Cheer up, emo kid.
he other night, my wife was watching Ghost Whisperer reruns. The story was a bit of a morality tale which concluded in the message that carrying around anger all the time is not a good way to lead your life. I kind of wish Kratos had watched this episode and took it to heart because he's one angry, angry man. The consequences of his actions don't matter, instead he's just hellbent on killing every single thing in his path. If killing a god results in an undesirable outcome, what should you do? That's right! KILL MORE GODS. Throughout the story of God of War 3, Kratos is single handedly responsible for destroying the world and he just doesn't give a damn because he needs to murder his father. The story picks up right at the conclusion of God of War II where Kratos and a crew of Titans are climbing Mount Olympus to destroy the gods that reign on high. All the important events of the backstory are told through a brief stylized cutscene, so newcomers won't be too lost.
If you've played any of the God of War games previously though, there's really not much new here. Just about all the mechanics from the previous titles remain with some minor additions. You'll eventually get four main weapons which you can switch through on the fly as well as some magic attacks to go with each. Biggest problem here is that three of the four primary weapons are just minor variants on your primary Blades of Exile. You'll also be given a set of items to utilize through the game which will deplete a specific regenerating meter. The most useful of which is the Bow of Apollo which can be mixed up with your primary attacks in combat. Keeping the main gameplay mechanics isn't a bad move though. Being an action heavy game, the combat is fast, visceral, and flows wonderfully just like it did in the first game. Games like Dante's Inferno can try to mimic what was perfected in this series, but will always feel a step behind what you can accomplish with chained blades. The addition of an attack which switches to the next weapon really helps keep up the combo variety.
Despite being rated for Mature audiences, I get the feeling that the people who will find the most enjoyment out of GoW3 are minors. Not only is the story about how much Kratos hates his dad, but it's full of scenes that are just in there to get a rise out of the player with no redeeming qualities at all. For example, at one point you come across a topless female ("heh heh, boobs") who clearly knows who you are and doesn't want your help. Against her will, you spring her from a cage in what appears to be a glimmer of humanity within Kratos. Soon after though, you prop her up against a weighted wheel to hold a door open. As you walk along and she moves off camera, you hear a blood curdling scream followed by sounds of nastiness as she is completely destroyed just so you can get through a door. It's a cruel scene that is void of remorse and honestly made me feel dirty afterwards. Oh yeah, you get a Trophy for that too, congratulating you on decimating a helpless woman.
At least God of War III looks good all around, but where it really shines is in scale. You'll be bringing the pain to bad guys, then all of the sudden the camera will zoom all the way back to show off what's going on around you. Don't stop doing what you're doing though, because while you may not be able to see the skeletons attacking you as easily, they're still there trying to skewer you. Most of the larger boss battles are often quicktime laden encounters that make full use of this scale, so instead of feeling like you're the one doing the damage, it just feels like you're pressing a button to move the action along. If you miss that button press, sometimes you'll even die outright and get to do it again. I did appreciate the new quicktime button placement however. Instead of just flashing a button on the screen, they've placed the button on the side of the screen corresponding to where the face button is on the controller (X on the bottom, Triangle on the top, etc). This helps you focus on the central action more than which button needs to be hit.
There were some technical issues that frustrated my gameplay. Double jumping would not register properly, often resulting in untimely and multiple deaths; Save triggers were often delayed, requiring multiple instances of running away from them and back before they'd activate; and even opening chests would glitch out half way through the animation, forcing second and third tries. These almost seemed like low-battery charge symptoms, but they continued on full charge as well as being connected directly to the PS3. On Kratos' second trip through Aphrodite's chamber, a complete NPC model had gone missing, but she was still making comments while I railed Aphrodite, and still knocked over her girlfriend when the mini-game was complete.
After completion, you'll unlock a fourth difficulty level as well as several challenges similar to previous God of War titles to help with the staying power. Throughout the journey as well, you'll pick up artifacts that you may use on subsequent playthroughs. The strange design choice here though was that you can only use these modifiers on difficulty levels you've already beaten, making them seem less cool. I can see disabling the ability to earn trophies while activating them, but there's little reason to play the same difficulty level another time through.
Perhaps I'm harping on the story a bit too much when it's a straight up action game but considering that we've already done this twice before, I really feel there's got to be something new to make it worth doing again and the mechanics certainly haven't changed. With God of War Collection already available, it's difficult for me to recommend God of War III as anything other than an extended tech demo. Combine Santa Monica's checkbox approach to game design with a fairly callous and meaningless angst journey of a straight up unlikable main character, and you've got nothing worth writing home about except the scale.
- It certainly is a pretty game with an incredible sense of scaling.
- Combat system remains a hallmark for the character action genre.
- The weakly strewn together story is just a vehicle to tie boss battle to boss battle.
- Not much new to see here, mostly the same game from years past.
- Misogynistic behavior isn't hilarious.
- Whoever thought it was a good idea to add Guitar Hero to God of War should never make video games again.