For a God of War fan, this latest game is worth it so much
Sony's God of War series has always served the company well: its high production values, epic scope and simple but fun gameplay have made it extremely popular among casual and more enthousiastic gamers alike. After the acclaim the first God of War received, many clamored for a sequel on the Playstation 3, but SCEA decided to make God of War II a final tour-de-force for the Playstation 2, a swan song, if you will. While that game was loved by lots of people, everyone still wanted to see what the power of Sony's latest console could do to the franchise. Now, after two PS2 games and a PSP game, God of War finally got its “next-gen” treatment in God of War III. The graphics here are a sight to behold, as was expected when the game was announced, but the gameplay has changed very little. This means that fans of the previous games will eat up this latest God of War game, but if you've always disliked the series, God of War III will do absolutely nothing to change your mind. Sony Santa Monica can't be blamed for that at all, however: they've simply turned the epic scope, the gorgeous visuals and the brutal gameplay up by a considerable amount of notches. If you're a fan, what more could you want?
God of War III sees you once again assuming control of Kratos, the Spartan warrior who has been taken advantage of by the Olympian gods. In the last game, Kratos forged an alliance with the Titans against these gods, and God of War III picks up exactly where God of War II ended in cliffhanger fashion. Riding on Gaia's back, the vengeful former God of War seeks to destroy Zeus and his godly peers for a reason I shall not spoil, though I suppose it's pretty much public knowledge among gamers at this point. Even more than in the first two games, Kratos is angry at the gods, at the world, at life. And he is determined to take out his frustrations on every form of said life in his path. It got so ridiculous, that at a certain point his endless rage felt overdone and annoying to me. It's unfortunate, because the events and flashbacks of the first game featured a fitting crux for a Greek tragedy, but it ultimately felt slightly gone to waste in this final chapter of the trilogy. However, the game does redeem some of its errors in regards to the inspiration that was drawn from Greek mythology. Pandora's Box, in particular, was a concept that was put to weird use in the first game, but receives a decent, if slightly contrived explanation here.
It's something that the student of Ancient Greek and Latin in me has always had to deal with: God of War doesn't feel at all ashamed to take some of the Ancient Greeks' biggest mythological ideas, and give them a, for lack of a better word, Hollywood-esque treatment. This may be a bit of a stumbling block, but it's something you'll just have to ignore lest your enjoyment of the storyline is significantly degraded. The game takes the concept of an immortal Greek god and drags it to places I would've never liked to see it go, but it is something I chose to take in stride, and it didn't end up all that big a deal. Every game tries to be mindlessly enjoyable for a player, but the God of War games take this notion further than most, requiring you to turn off your brains and simply go along for the crazy ride. It's always worked, and it continues to do so here. I can at least say the story wraps up the trilogy quite well, even if it doesn't quite resolve every thread—and there really aren't that many threads. I had no idea how the developer was going to effectively finish Kratos' tale up, but the ending seems fitting, which is a welcome change after the ending of God of War II.
No one expected it to, but God of War III makes no attempt at all to stray from the formula set in the original 2005 game. The game still has you traversing beautifully designed environments from a fixed perspective (with the right stick serving to aim your dodge rolls) and using Kratos' range of weapons and magic types. After the usual abili-tease, Kratos loses all of his powers and receives renamed chained blades. The opening sequence doesn't last long, but after it's over, the tone is set for what the remainder of the game will be: Kratos brutally killing everyone he meets in the most deliciously horrible ways possible, with the desire for a new item or weapon that will supposedly help him best Zeus to drive the whole thing forward. You'll encounter a new God, Titan or other mythological figure behind every other corner, and each brings some sort of over-the-top gameplay concept, as well as giving Kratos new abilities constantly. While the previous games felt like they had the occasional boss fight to break up the beating up of grunts and small-time puzzle or platform segments, in God of War III, it's really the boss fights that are being tied together by some fighting or jumping. Especially in the first half of the game, you'll run from one god to the next, fighting them all. I didn't particularly like this change. While the increase in boss battles is nice in concept (and some of them are quite nice), it felt as though they should've been spaced out a little more. Sony probably thought to themselves that this was a way to up the drama, but it instead ends up feeling like they tried to compress every boss battle into too little a timespan. Some of the more amazing moments in this game come from these boss battles, however, and one encounter in particular will probably stay with me for a long time. It's not surprising, therefore, to see the developer betting most of their efforts on this aspect.
There are four weapons this time around, with three of them being of the “chain blade” variety, and one more heavy-hitting set of grieves called the Cestus. They all have distinct feels, but some balancing issues are present. Put plainly, the redesigned "Blades of Exile" and Cestus are all you'll ever need to get through the game, seeing as they're simply more practical. The other two are nice to mess around with, but not really well-designed enough to be relied on, especially on higher difficulties. That's honestly too bad. Add to that the fact that the on-the-fly weapon switching is clunky, and the combat is slightly less appealing as a whole. If you want a game with deep combat that allows you to seamlessly transition between moves and toy with your foes, Devil May Cry or Bayonetta are still easily the way to go. Specific magic types are also tied to specific weapons, which is unfortunate from a gameplay standpoint, but makes sense considering they wanted to use to the D-pad for weapon switching. The platforming also feels very mechanical. This has never been otherwise in the God of War games, so it was to be expected, but it's still slightly disappointing.
"Larger than life" is given new meaning here. The assets in God of War III are absolutely humongous, with the Titans themselves leading the pack. With the fixed camera as a useful tool, the game makes a point of showing you just how small a blip you are in the huge action that's going on, often panning out to reduce Kratos to nothing more than a finger or a pixel's worth of screen filler. These shifts are expertly designed, as is the music accompanying it every step of the way, always managing to maintain a sense of where the player is while showing off why it's a big problem for him to be in that situation down there.
The mini-games are also back in full force. Enemies will give you the circle button prompt after enough damage has been dealt to them, and the third God of War game ups the brutality by a significant amount. Not only do the brutalities simply look more gruesome due to the increased detail in the animations and fleshy... textures, some of the stuff they came up with for the bosses is just insane. The way Kratos pulls off Helios' head with his hands or cuts open a Centaur's belly to have his guts rolling out over the floor is beyond anything God of War I or II ever did, and that's saying something. It all has a conscious and appropriately gory tone to it, which is perhaps one of the guilty pleasures players love so much about this series. The blood spatters on Kratos himself are a nice touch too.
Blood itself has never looked this good either. God of War III is easily one of the best-looking games ever made, only allowing games like Uncharted, Killzone and Gears of War to rival it. Kratos' model in particular is exceptional. When you study his face and see individual pores and extremely subtle wrinkles, you realise why gaming development has shot up in amount of work that needs to be done: this kind of detail is practically unprecedented. It's almost understandable therefore, that the other character models don't look quite as sharp. Kratos' model is of such quality that that shouldn't even be considered a knock against the others. The Olympus as the artists see it has also been realised beautifully (though there are some weird errors, like incorporating domes into the design, when it's a well-known fact the Ancient Greeks didn't use those at all) and there are some amazing technical accomplishments in regards to programming the interaction with the environment.
If you so much as lightly enjoyed any of the previous God of War games, God of War III is something you should try. It took me around 8 hours the first time through, and there's little reason to replay it other than to simply relive the ridiculously huge scenarios that play out, but those 8 hours were filled with amazing highlights of what the God of War formula can accomplish. Also included in the package are some really cool “making of” videos (with the recording of the blood spattering effect as a storyboard being a highlight), combat challenges and extra costumes. It's definitely worth your while. As a long-time fan of the God of War games, I can easily recommend this game to any peer. If you're new to the series, prepare yourself for an action-packed ride filled with amazing amounts of gore, a dodgy story and bags of fun. It serves its purpose as a fitting end to the trilogy to perfection, and is a piece of entertainment definitely worth owning for your Playstation 3.