I don't play a lot of video games, and I rarely "finish" one. In the last few years I've only finished both Halos and the Splinter Cell series. Usually I get a few hours into a game, I think "OK, I get it" then I'm playing against the developer of the game and not the game itself.
Although I'd love to finish Prince of Persia and others, their levels and play-style just don't propel me forward with enthusiasm.
A while back I read an article on the best games of 2005 in Play Magazine. Each reviewer/editor put God of War in their top 5 games, as well as the #1 Action Game on any platform. I didn't have a PS2, and have not been impressed (at all) with the graphics of the console. I've been an Xbox guy since day 1. I was into the Dreamcast, then there was a lull until the Xbox.
Anyway, I asked around and Greg Hughes was kind enough to give me an older-style unused PS2. I picked up a copy of God of War for $19.95, got a few adapters and such from Radio Shack and hooked up the PS2 to my Dell 2001FP 16:9 monitor.
Of course, it's only 480p resolution, but once I got past the 'blurriness' of the graphics and into the game...this game is flippin' EPIC.
Not since Halo has a game literally pushed me forward, from level to level, amazing me at every turn. The fighting action is much like ballet with spins and turns and jumps, but there's also a juggling/combo element where you can hit enemies as many as 100+ times, often keeping them in the air for a half-minute or longer. There's also a very clever finishing move mini-game for each large monster that integrates pre-choreographed moves where you keep up by following onscreen prompts while the protagonist does crazy moves beyond the scope of the control scheme.
There's a battle about 3/4 of the way in with a 50-foot tall armored Minotaur that took me at least 20 tries to finish, but each try was as fresh as the first. The dramatic size differences between you and the bosses really give a sense of scale. You'll spend a time fighting another 6-foot-tall bad guy and you're both a reasonable size on the screen, then his papa shows up and the whole thing zooms out. There's been a number of "whoa" moments where even though the screen resolution is slow, it's clear there's some real bad-ass technologists behind this game.
It's not just walking and hacking and slashing either. This game has everything. Swimming, puzzles, some amazing climbing levels. There's a very long middle sequence where you have to find a Titan roaming in the desert with a castle strapped to his back, then you'll spend several hours inside the castle. I'd forgotten I was in a building on a beast's back until I had to head out a window and climb some more...the camera shifts and you can see the beast toes thousands of feet below, still wondering the desert.
The level loading is virtually non-existent which gives a very seamless feel to the whole world. Just as Oblivion sucked me in with its fantasy world, so did God of War. If you can borrow or rent a PS2, this is reason enough to give that aging console a try.
My only beef with God of War is its complete lack of support for Deaf Gamers and subtitles. I always turn the subtitles on in a game so I don't miss anything. The only game I've ever seen really support the hearing-impaired well was Half-Life 2 that not only included subtitles, but also on-screen prompts of audible cues.
This omission is particularly glaring during the Siren's in the Desert level where you have to use the multi-channel audio of the Siren's song to guide you through endless sands. For a hearing person this is a small thing, but the lack of support puts the full enjoyment of God of War out of the reach of the deaf gamer.
(Disclaimer: God of War is rated M, totally not appropriate for kids or anyone sensitive to violence or nudity)