GOD OF WAR (PS2)
Prepare for a Spartan smackdown, as PlayStation gets its most murderous mascot
Kratos is a horrible, horrible person. All right, technically he’s somewhere between ‘person’ and ‘indestructible, fallen deity’. Regardless of his level of mortality, the Ghost Of Sparta is one of the most unpleasant videogame characters ever created. Conversely, his games form one of the most enduring, celebrated series in PlayStation history. Go figure. Be under no illusion: Kratos doesn’t make God Of War, the brutally balletic action-adventure makes him. David Jaffe isn’t just the sweariest developer ever, at one time he was also a hugely canny game director, something he ably shows in this seminal Ancient Greek revenge quest. The original GOW is a supremely polished hack ‘n’ slasher – it whipped up technical miracles on PlayStation long before Nathan Drake’s gloriously rendered cheekbones ever knocked you senseless. Even 12 years on, it remains one of the most wryly paced, elegant bloodbaths you’ll ever play.
Shortly after God Of War launched in the spring of 2005, Jaffe spoke to Eurogamer about his inspirations, and in doing so, heaped much of the credit for the game on a mighty Austrian Oak. “Things have become so politically correct that I was really jazzed about doing what was more a
“GOW’S FIGHTING SYSTEM MERGES MASS-MARKET ACCESSIBILITY WITH EXQUISITE CRAFT.”
throwback to that more animalistic, kind of brutal Conan The Barbarian kind of vibe,” he told the website. Yet Arnie isn’t the main cinematic influence on Kratos’ franchise. That honour belongs to the late special effects genius, Ray Harryhausen.
Jaffe and his team at the then-Sony Santa Monica (now SCE Santa Monica Studio) tapped into the same childlike wonder the stop-motion maestro’s best pictures revelled in. To witness Kratos cut down the Hydra as the untamed waters of the Aegean Sea threaten to tear the sociopathic slaphead’s ship apart is to bask in the sort of electrifying spectacle that lit up the screen when Harry Hamlin’s Perseus took the head of Harryhausen’s greatest creation, the bewitching, incredibly animated Medusa. Jaffe initially said GOW was inspired by Devil May Cry’s combat and Ico’s puzzles, but it owes its sense of theatre to the Hollywood artist’s timeless clay creations.
SLASH OF THE TITANS
Whether you’re hitching a ride on the back of the colossal Titan Cronos (who, weirdly, turns out to be Kratos’ grandad) or battling a mech Minotaur in the pits of Pandora’s Temple, one thing glues all these set-pieces together: truly terrific combat. Though it often gets taken for granted, GOW’s fighting system deserves to be celebrated for merging mass-market accessibility with exquisite craft.
While Kratos’ combat never matches Dante’s swordplay for pure precision, Capcom’s demon slayer never spawned a move quite as iconic as Big K’s Plume Of Prometheus. With a simple three-button combo ( r,r, w), Kratos could seamlessly throw any foe off their game with a swift one-two prod from his Blades Of Chaos, followed by a devastating two-armed strike. Be it disorientating a cyclops or showing a Cerberus he’s a very bad (very dead) boy, Kratos’ simple moveset blends co-ordination and carnage into a beautifully barbaric, somehow elegant package.
Later games would outdo the original, both in puzzle complexity and boss size, but none of its sequels were quite as important. Alongside GTA, this is arguably the most influential Western (pre-Uncharted) franchise to hit PlayStation. In an era dominated by Japanese icons like Final Fantasy and Gran Turismo, GOW showed US and UK developers could still define console cool. Gory, gripping, and grotesquely satisfying, God Of War is essentially Clash Of The Titans: The Game. Mr Harryhausen would be proud.
FORMAT PS2 RELEASED 2005 PUB SONY DEV SONY
A throne room decorated with skins and statues of Kratos’ foes. How cosy!
All the enemies are straight out of Greek myth, a real mix of gods and monsters.
The bigger they are, the harder they fall. So best to be on top of the really big ones.