From the Bakemono's Mouth: God of War III
Make no mistake. God of War III is one of the boldest games on the PS3. If you have some innate bloodlust in your gaming tastes, then this game is right up your alley. Even people who wouldn’t play video games for various reasons often pick up the God of War series and III is the most technically capable. But does that mean it’s the best?
By far the best thing about this game is the presentation. I was stunned by how good the game looked when I was playing. Seeing the expressions of aggression on Kratos as he went about murdering everything in his way and seeing the intense realism of his movement or look during the quick-time events was insane. When you grab a Minotaur for the quick kill, the camera pans in and you see the fur on the back of the beast, the drool dripping from its flailing tongue, the steam from its pulsing nostrils all while Kratos, covered in blood, jabs his blade into its mouth. This, of course, could have looked even better on 1080p instead of 720, but still awesome nonetheless.
It is unfortunate that the cameras are fixed on the situation since there are many places where I would love to take control of the camera and admire the work put into the backgrounds. Though you don’t quite travel to the exotic locals of II, there is a great deal of traversal in the game and it would be nice if you could stop and admire the textures on the ground and the flashy architecture of . However, this game is definitely a great deal darker than any of the other God of War games. Contextually, it’s supposed to be rather grim and grey in most of the locations. You spend more time in Hades than the others so the environment is, appropriately, dark and dreary. Architecture within the realm of Hades is gross and misshapen in contrast to the glittering gold of the Olympic architecture. However, when traversing outside, the skies are grey and much of the exotic flare of II or Chains of are left behind for a grimy, dirty theme. A friend told me that it was probably “the most grotesque God of War game,” not just because of the intense gore and blood-soaked action, but because the design makes many of the areas, especially Hades, somewhat unpleasant to look at, despite the intense detail.
The characters other than Kratos that are important look rather good on a similar level of effort. The enemies vary in quality from the Minotaurs and Gorgons at the top of the list, down to the typical lackeys. That isn’t to say the typical soldiers look bad, because even the grunts have variations that make a difference in their features. But you can really see the level of detail put into the main characters in comparison to the things you’re bound to slaughter, which is fitting.
Sound has the usual epic soundtrack that is familiar to the God of War series. I found that the music did make a difference on how I perceived a situation. One of the big boss fights had a song that got me pumped, making the experience much more memorable than most of the other battles in the game. The slams and sound effects during combat definitely get the blood pumping and it is still satisfying to hear Kratos scream as he rips apart the competition.
Voice acting is, hit or miss. They got some unique voices for characters new to the series, replaced some old ones with, in my opinion, inferior ones, and sometimes missed the mark on the familiar ones. The work of Rip Torn as the voice one of the characters was very well done and I actually take pity on his character, despite having taken little pity on so many others. Kevin Sorbo is the voice of a very fitting role. I didn’t realize it was him till after I finished the game, but he was definitely a good choice for the part, considering it was an exciting highlight of the game and his delivery helped it the whole way.
Then there are the recurring voices. The voice of Kratos, TC Carson, remains the same, but there is something to the way it’s delivered at times, or how it is written, that I just can’t like. Much of the dialogue in the game is either poorly written or just redundant and some of the voice actors do a great job at covering up the blemishes in the writing. Sadly, Kratos cannot always escape it. The screams and grunts are still really satisfying to hear; and in the intense moments does a good job of reeling in your attention. In the beginning when I saw and heard Kratos scream, “Do not deny me my revenge!” the intensity got me so excited to see how the game would progress, I nearly yelled with him, “Damn right!”
But the writing can be a trial to get through at times. There are lines that actually made me lose motivation in seeing the game through. Having Kratos say, “I did what had to be done,” and crossing his arms while looking away, did nothing more than paint his character as immature. But it isn’t just the substance to the writing. Much of the dialogue is repeated, as though we’ve forgotten midway through the game what we’re supposed to be doing. One character actually tells Kratos twice that he “lives in torment because of [him]” before going on to explain how Zeus was “gripped with fear” after the events of such and such. By the end, I believed Zeus was a true coward by the fact that I didn’t see much of him for most of the game and because of how often everyone kept telling me how fear affected him.
Then there are the voices that just don’t work well at all. Linda Hunt is still an awesome voice actor and plays the part of the narrator for the opening credit sequence, but unfortunately relinquishes her role as the titan Gaia for a different voice actor. Gaia’s dialogue in the game is rather minimal in comparison to the amount of grunts and screams you have to hear from her and I quickly became annoyed listening to her. The other failure for me was Athena. I never quite got the sense that the voice actor was comfortable with her role. Much of how she talks feels forced in an attempt to sound more omniscient and mythical. Yes, she’s the goddess of wisdom, but her advice throughout the game is utterly useless. Much of what she says is along the lines of “Don’t forget what you have to do.” He’s Kratos, he is not going to forget what he is out to do; you don’t need to remind him that he should kill this guy. Her frequent appearances are always coupled with stilted dialogue that really adds nothing to the story.
God of War III probably has the best gameplay out of the entire series. That doesn’t mean it’s the most satisfying, but the controls and abilities of Kratos work well to make you feel powerful as ever. God of War III takes all of the mechanics of the previous games and refines them to a level that makes most of the game fun to play.
The difficulty setting is probably near perfect for the most satisfying experience. The enemies don’t fall over dead too quickly, allowing you to spend more time unleashing hell on each individual, and Kratos takes enough damage to make the fights seem close at times but never so much of a challenge that it feels impossible. The boss-battles are relatively straight forward, though a little less satisfying than some of the previous ones. Most of the time, you’ll have more difficulty in the platforming segments than in battle.
With III, the developers took some liberties on some of the familiar mechanics and changed them, for the most part, in a better way. Some people cried blasphemy when the button signals for the quick-time events were moved to the edges of the screen, but I found it to be a more satisfying layout. I never liked the way the buttons popped up before in the middle of the action with only the symbol to guide you. In this, the placement of the buttons corresponds to how they appear on the screen. I found myself barely ever missing an input simply because I knew where to press, based on the placement on screen. For example: the Triangle button is at the top on the controller so the symbol would appear on the top of the screen and X, naturally, on the bottom. I don’t think this made the quick events more integrated into the action, but I did appreciate the attempt at making it easier for you to anticipate it. I also felt that they extended the window of opportunity, so the timing felt almost perfect for how long it should take you to press the buttons.
The developers made an interesting choice in terms of the weapons and magic that I felt was, overall, a good decision. In previous games you would get your secondary weapons and your spells. But then you, more or less, had to choose which weapons you wanted to have available to use during combat, as well as which spells you’d like to upgrade first. Instead of spending upgrade points all over the place like before, they’ve streamlined the upgrade system by tying magic to the weapons. So your Blades of Exile (as they’re called in this one) are tied to one particular spell, which means that as you upgrade this weapon, the spell improves as well. I personally like this choice a great deal because you spend less time deciding where you need to put your upgrade orbs to good use. This also means the gorgon spell is finally gone, because who ever used that one?
However, the arsenal is not perfect. God of War III has also come under fire for its weapon choices and, frankly, the magic selection isn’t all that impressive. In this rendition, they did away with most of the other weapons that were different, like hammers or spears, and replaced them with more chain-weapons. I’ve heard some call this “lazy” or “boring,” which is understandable. The main character is already using a chain-weapon, which is rather unique as it is; adding more chain-weapons takes away some of the distinction. But whenever I talk about the previous secondary weapons with anyone, most of the responses are negative. I personally didn’t enjoy using any of the secondary weapons, save the Gauntlet of Zeus from the prequel and sometimes the hammer from II. The fact that people didn’t appreciate the other weapons from before might be the reason they didn’t include the variety in this one. It’s not necessarily lazy that they included more chain-weapons considering that the corresponding animations for Kratos are different from his main Blades of Exile. I enjoyed using the claws on occasion for their creepy and wild nature, but hated using the last weapon received; it is utterly useless except for its spell. The most distinct weapon, the lion gauntlets, I didn’t like at first but started to appreciate more after using them enough, especially since the gauntlets are the most powerful weapon in the game. Yet there are still chains inside them, so take what you will.
There are choices the developers made for the gameplay I did not like though. One of the main problems I have is with its replay value. There is technically no “Game+” just a second playthrough where you may use different special relics that you find along the journey the first time around. These relics power you up, or give you boosts to your abilities, or grant you more orbs. But there is a huge catch. Trophies are disabled while using them. Ok, maybe you aren’t a completionist like myself and that doesn’t bother you, or you might be thinking, “Well you’re not really earning them if you’re using a cheat item.” But if you’ve beaten the game already, gained an item to triple your combo meter, and haven’t gotten the trophy for 1000 hits, wouldn’t you think that would be the first thing you’d go for? Not to mention that, unlike before, when you start the game over you start off as underpowered as before and have to power yourself back up once again. They don’t even let you skip the cut-scenes. It’s a hassle when all you want to do is go back and tear the place up with a powered-up Kratos and be rewarded for it. The same thing goes for the costumes, you cannot go back to play the game with any of the alternate costumes on without disabling trophies. I find it sad when people tell me that Dante’s Inferno has more replay value than God of War III. My suggestion to people is play the game, get all the trophies as they go along, leave the game alone for a long time, then come back and use all the power-ups in whatever costume you like and tear the place up. This way, you won’t be bothered by the fact that there are no rewards waiting for you when you’re finished.
An area where the gameplay really stutters needs to be discussed. The game is glitchy! I have gone through a full playthrough on Hard—so I spent plenty of time in certain areas having to retry and retry—I’ve witnessed a full playthrough on Easy, and I’m watching yet another playthrough on . In each viewing of the game I see more and more points where glitches pop up affording the player cheap deaths. I’ve fallen through the ground several times. I saw Kratos’ animation suddenly stop from shimmying across a ledge, to walking on air till he fell to his death. I’ve seen the kill animations go into walls so all that’s visible is the button alerts and blood spew from the environment. I have had moments where I could not progress without restarting because either the boss wouldn’t get the big O above its head, or Kratos couldn’t make a jump to a surface that he was intended to make by no fault of my own. This leads me to believe the game was rushed. They needed to do some tidying up that they didn’t have time for. Personally, I think they should have held off on release a few more months just to get rid of the glitches and to maybe decide if some of the choices they made were really what gamers would want. It may have given them a little more time to tidy up their writing too.
Yes, story is my biggest gripe with the game. If you have read any of my reviews before, you’d know that this is an area of games that I am most interested. However, God of War III succeeds only in repelling my interest in its story. I feel I would not be entirely justified in my opinions on the game’s plot without discussing the finer details, so this section will be spoiler heavy, including a synopsis of the end. If you have not finished the game yet, I suggest skipping the rest of this review and playing the game yourself so that you may form your own opinion on the experience.
A long review/rant, I know. Overall, God of War III is the most technically capable of the games. The combat has been refined, the upgrading system has been streamlined, and the graphics are incredible. But poor writing and somewhat frequent glitches prevent this game from earning its spot as the best of the series. That is reserved for II in my book. If you want something gruesomely beautiful to look at, a way to get out some aggression, and you don’t care about a story that revolves around “finishing the fight,” pick it up. Otherwise, just get the God of War Collection and keep playing II.