Man, that Kratos is an angry dude. But fair enough â through three games now, heâs been screwed over by a huge menagerie of Greek legends.
Iâve just finished the game, and Iâm trying to collect my thoughts. Iâll start with the easy sum-up: if youâre a fan of the series, or just like enjoyable popcorn action titles in general, you wonât regret laying down some cash for this one. God of War III sits comfortably alongside other recent PlayStation 3 exclusives like Uncharted 2 and Heavy Rain â itâs just as polished, and combined with those other titles, helps create an aura of value around the PS3 that simply wasnât there a year or two ago.
To the longtime fans: this is my first GoW experience, but Iâm still pretty sure youâll appreciate whatâs on offer here. The gameplay has obviously been polished up and extended, but itâs the tying up of loose narrative threads that a lot of people are looking forward to. This definitely feels like a third â and final â act. You may now stop reading this review and go buy the game.
To everyone else: read on!
God of War III is, obviously, the conclusion to a saga that started on the PlayStation 2 many years ago. Main man Kratos was compelled to murder his family, and since then has gotten into a lot of trouble with gods, titans, and anything else that relates to Greek mythology. Being an angry man, Kratosâ only mission now is vengeance; specifically, heâd like to commit patricide, which can get problematic when your father is Zeus. This is the overall thrust of the story, and (for better and worse) it rarely deviates from it.
Gameplay is a mixture of third person action/adventure tropes that youâre surely quite familiar with by now. Youâll be spending a lot of time mashing the attack buttons as you face off against hordes of fantastical enemies. Thankfully, thereâs enough variety in your weapons and abilities â and in the tactics required to take down different bad guys â that you wonât get bored. This is lucky, as 80% of the game is combat. The other 20% is a collection of fairly standard puzzles that wouldnât be out of place in Tomb Raider â or, indeed, Uncharted. Some are more interesting than others, but they always provide a welcome relief from the wholesale slaughter thatâs going on. I particularly liked it when the developers were obviously thinking outside the box a bit â look for an Escher-esque puzzle later on in the game to see what I mean.
Overall, I would say the gameplay is derivative, but when everythingâs this damned polished, it simply becomes definitive. The key thing that makes it work is the same as in games like Gears of War â the basic mechanics might not be overly original, but itâs what you do with it that counts. The GoW III gameplay consists of a series of exciting set pieces that almost never lets up. You might be mashing the same buttons for the whole game, but it feels different from level to level. Of course, some bad guys and tropes are recycled towards the end a bit, but for much of the game youâre constantly surprised by new twists on the same concept.
Actually, thatâs probably the best thing about God of War III: many of its set pieces are frickinâ cool. My favourite moments throughout the game came when the developers decided to screw with your sense of scale. Right from the opening scenes, youâll see (and play) Kratos climbing up Mount Olympus on the back of a 2km-high titan, whose body becomes much of the first level. And it just gets bigger from there â but not always. Much like Uncharted 2 controlled the pacing of your experience with a deft hand, GoW III mixes up claustrophobic, dimly lit caves with huge sweeping vistas of a world plunged into chaos. As has been pointed out countless times, itâs this kind of juxtaposition that really makes you appreciate what youâre playing/reading/viewing/hearing.
Holding all these scenes together, of course, is the story. I like Greek mythology, and it was fun to see so many aspects of it represented here. I donât want to spoil much, but letâs just say youâll encounter many classical characters, and that Kratos leaves a huge amount of destruction in his wake. In many ways, itâs like a tiki tour through ancient Greece â oh hey, hereâs this guy! And now hereâs this guy!
I may always be looking for too much when it comes to action game storylines, but I feel like there were some interesting themes lying under the surface of GoW III that were never really taken anywhere. Itâs a bit of a shame, as the whole âmust kill my father no matter the cost!â shindig quickly got a bit tiresome. I feel bad asking for fully developed subtexts in a game like this, but itâs obvious that there are some smart writers on this development team, and I would have liked to see what they could come up with given a greater emphasis on narrative. Maybe for the next game, when theyâll obviously have an infinite supply of money and time, right?
The game took me about nine hours to complete, although I was rushing through. There are additional items you can hunt for, but the level design is pretty linear overall. If you know your action games, definitely turn up the difficulty setting â youâll get a lot more satisfaction from different weapon tactics, which all become a bit meaningless on easier settings. If youâre a completist, there are enough bonus items, costumes, and Challenge modes to unlock to warrant at least one more play through. Just make sure you watch the making of documentary after finishing the game â itâs surprisingly good.
Weâve come to expect a very high level of awesomeness when it comes to the graphics and sound of these kinds of titles, but even so, GoW III busts out a few key moments that will make even jaded gamers go âwowâ. The music is simply cool, and entirely fitting (have I used the word âepicâ yet?). Voice acting? Well, Kratos sounds uniformly pissed off, Zeus sounds dastardly, and mere mortals sound helpless. This isnât an Uncharted-level cast, but theyâre consistent across the board.
One more obvious thing to mention: this is a very violent game. It goes without saying that kids should really not be playing it â if youâre a parent, put them to bed first! But itâs violent in such an over the top way that itâs far less disturbing than any title with a pretense of realism. In most instances, GoW III successfully straddles this line, so youâll be ripping off heads or spilling centaur spleens without a care. But if youâre squeamish, be warned!
And thatâs that. If you have a PS3 and like action games, go buy this, or at least rent it. God of War III is polished from (severed) head to (bloodied) toe, and is an enjoyable, ridiculous experience perfect for the moments where you just want to switch your brain off.