Given NECA's well known and long documented aversion to articulation, fans were understandably lukewarm to the announcement that the company would be making figures based on the hit videogame God of War. Oh sure, there was a bit of excitement, based simply on the fact that such a popular property was going to get figures, but there wasn't any real "buzz." At least, not until the figures were revealed.
The first series of figures included two versions of Kratos;
but more importantly, they included tons of articulation. The figures sold out fast. So fast, in fact, that we had to invent a new term for just how fast they sold - "speedtacularly velociminous." The only way to find Kratos in stores was to have unprecedented good luck, and not even overpriced online retailers could keep him in stock. Kratos was a hit, even though most of us never even saw him. NECA responded to the demand, though, quickly delivering a new Kratos in Ares Armor.
Since the premise of God of War is that you're looking for revenge on Ares, it's not really a spoiler to reveal that at the end of the game, you beat him. After all, it's a videogame: when you get to the end, you have to fight the final boss. It's the way the system works. And apparently in this game, when you beat the boss, you then strip him naked. What can we say? It's ancient Greece.
In any case, this Kratos is wearing Ares' armor, an ornate affair befitting the god of war. Of course, it looks nothing like actual Greek armor, but it does have a little bit of Grecian influence in the design - and just as much Roman. Still, NECA's sculptors really did a commendable job capturing all these little details. There are overlapping leather strips on his shoulders and skirt, demonic faces on his spaulders, etching on his greaves, raised hounds on his breastplate, and fully detailed chainmail that runs below the rest of the suit from neck to ankles. He's got chains wrapped around his arms, and thick sandals on his feet.
Even in his fancy new suit of clothes, Kratos is just a big grump. He's got a big, deep scowl on his face - unless you choose the 1-in-4 "open mouth" variant, who's showing just a bit of tooth. The head sculpt has good detail without being overly exaggerated; just take a look at the veins on his temples, or the ragged scar over his right eye. The character of Kratos became really famous really fast, and this figure captures his look well.
The paint apps do a grand job of highlighting the sculpt. Kratos doesn't look like he's got gray skin, he looks like he's covered in ash. His armor is all blacks, reds and golds, but there's no real spillage to speak of: comparing paint apps in the store, even the worst Kratos would have been acceptable. There's a faux-meander on his skirt, as well as subtle shadows to deepen the wrinkles and folds. NECA has really delivered a good-looking figure.
But the best thing about Kratos is he does more than just look good. This guy has a balljointed head, balljointed shoulders, swivel biceps, hinged elbows, swivel wrists, balljointed waist, V-crotch, mid-thigh swivels, hinged knees and balljointed ankles. It's not as much as a Marvel Legend, but it's enough. Kratos moves really well, especially for a toy from NECA. His legs are blocked a bit by his skirt, but you can still get some nice movement out of them.
Kratos isn't just wearing impressive armor - he's also got some impressive weapons.
Of course, we begin with the Blades of Chaos, the mystical weapons that are Kratos' trademark. They don't fly out on chains or anything, but they still look nice. The pommels (if something made of bone can be said to have such a thing) are removable, so it's easier to get them in his hands - they're even packaged separately so you don't miss them.
Armor wasn't the only thing Kratos got from Ares; like free breadsticks with a pizza, this armor came with a sword. At 7¼" tall, the sword comes up just to his chin. The sword is just as complex as the armor, with all kinds of crazy detail: four faces all the way around, three tiny men raising their arms toward the blade on each side, sculpted wings, and more. The hilt comes out so you can get Kratos to hold this monster easily. The paint apps on the weapons are just as good as the rest of the figure.
Considering the immobility of NECA's first Player Select figures (not to mention their movie line), Kratos is a huge leap forward for the company. The God of War figures prove that you can deliver a great sculpt and still have good articulation, if you're not to lazy to work at it. Kratos in Ares Armor isn't the speedtacularly velociminous seller that the originals were, but he's still really worth owning, even if you've never played the game.