If Imitation is the Sincerest Form of Flattery…

August 25, 2009 § Leave a comment

I felt bad arguing with David Jaffe in my post a few weeks ago, not because I thought he was right, but because I actually think he’s a damn good game designer. His work has done a huge amount for action games worldwide, so much so that the term ‘God of War style’ is now in common usage across the web.

Concepts pioneered in God of War have become commonplace in a huge number of games released since, with varying degrees of success. The three most popular features to rip off? Hit the jump to find out…

Brute Force Combat

Kratos is a formidable opponent. His constant scowl, menacing growl and frankly terryfying baldness combine to create a character that could easily make anyone want to commit suicide rather than face him in combat. This terror created by his character design is emphasised by God of War’s gameplay, which sees you take on dozens of enemies at a time without breaking a sweat.

A major part of what makes the game so fun is this power you posses. It’s rare to see an enemy you have any fear of taking on, and in normal combat this confidence is well placed, with your Blades of Chaos simply slicing through wave after wave of enemy.

A much more subtle sign of Kratos’s power however is the way in which he interacts with the most mundane of objects. Health refueling boxes are not opened with a single button press like most other games before it, instead the player must mash a button repeatedly to get at their contents. Doors are often opened in a similar fasion, and who can forget the scene around half way through the original game where Kratos ripped the skull off a dead body to use as a key.

This interaction doesn’t just add a little more interactivity to some of the most traditionally banal aspects of action games, but also develops the protagonists character to boot, by emphasizing the sheer power he possess.

Also seen in:
Too many games to count, but a couple that come to mind are Tomb Raider: Underworld when smashing vases for collectables, and more recently Batman: Arkham Asylum when smashing open grate covers.

Defining the Hack and Slash

Though clearly God of War is nowhere near the original hack and slash game, it nevertheless created the template that a huge number of games in the genre now adhere to, which needless to say makes writing this article a whole lot easier.

How many games have you played which involve the use of a long range melee weapon akin to the Blades of Chaos? Heavenly Sword ripped this feature off most blatantly, but countless others have done a similar thing. How many games use the now standard ‘heavy’ and ‘light’ attacks seen prominently in God of War? How many of these games even map them to the same buttons? How many – yeah, you get the picture.

I’m not trying to say that God of War invented any one of these things, simply that it did it so well, creating such a solid system of combat that it made sense for other games to use something similar. It’s gotten to a point where – as previously mentioned – simply calling a game ‘God of War style’ means you can be pretty certain it’ll control in this way, quality not permitting.

Also seen in:
Dante’s Inferno, the aforementioned Heavenly Sword, and certain aspects of Brutal Legend.

‘Cinematic Gameplay’

Here we have the most dividing influence God of War brought to prominence, but it’s worth noting that quick time events did not make up the whole of what made God of War such a cinematic experience. The oft overlooked uncontrollable camera employed by the game not only allowed for the right analogue stick to be used for dodging, but also allowed for the creation of some amazing camera angles, giving the game the cinematic quality it’s so lauded for.

But it’s the quick time events God of War has the reputation for, because it’s one of the only games to do them well. In the words of Yahtzee, quick-time events in most games hardly ever amount to more than a ‘Push X to not die’ button prompt appearing on screen, which is hardly very interactive, and never much fun.

Whereas most of its imitators will throw button prompts at you without any warning, often leading to a quick reload of your last save, God of War made sure that you always knew when such an event was coming up. It would make sure you were the one who initiated it, usually by pressing the circle button by a stunned enemy, so you were never on the back foot, and were able to actually enjoy the cinematic animation played out in front of you.

The backlash created by the overuse of QTE’s has meant that it’ll be unlikely that you’ll find them in many of this holiday’s releases, which is certainly a shame because when used in moderation, and above all, when done well, they can make the ends of boss fights all the more satisfying.

Also seen in:
Uncharted: Among Thieves, X-Men Wolverine: Origins, The Bourne Conspiracy, and Star Wars: The Force Unleashed.

Are there any other games that have spawned so many imitators in recent times?

Over to you…


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