Giant Bomb Review

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God of War III Review

4
  • PS3

Sony delivers a fittingly epic and savage PlayStation 3 debut for God of War, even if it does little to evolve the formula established by its predecessors.


 Kratos. Son of Zeus. Ghost of Sparta. God of War. Pisces.

Kratos is a man with serious anger-management issues--issues that he's been violently working out on the entire pantheon of Olympic gods over the course of the last two God of War games, dismembering, disfiguring, and disembowling every god, demi-god, and beast of myth that crosses his path. This hands-on approach to primal scream therapy continues with God of War III, the first in the series designed specifically for the PlayStation 3. God of War has always been a big graphical showcase for Sony, and to this end God of War III doesn't disappoint, using that extra horsepower to bring a phenomenal level of both detail and scale to the game's presentation. While the technology has advanced, the relative shortage of meaningful changes and refinements to God of War's vivisecting gameplay formula means that it's not quite as thrilling as the first (or second) go 'round. Some of these last-gen holdovers make the experience feel less cutting-edge than it might otherwise, though it's still plenty brutal enough to earn the God of War name.  

 

Still playing fast and loose with Greek mythology, God of War III sees Kratos continue on his quest for vengeance against the gods of Olympus, now with his sights set squarely on dear old dad, Zeus. Of course, Kratos can't just walk right up to Zeus, gut him like a trout, and roll credits, so you'll spend most of the ten-or-so hours of God of War III trying to collect the mythical objects that Kratos believes he needs to finish the job. Of course, on the way, Kratos will face off with, and usually murder, whatever significant figures of Greek mythology he didn't already turn into a red smear in the first two games, all in the most unflinchingly graphic, Verhoeven-esque way possible.  

    
 It's called God of War, not God of Friendly Handshakes.

If God of War III is your introduction to the series, there's a brief video that will basically catch you up to speed, though at this point, all you really need to know is that Kratos is an angry jerk, and pretty much everyone else he encounters is a vindictive, condescending, double-dealing jerk. His bottomless anger seemed justified in the beginning, but his continued insistence to pursue his vengeance at the cost of, basically, the entire known world makes it hard to conjure up much compassion, and makes him seem more like a petulant child than an unrelenting instrument of righteousness. The line between anti-hero and villain can be razor thin, and I occasionally found myself feeling more like I was the antagonist in someone else's story. Kratos is a consistently sadistic son of a bitch, and it's been his sole character trait for so long that certain turns in the story feel unearned. It's hard to tell exactly where the series will go from here--not to say that the ending is anticlimactic, but its gestures towards closure seem... tentative.  

  

The gameplay experience that wraps around this revenge tour doesn't venture too far from the rhythms of the previous God of War games, focusing primarily on contained group fights, mixing it up with some traversal sequences, some lever-pulling and box-pushing puzzles, and some really huge boss fights, with plenty of quick time events to highlight the game's penchant for cinematic flair. The combat is agreeably fast-paced and intense, and I found the default difficulty level to be the almost perfect, providing a hearty challenge while rarely becoming teeth-gnashingly frustrating.

 
 Say "AAAHRGH!"

In addition to the standard-issue chain blades, you'll unlock a series of weapons and abilities as you progress through God of War III, all of which can be upgraded using the red orbs found inside both treasure chests, and your enemies' chests. I found it kind of odd that two of the alternate weapons you pick up are variations on the basic chain blade motif, which compelled me to pretty much ignore them in favor of the more distinctive Nemean Cestus, a massive pair of lion-headed gauntlets that favor impact over range. Regardless of your weapons of choice, success in battle in God of War III ultimately comes down to diligent use of Kratos' dodge and counter abilities, as well as knowing which of Kratos' plentiful attacks to use on specific enemies or in specific situations, with a certain eye towards crowd control.  

  

Save for a handful of eye-catching sequences that make unique use of the Icarus wings, I found most of the traversal stuff not necessarily bad, but something to fill the downtime in between the administration of savage beatings. For as terrific as God of War III looks--and it is easily one of the best-looking PlayStation 3 games out there right now--there's something vaguely mechanical about the way Kratos shimmies along ledges and swings from his chains.  

  

Similarly, the quick time events are implemented in such a way that I sometimes felt they were drawing my attention away from the flashy camera moves and gruesome acts they were intended to highlight. It's all the stuff that you expect from a God of War game, which I suspect is the very reason why parts of the game feel kind of perfunctory. It's like the developers had a mechanical understanding of the beats they were expected to hit, and focused more on nailing that stuff than pushing the experience somewhere new. 

      Fighting a Titan is like fighting a mountain that hates you.

These issues, however, hardly define the experience of God of War III. No, God of War, as always, is all about vividly grotesque ways in which Kratos fells his enemies, and an incredible sense of scale as you take down one impossibly leviathanic enemy after another. Aside from the flight sequences I mentioned earlier, the most amazing moments in God of War III for me revolved around the Titans, the huge, primitive elder gods that preceded the Olympians. Acting as both enemy and environment, the Titans are the best example of God of War III's capacity to make you feel simultaneously powerful and insignificant, as the camera zooms out from a standard third-person view of Kratos to a perspective that makes him look like a flea on the Titan's back, all in real-time, and all of it looking incredibly sharp. Kratos himself features an impressive level of detail, both during gameplay but particularly in cutscenes, to the point that the other characters can look a little crude by comparison--which, really, says more about how good Kratos looks than anything else. 

 

The beautiful rendering of Kratos' ugliness is what made God of War III a compelling experience for me, despite of the bits that felt unnecessarily slavish to the God of War formula. Even if it's not the best God of War game, it's unequivocally the best-looking God of War to date, and it makes for a wicked showpiece for the PlayStation 3.

236 Comments
Posted by nail1080

meh thought so good review though

Posted by iAchilles

I understand your complaints with the familiarness, but what is the problem with that. you go into god of war expecting a god of war experience. the system is done to perfection, why should they change it?

Posted by VisariLoyalist

daaaaaaaaaamn son, this is gonna make the kratos clan fucking angry

Posted by VoshiNova

Rock on Ryan

Posted by TheYear20XX

I always appreciate the honesty in Giant Bomb's reviews, and this is no different.

Posted by TurboMan

It might not be the most innovative game, just deriving from features in past GoW games, but it's a damn fine adventure that the game takes you through, extremely polished and beautiful from gameplay and graphical perspectives. Five Stars from me.... 
 
in before every bitches about the positive review.

Posted by Chewii101

*cowers in fear of the PS3 fanboy rage coming*  
 
I guess this is when the half-star rating would have come into play (4/5 out of 5 prolly?). I think the series is awesome but Ryan does clearly state this issues with the game. Good  review, good game. Whats up with the layout though?

Posted by pbhawks45

I loved the game. For me, it was my favorite of the series. The graphics were amazing, and I felt like the scale and gameplay received a major upgrade. It's kind of like going from Gears 1 to Gears 2. It may feel exactly the same, but there's a bunch of little things that were fixed and made better. I understand why it was given 4 out of 5, and you do a good job of explaining why. Nice review, Ryan!

Posted by Vorbis

Never got into the GoW series, never been a Kratos fan, maybe they will use a new main character next time.

Posted by Whisperkill

Nice...

Posted by aurahack

Ow, that's some awful block-lookin' text. Did the formatting screw up or something?

Posted by turbomonkey138

here comes the anger ....

Posted by Milkman

RYAN HATES THE PS3!!!!111!!!

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Edited by Spacetrucking

Nicely done Ryan but it could use some more paragraph breaks!

Posted by bigall94

:( I wanted Ryan to absolutely adore everything about this game. None of the negatives feel like mistakes, but more like uncommon design choices. Very well-written review, Ryan. Kudos, Mista Davis.

Posted by MAST
@Chewii101 said:
" *cowers in fear of the PS3 fanboy rage coming*"
I'm a PS3 fan... And I don't get why anyone would rage over a 4/5. That's a good score I thought? Hell, even a 3/5 means there is a significant number of people out there that will probably still love the game. I think people have really lost touch with rating systems. They've convinced themselves that if it's not a 9/10 or higher, then it's not worth playing, and that's disappointing.
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Posted by ImperiousRix

Hmmm, I've not played GoW3, but having played every other one (including Chains of Olympus), but having the main complaint be that it is derivative of the other games doesn't put me off in the least. 
Indeed, not sure how much that should have actually factored in to the final score, but I'm not here to critique a critique.

Posted by SaturdayNightSpecials
@iAchilles said:
" I understand your complaints with the familiarness, but what is the problem with that. you go into god of war expecting a god of war experience. the system is done to perfection, why should they change it? "
There's always room to build on what you have. Releasing the same high-quality experience several times with incremental refinements isn't wrong, but it can only take you so far.
Edited by ptys

Oh my god, someone other than Brad decided to review a game... yay! I'm kidding (sort of). 

Posted by Napalm

Nice review, Ryan.
 
Fellow GB'ers, hopefully we don't have a KOFXII/BlazBlue review problem here, hm? 4/5 is good. Formulaic and expected, but solid execution nonetheless.

Posted by Jeffsekai

lol.
 
 
Good review.

Posted by gosukiller

Only 4 out of 5 stars? The conspiracy against Playstation games has reached Giant Bomb!! AAAAAAHH!!! 
 
In all seriousness, good review.

Posted by PJ

"unnecessarily slavish to the God of War formula "
That sums up why I'm not going to buy this game(and yes, I have played it for myself). The story is bad enough that I don't give a shit about it so if I want to play GoW then I will play God of War II since its better in every way.

Posted by Rio
@ptys: not that it really matters or anything but I think of the last 10 reviews Brad has done 2 of them lol.
Posted by Bigandtasty

here comes the shitstorm from people who obsess over metacritic

Edited by SJSchmidt93
Good review, even if I don't particularly agree with the score.
 
@PJ
said:

" "unnecessarily slavish to the God of War formula " That sums up why I'm not going to buy this game(and yes, I have played it for myself). The story is bad enough that I don't give a shit about it so if I want to play GoW then I will play God of War II since its better in every way. "

Whatever man, base your opinion on however long you played it for and miss out on a badass game. 
Posted by iAchilles
@528seven said:
" @iAchilles said:
" I understand your complaints with the familiarness, but what is the problem with that. you go into god of war expecting a god of war experience. the system is done to perfection, why should they change it? "
There's always room to build on what you have. Releasing the same high-quality experience several times with incremental refinements isn't wrong, but it can only take you so far. "
  I know. I finished the game yesterday and i found it to be five stars. i am not raging or creating vendettas, its just a personal view that i have that can be taken or rejected. Someone said that it is formulaic and that isnt true. this the the most unpredictable of the series' "formula." I will get off my soapbox, those are just my views.
Posted by Kohe321

Getting this tomorrow. Can't wait.

Posted by iAchilles
@PJ said:
" "unnecessarily slavish to the God of War formula " That sums up why I'm not going to buy this game(and yes, I have played it for myself). The story is bad enough that I don't give a shit about it so if I want to play GoW then I will play God of War II since its better in every way. "
I think this series has one of the better crafted narratives of the last two generations. i must be crazy.
Posted by Hamz

Seems like another solid review. Can't comment too much as I haven't played the game myself. But if the only major negative aspect to the game is it uses the same old formula that the series is noted for without changing it one bit. Then I can understand entirely why it would be considered a negative aspect. This is the third game afterall and we would expect some change or innovation to improve the formula just enough to keep it familiar but also fresh. Sometimes things being the same all the time can be fun but also very stale.

Posted by Shinryu

A very fair review, if not slightly generous.

Posted by Cramsy

Nice review Ryan. I'm playing through this one at the moment and Ive really started to like it, puzzle and traversal stuff is actually kind of fun. 

Posted by Akeldama

you son of a bitch...

Posted by BenderUnit22

Given he gave Bayonetta a 4/5 as well, I think it's fair.

Posted by SuperJoe

Verhoeven-esque is so last millennium.

Posted by copycatzen

I dont think the issues are well justified to give it 4 stars 
 Rage of the titans!!!!!!!!!!!
Posted by Yummylee


Let the Nerd Rage....BEGIN!

 
In all seriousness, I think this seems like a fair score. Especially with regards to Kratos with his undying hatred of everything starting to feel really pretty dull nowadays.

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Edited by aurahack
@MAST said:

" @Chewii101 said:

" *cowers in fear of the PS3 fanboy rage coming*"
I'm a PS3 fan... And I don't get why anyone would rage over a 4/5. That's a good score I thought? Hell, even a 3/5 means there is a significant number of people out there that will probably still love the game. I think people have really lost touch with rating systems. They've convinced themselves that if it's not a 9/10 or higher, then it's not worth playing, and that's disappointing. "
Can't say I get it, either. :/ Text in a review always carried more weight than a score, in my opinion. People seemingly obsess over the imperfect score while overlooking the review text that blatantly says "No dude this game is still mad awesome".  
 
Then again, I've gotten shunned from all of my friends for thinking FFXIII is the most sub-par big-name game released so far this year. What could I possibly know.
Posted by Brendan

I've actually seen more comments making fun of potential nerd rages than ragers themselves.  Giantbomb is cool in a really odd way.
Posted by Brendan
@528seven said:
" @iAchilles said:
" I understand your complaints with the familiarness, but what is the problem with that. you go into god of war expecting a god of war experience. the system is done to perfection, why should they change it? "
There's always room to build on what you have. Releasing the same high-quality experience several times with incremental refinements isn't wrong, but it can only take you so far. "

Also, he said in the review that the lack of refinements to the gameplay made it feel a little last gen.  That where he was coming from with that comment.
Posted by Spiral_Stars

I'm glad reviewers aren't just rolling over and giving games 5/5 just due to a game's legacy.

Posted by Zereta

Oh oh. 
 
Ryan, you just ignited a firestorm of hatred

Posted by Curufinwe

  "its gestures towards closure seem... tentative."
 
Nice ellipsis.

Posted by Spoonman671

"not to say that the ending is anticlimactic, but its gestures towards closure seem... tentative."
 
I'd rather avoid spoiling the game's ending, but this comment leaves me to wonder what game Ryan actually played.

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Posted by alternate

WHY SO LOW !!!?!?!??!?!?!?
 
:P

Posted by Xanth93

I was expecting 5 stars, Ryan, but this is a very fair review. I personally enjoyed the game a lot, as I bet you did as well. But you are right when Kratos goes a little too far with vengeance. I do believe the gameplay has been refined much more than when God of War II refined the original. Once again, fair review, Ryan.

Posted by Floppypants

Different strokes for different folks.  I can appreciate a reviewer who expresses his true opinion on heavily hyped releases like this one.  I have to say though from following his reviews, Ryan is clearly harder to please and far more cynical than I am.

Posted by Rowr

Nice work Ryan "4 star" Davis.
 
Dont worry one day you will find that perfect game worthy of 5 stars. AKA 10 out of 10.

Edited by treereet

I know GB isn't really into the GOW games so 4/5 is a great score. 
 
Personally I thought there were a lot of really great new additions and refinements to the gameplay. The grappling system is a revolution and on the fly weapon switching, magic simplification, better weapon balance, special item power regeneration ect are welcomed additions but again I'm a big God of War fan so those things were probably more noticeable for me. I wasn't expecting it to all the sudden be first person or anything like that. My complaint is the environments are more along the lines of GOW1, not as diverse and beautiful as they were in GOW2. That and Kratos' annoying voice acting.

Posted by DanielJW