irishdoom's God of War III (PlayStation 3) review

Kill 'em All - God of War III Review

God of War III arrived with sky-high expectations. For one, God of War II sits comfortably near the top of many "best of all time" lists. Beyond that, it is also the first next-gen title in an enormously revered series with a rabid fan-base – anything shy of amazing would be a huge disappointment.  It’s kind of like being the guy that had to follow-up Michael Jordan.  How the heck do you deal with that?

Right from the get-go, God of War III doesn’t pull any punches.  The ending sequence from God of War II is one of the best I’ve ever played, and the dev team decided to follow that up with one of the best opening sequences I’ve ever played.  God of War III begins right in the middle of the epic battle at the foot of Mount Olympus, and the epic scale of the confrontation is mirrored in the massive Titan Gaia you ride into war.  And rather than have you bother with bunch of filler, you get right to the meat with a massive boss battle atop the Titan.

Again the developers were smart enough to leave the combat system mostly intact rather than try to rework the whole experience.  Even though recent titles have tried to mimic the feel of God of War’s combat, they always to seem to miss the mark.  Dante’s Inferno probably came closest, but the sheer repetitiveness and lack of variety caused it to pale in comparison to the majesty that is God of War’s combat.  As in the previous entry, Kratos will gain the use of additional weapons to use alongside his trusty chainy hand-blade thingies.  In this case, two of the additional weapons are a lot likely the aforementioned blades, being some kind of variation on the original chain weapon.  But though they do LOOK similar, they play quite differently with different types of attacks.   

Basically everything about God of War III looks absolutely amazing.  The character models are richly detailed, the lighting, reflections and environments are about the best in the business, and the set pieces take “epic” to a whole new level.  Kratos’ character model in particular is astoundingly detailed, and he’s often sporting a glistening sheen of blood from his defeated foes.  I don’t see how you could be disappointed with the look of God of War III unless you are watching it on a 19” standard definition TV.  I’ll bet it would look good even there.

The excellent visual design is accompanied by the best sound design and voice acting in the series.  The actor who voices Kratos is largely forgettable, but to be honest he doesn’t have a whole lot to work with – there are very few ways to scream in rage and keep it fresh.  The rest of the voice talent is rife with talented, recognizable actors.  Rip Torn is a fine choice for Hephaestus, and I really enjoyed Malcolm McDowell’s turn as Daedalus.  An appropriately majestic score hits all the right notes, and the sounds of dudes being ripped in half is better than ever.

For me, the Colossus of Rhodes boss fight was the previous high-water mark for epically huge battles; but then God of War III started with me fighting a God while riding a frigging Titan.  Just as its forebears, God of War III puts a lot of effort into unbelievable bosses.  I thought I had seen it all with that first battle, but then I found myself fighting a skyscraper-sized Titan.  I can’t put into words just how great that particular fight is, but you’ll fight your way on, over and through said Titan in an attempt to find a soft spot in which to bury my blades.  The great thing about God of War III and the series as a whole is that I can’t think of a single disappointing boss fight.  On the contrary, all I can think of is how awesome they usually are.

At this point we are all well aware of the story in God of War III.  Kratos is continuing his quest to kill Zeus and take his lunch money.  While God of War II had us thinking riding Gaia into Olympus was the way to get that done, things change a bit as the story progresses.  It doesn’t matter a whole heck of a lot, though.  All you need to know is that Kratos is still mightily pissed and he will still stop at nothing to send Zeus to the underworld.  This brings me to one of my primary complaints with God of War III – Kratos is still bereft of any redeeming qualities.  He’s a bad mofo, to be sure, but that’s about it.  The game would carry an awful lot more weight if Kratos showed some element of humanity, or at least the merest hint of morality.

As in God of War II, I also had a problem with the level and graphic detail of the violent acts Kratos commits.  While I took mild issue with it in God of War II, in this installment the dev team took the violence even further.  A brutal curb-stomp every now and then is one thing, but repeatedly pushing the limits of violence is tough to stomach.  I’ve rarely seen this extreme level of violence in movies, and I fail to see why it needs to be present here.  Everything else about the game is astounding, and it’s a shame that it is sullied in some ways by extreme, unnecessary violence.  I also don’t understand why Kratos has to kill nearly everyone he happens to meet.  The violence here is also often directed at those who can’t defend themselves.

I also have a bit of a beef with how the game ends.  I won’t spoil anything here, but I will say that I thought the end-game carried on far too long, and took some odd and pointless directions.  I suppose it didn’t help that I felt nothing for Kratos by the end, as that most likely contributed to my apathy during the final sequence.  The aforementioned egregious violence also affected the final confrontation in a negative way, at least for me.

My complaints about the level of violence aside, God of War III is quite possibly the best action-adventure experience I have ever had.  From it’s jaw-dropping visuals, to its razor-sharp combat engine, to its boss fights of massive proportions, God of War III gets just about everything right.  It managed to fully live up to its Mount Olympus-sized expectations, and made for a fitting conclusion (aside from the story, anyhow) to an amazing trilogy of gaming goodness. 

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