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Review: 'God of War' Zeus of adventure games

By Tom Lane

For Sony's "God of War" players assume the role of Kratos.
Video Games
Sony Corporation

(CNN) -- "Now there is no hope."

With those words, Kratos hurls himself off the highest cliff in Greece into the Aegean Sea.

For Sony's new game for the PlayStation 2, "God of War," players assume the role of Kratos, the ruthless Spartan warrior three weeks before his untimely suicide.

Advancing through this game deeply rooted in dark Greek mythology will slowly reveal what events led Kratos to this fate.

You're not in it alone, though. Gods like Poseidon and Athena will give you special abilities to help slay mythical monsters, including gorgons, harpies, minotaurs and centaurs.

Traversing Athens, Pandora's Temple and even Hades, you will proceed to your ultimate goal of killing Ares, the god of war.

Though driven by a compelling and cinematic story, "God of War" is a pure action game at its core. Kratos starts out armed with the blades of chaos, deadly knives chained to his arms, but will eventually obtain another weapon and four magic spells.

While advanced players will enjoy experimenting with different weapon combo attacks and spells, novices will be glad to know they can get through the game relying on simpler moves.

Though straightforward, the action is more than just hack and slash. Defeating foes in varied manners will yield different rewards. The prizes you receive for disposing of enemies depends on how you play -- some attacks give magic, others health, and so on.

If you just want to move on, you can kill monsters quickly with barbaric, yet rewarding, fatalities. There is enough variety to keep the action fresh and interesting without becoming overly complicated.

To call Kratos an anti-hero would be an understatement. His brutality is outweighed only by his rage, and he will kill anyone or anything that gets in his way.

The game is one of the most violent on the market, but who would expect beheading Medusa to be clean? The gore fits the theme of the game and never feels gratuitous or forced. It's what you would expect from game creator David Jaffe, who is also responsible for the Twisted Metal series.

The action in "God of War" is balanced with modest amounts of puzzle and platform elements. These areas are strategically placed to break up the action without affecting pace.

The puzzles are intuitive and leave you wondering why you didn't figure them out earlier instead of cursing them for being ridiculous.

Similarly, the platform areas require some timing and coordination but are challenging without being frustrating.

One of the best things about the game is how quickly it progresses.

Take some time to purposely break from the lightning fast action to admire the gorgeous artwork and level design. This also adds to the replay value, because "God of War" is so beautiful and epic that you will probably want to play through it again just to take in everything you might have missed.

Completing the game also opens the ultra-hard god mode, which will unlock a few bonus features if you play to the finish again.

"God of War" is the type of game that makes you remember why you play games in the first place.

Stunning artwork, addictive gameplay, compelling storytelling and a narrow learning curve all contribute to make it one of the most gratifying gaming experiences available today.

The production value truly rivals most Hollywood blockbusters.

"God of War" is produced by Sony Computer Entertainment America and is available exclusively for the PlayStation 2 for $49.99.

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