The unepic epic
Sometimes there are great games which I wish I loved. I feel like positivity is underappreciated in video games. Because of that, I usually try to hold a fairly positive viewpoint of "it's not for me" when I dislike a well put-together game.
God of War III is not one of those games.
I should start by saying that I had little to no interest in the series, and God of War III was the first time I tried one of them. I went into it with an open mind, and with some knowledge of its tone and genre: a violent, sexual game, beat-em-up of sorts. I wasn't wrong. However, as time went by, my curiosity slowly morphed into disgust. I would usually drop the game I didn't like halfway through, but unfortunately I had quite literally nothing else to do. It was either this, or replaying old titles that I know like the back of my hand.
It's been a while since I despised the game quite as much. I think the last time it was Metroid Other M, and it was for not entirely different reasons.
God of War III is a game that feels like it's made from the same cloth as Devil May Cry, Bayonetta, and similar character action games. You move through pretty linear levels killing various enemies, collecting powerups, solving a few puzzles and finding secrets here and there. The sense of scale in this game is quite similar, too. You play as a badass on his mission to kill Olympic Gods, which is pretty much how those games usually go.
It's hard not to compare God of War III to other titles, as it never hides its inspirations. Maybe it should've. The game doesn't come close to character action games that came from other teams, and is more of a beat-em-up than a punishing combo-based affair that makes you feel extremely stylish and cool as you pull off different stunts and get that high score.
If you ask me what makes those games so good, I won't hesitate to answer: humor, action, gameplay. Character action games are often over-the-top insane romps that feel like a B movie with the budget of a summer blockbuster. God of War III fails at all of those.
The gameplay is fairly boring. While the game features diverse enemies and different weapons, I never really felt like I was doing a lot. The enemies had an optimal strategy, and the game never felt like it encouraged me to be fast and creative. While you could argue that it's up to the player, I feel like the overall design went against that. God of War III really likes to wrestle the controls away from you, and even when it doesn't, they feel stiff. Just moving through the levels was the greatest challenge the game had for me. I felt like there was something wrong with me, yet quick search confirmed that people have problems with the double jump. You can jump in place perfecting your timing as much as you can, but as soon as you get close to a pit, the second jump might refuse to work.
The controls feel better during combat, but the game doesn't trust you to be stylish, so it often interrupts the action with a whole lot of QTEs. In fact, QTEs are such a core part of the game that you will deal with them everywhere: exploration, puzzles, cutscenes... The latter in particular is an asinine decision. I think we can all agree that good finishers feel nice. You want your character to rip apart the enemy and smash them into a bloody pile. Well, you won't see a lot of it. Not because the game lacks them, but because every time you perform a scripted finisher, you will need to focus on QTEs, which are presented in the worst way. One of four sides of the screen will become slightly brighter and a button will appear. I don't know why developers decided that QTE prompts should appear on the perimeter of the screen, but it just lead me to not really watching any cutscenes, and instead focusing on randomly appearing buttons. I don't mind QTEs, but having random sequences of buttons that appear in different parts of the screen is definitely the worst implementation of them I've seen.
Don't get me wrong, God of War III is a servicable action game. It has issues, and it's definitely no Bayonetta, but it's playable and can be fun. Gameplay-wise, at least. Here's where we get to the biggest issue. The story feels like it was written by a 13-year-old whose parents took away their video games. None of the characters are deep or interesting, and violence just feels boring. I wrote about how I think finishers are bad gameplay-wise, but in all honesty, I just think they're bad in general. I absolutely adore ultraviolence. It's fun, often funny, creative and cool. Your Mortal Kombat fatalities, DOOM glory kills, and various weird ways other Character Action protagonists murder their foes are incredible. Kratos doesn't really do any of that. He can rip out an eyeball if you're lucky, but most of the time you're just going to beat people to death. It doesn't feel that good, and considering everyone's such a blank slate, it just makes you despise Kratos more than anything.
Now, it's true that God of War III is a direct continuation, and one that doesn't really offer much context to Kratos' past adventures, but even as a standalone story, I never found any character interactions to be fun. They all expose for a bit, and then die. A few of them have more memorable one-dimensional personalities than others, but it doesn't help the story in any way.
Aside from violence, of course there are boobs. Almost any female monster has them, there are plenty of naked ladies, and I can't really say much about that. Constant nudity just made me roll my eyes, and the sex scene where you're presented with yet another QTE marathon as characters comment on how good Kratos is just felt pathetic. I feel like cutting away from sex scene and mashing buttons could be a parody of a video game, not an actual scene in one!
A good antihero is hard to write. We're supposed to like him despite his actions, and feel sympathy when they do awful things. Kratos is not that. He's just asshole who I despised all the way through. He has some very basic motivation, but I'd rather see him as a final boss of a better game, where I could rip him up into many little pieces as a better protagonist.
There was one scene in particular that made me question what sort of feelings developers tried to invoke. About halfway through the game, there's a scene where you encounter a half-naked (of course) lady in the cell, who is deathly afraid of you. After you unlock the cell, you push her forward as she begs for mercy. It all ends when Kratos jams her into a mechanism that crushes her, just to open a door. It was horrifying. From beginning to end I was expecting a rape scene to start. In other game perhaps I would've seen this as a positive, if it was a section that was supposed to say something or invoke those feelings. Here, bit so much. was this a nessessary scene that told me anything about the characters? Nope. Just another boring merciless murder that made me despise the protagonist even more.
I will remind you here that God of War III makes no effort to provide any context. I don't know if those characters even met in past games. Even if they did, however, it just felt bad. There's never a feeling of "ah, finally, this asshole deserved this!" because you barely interact with characters or even see them. Just to check, I decided to go on wiki to read about this particular lady. She never appeared before. The entire torture scene of a lady who is apparently a sex slave is absolutely pointless and gross.
After I finished the game, I decided to look it up, and the first thing that surprised me was its release date. The game came out after both Devil May Cry 4 and Bayonetta. Honestly, I have no idea why anyone would play God of War III instead of games that handle sex, violence and action so, so much better.