came out on the Playstation 2 and in fact I enjoyed them. Thing was however is that I played them to see what would happen next. Even though it's been several years I still have faint memories of the events of both games and even particular areas/battles are still remembered. In a sense I know what to expect but if the games were fun replaying them still wouldn't be an issue. Unfortunately that's not the case.

Let's start with God of War 1. Kratos is an angry guy who was wronged by a huge jerk named Ares. The best idea for dealing with someone that wronged you is to kill them but since Ares is a God it'll take a bit more than a knife and vengeance to do the deed. The entire game is a mix of Devil May Cry-styled 3D action and Zelda-esque block-pushing and puzzle-solving. While the full game only clocks in somewhere around ten hours it is an adventure of grandiose quality and remarkable design.

Problem is the developers were more obsessed with creating something of artistic merit rather than a good game. This game has a fondness for manipulating the camera to create memorable scenes and building levels that complement it. This somehow leads to tons of long hallways, a lot of pointless meandering, and after awhile I just wanted to see some action.

Problem is I get to the action and suddenly I feel like I'd rather stare at pretty pictures some more. The fighting in God of War simply isn't fun. Kratos wields a pair of swords attached to chains which can perform a sizable variety of moves. It's pretty cool but there's no feeling to it at all. By this I mean when the sword makes contact with the enemy I feel like I'm playing some older game where enemies flashed to tell the player they were hit but otherwise they just kept doing what they're doing. These days I tend to expect a bit of reaction. When I swing a sword the size of a pig at someone I expect them to react accordingly, I should not have to look at some combo counter at the top corner of the screen to confirm that "Yep I hit him". Most of the time enemies ignore my attacks and just keep on going, which means I don't even get the opportunity to use some of the stronger and more entertaining combos. If it's something like a minotaur or other very strong foe well forget it, I can hit him twice, roll out of the way, and repeat until they fall down.

Fighting is an absolute constant in this game. Even when I'm traversing areas I just cleared a minute ago it's expected that a new batch of enemies will show up. Most of the time these encounters aren't harder or even show any thought or importance at all. It's just one nuisance after another as a bunch of the same dregs roll in for me to effortlessly waste. It's fighting for the sake of fighting and since I don't have any fun with this game's combat it's just boring.

This game also has an obsession with creating terribly un-fun scenarios. Early on I'm expected to push an easily-destroyed crate to the other side of an area so I can use it as a stepping stone. All the while there are archers taking pot-shots at me and my weak crate. Moving forward I have to drag a cage up a hill while bad guys get in my face. These guys spawn to the point of near-infinity but if I ignore my cage to deal with them it'll slide to the bottom of the hill. Yes I'm well aware there are places on the hill where the cage won't move but that doesn't excuse such a stupid concept. There are a number of these moments throughout the game designed solely to test my very limited patience. They're not challenging, they're not rewarding, and they're certainly not fun.

Looking back I realized I could stomach maybe an hour of this game at a time. Sometimes it would take days or even weeks for me to put forth the effort to spend another hour on such a dull adventure. God of War 1 really hasn't held up well at all. Thankfully the sequel is a textbook example when it comes to making a game that's better in every way than the first.

To start with the most important addition is fun combat. Moves were changed, properties were adjusted, a handful of new items and abilities were added in and changed around, basically everything has been made to be more entertaining. I could go on for days about what moves in God of War 1 simply didn't work and in the sequel all of them were fixed. Unfortunately the game never really fixed that hollow feeling I get when I kill someone. There's no thrill to it, no reason to play stylishly, and eventually I just wish I could skip the fights and move on. For me there is simply no satisfaction to be had from killing in this game.

Which is a shame cause it's obvious the developers went all out in terms of Greek Star-power. I meet and most likely kill everyone from Jason(sans Argonauts), to Perseus, to Icarus, and all of the freaks and monsters in-between. It's quite a trip going through the rogue's gallery of Greek Mythology and yet it's all wasted because I don't have the urge to continue. Then again this also might be because the boss-fights don't really manage to be all that compelling. There's a number of factors that go into this and not all of them involve the game itself. I will say though is that there just isn't enough in the way of strategy or creativity when it comes to dealing with these bosses. For the most part I can treat them like any other strong enemy, I hit them a couple times and then block or roll out of the way.

Some of the puzzles are really cool as well as they tend to involve aspects such as manipulating time. In some ways though this feels like a glorified "switch" as the mechanics don't seem all that different than if I were to throw a switch that could only stay on for a limited amount of time before a platform disappeared or a door closed. It's neat the first time around but it's only a visual and doesn't hold up to repeat play.

In a way it's one of those "it's not the game, it's me" situations. In a lot of ways God of War 2 turns out to be a legitimately good game. I probably should have spent more time talking up what makes this game good and an improvement over the first one but uhhhh I just don't have the heart for it. For any game I feel a certain level of "connection" is necessary to get the maximum possible enjoyment. I've talked about this before in the past regarding games that wouldn't be considered by most to be anywhere near the level of God of War. It is kind of strange how that works I'll admit but eh hear me out.

The greatest problem I have with the God of War games is that I simply don't care about them. There is nothing to Kratos' story that makes me feel for his situation and want to involve myself in his trials and tribulations. When I kill some old foe or a good friend I don't feel anything and I don't care what commentary(if any) Kratos has on the matter. I certainly don't appreciate the moments where Kratos takes a break from murder to enjoy the pleasures of women and hell it doesn't look like he appreciates it either. Maybe if the dude didn't take everything so seriously and didn't consider rage or complete silence an acceptable response to every event I'd probably develop at least a semblance of an attachment to him. As it stands though I feel nothing but emptiness when I play God of War and even during its best moments all this game gets from is a shrug.

Game Rating - 2.5 stars out of 5

I'm not sure how I came up with this rating, in fact I don't even care if it matters. I guess the very presence of the poor first game brings the entire package down and while both games support multiple difficulties and a mission-mode I doubt most anyone that picks these games up plays through them a bunch of times. Then again what do I know? Last time I played through either game it was years ago and I'm a different person now.

My Rating - 1 out of 5

The only thing keeping me from giving this game a zero is the fact that I played through both games before so at the time they were enjoyable enough for at least a single playthrough. I don't know whether it's myself or the times that have changed but there it is.

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