Category Archives: Review

God of War (2005 – 2018)

God of War, 2005:

The game begins in the middle of a storm; the player’s ship is being attacked by a hydra; during the first 10 minutes of play, the player confronts and kills one of the most recognisable creatures in Greek mythology.

God of War, 2018:

The game begins with a funeral. In the first 10 minutes, the player confronts and kills a trio of common enemies, who seem to have been ripped straight from the latest episode of Game of Thrones.

God of War, 2005:

The graphics were good for their age; today, they feel dated, but still hold a certain charm. The panoramic camera gives a good feel for the world’s epic scale.

God of War, 2018:

It’s possibly the most beautiful game I’ve ever played. A true visual tour de force that single-handedly justifies the purchase of a PS4Pro and one of those shiny 4K televisions. The HDR lighting makes the eyes hurt if the camera is pointed directly at the sun. The details are impressive, every millimeter of scenery, the skin of the characters, every fiber of armor… Everything looks unique, tactile, and real.

God of War, 2005:

As the game progresses, the player confronts and defeats a true rogue’s gallery of mythical beasts from Greek folklore, culminating in a final confrontation with Ares, the titular God of War. Our character is made giant, and both titans brawl amidst a burning city whose buildings barely reach their heels. In this final battle, the players must to apply all the techniques and skills that they have become familiar with throughout the game.

God of War, 2018:

With a couple of exceptions, all bosses are reskinned versions of the bosses fought during the first 2 hours of gameplay. The final confrontation is against a god who will be almost unknown to all but those with an intimate acquaintance of the Scandinavian pantheon – and again, it’s no more than a “spiced up“ version of a confrontation that happened during the first hours of play. This final battle is trivially simple if the player has spent but a few hours exploring the world and collecting better equipment.


God of War (2005) was a game made with a modest budget, and suffered from the technical limitations of the time. But it impressed at every juncture, showing itself more ambitious at every step, more capable of surprising, more epic. This is a game that played with the full hand of cards that fate had dealt it, without giving up, with the unique ambition of providing the player with the most ecstatic experience within its reach.

God of War (2018) is a game that will have cost more to produce than the GDP of some African countries. It represents the zenith the industry’s audiovisual craftsmanship, and counts with fantastic feats of digital acting. But it discharges almost all of its creative cannons in the first couple of hours, and from there on, it’s busywork. It’s a game that repeats all of its impressive moments to the point of banality, and that seems to be afraid to use up all the raw material provided by Scandinavian mythology, already thinking about what it will have to save for display in the obligatory sequel.

God of War (2005) is not the best game of its generation, nor that of the library of the console that saw its birth, and not even that of its genre. But it is an entertainment product, and with laser-like focus, it single-mindedly gave all that it had to give in order to do just that: entertain.

It was made for you.

God of War (2018) was ranked by many as game of the year, and by many others as the second best game of 2018. But it is an industrial product, and only entertains to the extent that it must.

It was made for the people who made it, for the people who paid for it, for the people who were going to review it. You?

You didn’t even make the top 3.

The Act of Killing

How would we feel if the ruling party in Germany was still the Nazi party? If the people who committed the holocaust had not only avoided international justice, but also boasted of such atrocities as if they had been acts of heroism?

There is such a place today. In Indonesia, the regime that tortured and murdered millions of innocents who opposed it, remains in power. And the murderers celebrate their deeds before the children of those they killed.

In the film “The Act of Killing” (2012), the director “deceived” the criminals so that they simulated their past acts, believing that the documentary would serve to glorify them. Thus we see how these people interrogated their enemies, how they dismembered children in front of their mothers.

On occasion, a bit of creative excess makes the movie acquire a hallucinatory quality, almost as if it were a fevered dream. But even this is not able to spare us the true terror of the film: these are people like us.

Religulous

As a writer, I’ve thought a lot about how to determine the value of words, of books and articles. As a lover of video games, I’ve thought about the same problem as it applies to that medium. I see that the most commonly available explanations seem to depend too much on subjectivity and/or the acceptance of an increasingly rigid matryoshka set of pre-suppositions. We should be able to do better than that.

The best I’ve come up with is graceful ageing. A thing has quality if it hasn’t lost its lustre with age. If it’s as enjoyable (or emotionally affecting, or funny, or whatever it’s main purpose was) today as it was when it was first brought into the world – or close enough.

Religulous just turned 10, and it’s as funny (and poignant) today as it was 10 years ago. I seldom laugh out loud. I did so as I re-watched it today. Multiple times. Perhaps even more than when I watched it the first time around.

Religulous is a documentary where Bill Maher exposes the contradictions and foibles of faith and religious thought. While it does veer into serious territory every once in a while, and especially at the end, what strikes me the most about the movie is how good-spirited it is.

When I hear Maher today, he looks like a very smart man who has a chip on his shoulder and is slightly too bitter and resentful. Not so with 2008’s Religulous Maher. Even as he points out the inconsistencies in the discourse and beliefs of his conversations partners, he does so with grace and a look of good-will and of genuinely wanting to listen to what they have to say.

I’m a lot more tolerant of religion now, than I was back in 2008. I admit that I felt some trepidation as I started watching the movie – perhaps it would be a bit too preachy, a bit too disrespectful of other people’s traditions. But that’s not the case at all – Maher plays the archetypal Joker, the character who pokes holes in the fabric of society for the fun of it, but also as a way to bring about meaningful change.

That is not to say that this is an impartial movie. It clearly has an agenda – to make people less religious; optimally, to make them non-religious. I’m not as convinced today that this is such a worthy goal, as I was 10 years ago. But I do think that, religious or not, anyone with a sense of humor can enjoy it.