Game Review: God of War III
Release: March 16, 2010
Genre: Action Adventure
Developer: Santa Monica Studio
Available Platforms: PlayStation 3
ESRB Rating: M
WARNING: SPOILERS FOR GOD OF WAR I AND GOD OF WAR II
If you own a PlayStation 3 (PS3) and you’re new to the God of War trilogy, do yourself a favor and pick up the God of War Collection. Immerse yourself in the mythos of Kratos and see how he evolved into the furious badass he is today. I remember playing through God of War II and having my jaw drop at the literal cliffhanger. Ever since the third installment was announced for the PS3 back in 2007, fans of the series have held their collective breaths, wondering which direction Santa Monica Studio would take. When Sony unveiled the debut trailer at E3 2008, suddenly the buzz was on. Fast forward to 2010 with the release of the highly anticipated title.
God of War III is the final piece to Santa Monica Studio’s trilogy puzzle, set to light up PS3s everywhere. It picks up right where God of War II left off — the monumental confrontation between the gods of Olympus and Kratos rallying the Titans for another bid at The Great War. Riding atop Gaia’s back, Kratos boldly announces his intentions to “bring the destruction of Olympus!” It’s rather hard not to believe the Ghost of Sparta isn’t capable of accomplishing such a feat. His resume of doom is quite impressive, including: killing Ares, acquiring Pandora’s Box, escaping the Underworld and defying The Fates. If there’s one man for the job of bringing down Zeus and company, Kratos is just the guy you want to go on a murdering rampage.
If you’ve played through the previous titles, you know exactly what to expect with the gameplay mechanics and the controls. It’s a third-person action adventure with elements of platforming; throw in a fixed camera and token sex mini game, and you’ve got a title that feels instantly familiar. Chests are scattered throughout, providing orbs for upgrades, health and magic. Weapons run the whole gamut — from Kratos’ trusty Blades of Exile to Hercules’ Nemean Cestus.
The range of weapons available is a hack and slash player’s dream, leaving the door wide open for unique combinations of brutality. With any title in this genre, its worth is determined by combat mechanics and this is where God of War III shines, carrying on the legacy of its predecessors. Tight controls make it easy to switch from sharp weaponry to devastating magic. Combat runs elegantly to string combinations of grounded and aerial assaults before segueing into optional quick time events of finishing moves. Ending lives is not a delicate exercise; Kratos goes full out, leaving behind entrails, heads and other body parts in his wake. If you’re squeamish, these predetermined button presses of remorseless violence will most likely leave you queasy. Whether it’s flesh being separated from sinewy muscle or intestines spilling from slashed bellies, the attention to detail underscores both artistic and technical skill Santa Monica Studio employed.
Words like epic and mind-blowing get tossed around a lot, but they’re so fitting, especially after getting a high dose of visual eye candy during the opening sequence. The sheer scale of the ensuing battle grips you in rapt attention. Exiled Titans returning for one last hurrah against the gods of Olympus? You can bet your eyes will water at the glorious nihilism on display. It’s a celebration of ass kicking, wonderfully vicious ass kicking! While taking down Minotaurs and Centaurs are welcome ways to execute particular combinations, there is definitely a sense of awe and satisfaction when committing deicide. The scale is what draws you in. Think about it. Numerous gods completely dwarf Kratos, leaving your antihero to sometimes climb onto them to execute vicious kills. You’re not just fighting enemies left and right anymore!
While God of War III begins with high-octane overdrive sequences leaving you breathless, it settles into a more manageable, recognizable pace. Climbing from Hades’ Realm up Mount Olympus, there is something new to keep your attention from straying into boredom. Kratos’ ascent gives the game a vertically-oriented focus, once again emphasizing the massive scale of his quest. Level designs and objectives are balanced to prevent gameplay from growing stale. Icarus Ascent, where you use the Icarus Wings to fly straight up through what is essentially a wind tunnel, is one such welcome transition. As Kratos defeats enemies, he gains new weapons and abilities that keep combat engaging. Beyond gameplay and level design, God of War III is simply breathtaking; even Chimeras and The Furies are grotesquely beautiful! Cutscenes employing more traditional animation doesn’t break up the pace; surprisingly, it provides a richer backstory using simple means to contrast against the graphically intensive design. Santa Monica Studio has finely balanced every aspect to constantly keep the audience’s attention.
While the game is a technical and artistic victory in visual eye candy, there may be certain aspects that would irk the discerning gamer. The storytelling is blunt and straightforward: Kratos makes a declaration of killing everything on sight and goes about doing so with the most vicious methods he can conjure. While there were elements of humanity in Kratos in previous titles, he is absolutely heartless; there is no empathy or mercy left, painting him as a fairly flat character. I must step in with a side note concerning the pacing as well. While the game was well balanced, there was one particular objective that was a slight bump in the road. I won’t ruin anything, but it felt like I was playing Spartan Guitar Hero. It was a discordant note in an otherwise fluid pace.
These are, of course, minor asides in a title that is otherwise a stellar example of what technical and artistic visions can combine to create. There were numerous times when I was left slack-jawed at the cutscenes after I took down a god. As the finale of the trilogy, it certainly bears the burden of expectations. With balanced poise, God of War III provides a satisfying end to a series that will leave an indelible mark amongst the PlayStation fanbase.
Jinkwell’s final say: God of War III has left me completely enthralled by the beauty of both the graphics and the combat. Only one word adequately describes this game: epic. I wasn’t just watching murder unfold; I participated in the act through quick time events for one serious cut of deicide.
Note: Review copy provided by Sony and does not affect the outcome of this article.