Two adventure games released in the past six months have dealt with feelings of remorse and anger. Both feature warrior protagonists, fallen from grace as a result of supernatural gifts and seeking to destroy a seemingly impossible foe — a god. One of these games is superb, a true advancement, a perfection in the genre of action video games. The other is a mediocre mess, succeeding as many times as it disappoints. The first is a deity, the second a prince.

So what sets Sony’s “God of War” apart from Ubisoft’s “Prince of Persia: The Warrior Within”? The key is believability: “God” features a tormented protagonist named Kratos who fights for the Greek goddess Athena to repent for his mortal sins. His character is convincingly angry, with no need for a hard-rock goatee to be a badass. Kratos’s rage is frightening as he kills Athenians for sport with enough gore to make gamers look to the “Mortal Kombat” series for some decency.

The story, narrated by Dame Judy Dench (GoldenEye: Rogue Agent”), is about eight hours long. Every scene is emotionally taut and well produced. Ancient Greece has been virtually ignored in the medium of video games until now, which is surprising given the breadth of material that “God” gets from Greek mythology. Gamers will be wading through the River Styx, fighting Medusa and a battalion of Minotaurs, Cyclopses and Centaurs.

Kratos battles the legions of Ares, the god of war, with two formidable blades attached to forged chains that are grafted on to his arms. His attacks involve swinging the knives, juggling and batting enemies up and down with large streaks of flame. Early in the game, finesse with the blades is just for show, but later, expert timing, blocking and striking is absolutely critical to survival.

“God” benefits from its development time, which occurred near the end of the PS2’s life. The game’s graphics must be seen to be believed, an experience akin to playing “Resident Evil 4” on Gamecube. The levels are artistically designed, and the player never feels as if he is just dungeon crawling through nondescript Scooby Doo-esque levels.

The “Prince” has been dethroned: The new champion of action/adventure gaming got the combat system right the first time, created artistic environments that would be impressive on any system and crafted a story that is tragic and heroic enough to be considered along with the best of Greek mythology. Long live “God of War.”

Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars

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