God of Frustration

by Arthur B

Arthur has a bone to pick with God of War on the PS2.
Don't get me wrong, folks: God of War, at its best, is a really good game. It's a classical-themed action game, like Prince of Persia (complete with climbing sequences) with fat heaps of violence. Ladies and gentlemen, this game is the definition of metal. You will seize zombies and tear them in half, showering the floor with their innards. You will twist off Medusa's head. You will jam your sword into the Minotaur's mouth and laugh as it vomits blood. You will cut down panicing Athenian citizens in order to get health boosts. Folks, if you want over-the-top violence and brutality God of War is the game for you. When it's at its best, it is raw, unrestrained catharsis in videogame form - everything 300 should have been but wasn't.

That's when it's at its best, though.

The brilliant thing about the likes of ICO, Shadow of the Collossus and Prince of Persia: the Sands of Time is that by and large the designers knew the difference between challenging and frustrating. Some of the parts in those games were tricky, but once you worked out what you needed to be doing you'd only need two or three tries before you got past them.

Not so in God of War. Occasionally, God of War will throw a boss fight, puzzle or trap at you which leaves you shouting at the screen. Helpfully, if you die enough times in a row the game will offer to lower the difficulty level for you, but this only applies to combat, and some of the most frustrating parts of the game aren't fight scenes.

Classics geeks might whine at some of the elements of the game, but I actually like God of War's deviations from classical myth: while I'm pretty sure Zeus never sent Cronos to wander chained through the desert for eternity with the gargantuan Temple of Pandora chained to his back, it does sound like the sort of thing which would happen in classical myth - as if we're party to an alternate telling of the stories from a different, lost city-state, perhaps. The main frustration with God of War is the occasional frustrating sequence that sours the game experience, sequences which become more frequent as the game progresses. To be honest, I'd like to see more games give me the option of just skipping a section of the game if I can't get past it. Sure, it's mildly cheating, but if I'm paying good money to play a game I'd like to be able to experience all of it, as opposed to being stonewalled by my lack of amphetamine-heightened thumb-twitching skills.

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