Review / God of War III (PS3)

Here’s a little challenge I set myself for this review: don’t use the word epic, not once. The reason for this is that God of War III is so… big that you could literally use that word in every sentence. But here at TVGB we like to set ourselves apart from the norm, so we thought we’d try something different. So let’s get on with this… sizeable review.

In a lot of ways, God of War III is like a great movie adaption of your favorite TV show; it packs in all your favorite bits, with better production values, into a shorter space of time. The result is an adrenaline fuelled roller coaster ride that constantly manages to drop your jaw throughout.

The last time we saw Kratos he was on the back of a huge stone Titan named Gaia, clambering up Mount Olympus to seek his final revenge on Zeus, the king of the Gods. This is also the first time we see Kratos at the start of God of War III. You see, the Spartan wants Zeus’ blood bad, so bad in fact he doesn’t really stop thinking/talking/shouting about it for the entire game. If you’re not sure why he’s on this obsessive quest, well then you might want to check in with the God of War Collection first, but there is a little movie when you start up the game that gives you a basic understanding of what’s going on.

Obviously, despite the second game’s cliffhanger ending, you’re not moments away from killing the God of Thunder at the start; you have to do a fair bit of legwork before you reach your final encounter. God of War III mainly tasks you with running up and down Mount Olympus on a series of fetch quests. You won’t traverse vast deserts and huge temples like the first two games, but even so the scale is no less impressive.

What you get instead is a string of set-pieces and action sequences that honestly rival the most heart-pounding moments of games like Uncharted 2 and Modern Warfare 2. You could argue that the series loses something with this blockbuster style approach to the third title, or you could just zip up and enjoy the ride. What God of War III loses in the sense of journey, it more than makes up for in almost every other aspect. Miss the feeling of setting out on an adventure that will take you across lands far away? Well here’s a fight with a massive giant stone thing to make up for it. I can live with the trade-off.

The normal combat is as good as ever; the Blades of Chaos rarely fail to raise a smile as you whip them about the screen. The system is largely unchanged; you’ll still rely on the handy combos like two light attacks rounded off by bringing a heavy attack crashing down to get by, but the refinements and tweaks make it more fun. It’s not the deepest or most technical fighting system out there, but it flows like a dream, responding to your every command, and it’s hard to fault that. Plus there are three new weapons to play with, and they’re actually all great fun to use, which is a series first.

Each new weapon comes with a magic attack too, and you’ll pick up other items like a bow that help in combat, and you can upgrade all these things too, unlocking new moves and combos. This means you’ve got a tonne of options at your finger tips whenever an enemy shows up asking for a pasting. And there a lot of enemies asking for that pasting this time, the screen often fills up with grunts to slice up.

It’s when you get to a boss fight that things really pick up though. Coming out of God of War III, I take with me some of the best fights I’ve ever experienced in a game. A vicious duel with Hades, clambering up a Titan as he tries to swat you away like a fly, even the opening battle bests the high points of a lot of other titles. There was worry that after a second change in director, and the success of other action games like Bayonetta and Dante’s Inferno, Kratos might not quite make the cut this time. The game laughs off this concern with ease in the first 45 minutes, more than reassuring you that you’re in for something special.

Granted that something special doesn’t last all that long. I played through on Hard mode, which took me 15 hours to get done. At first that seems like a good length, but considering I spent 3 hours trying to do one fight, and then a further 3 hours on other parts I’ve been stuck on, and you’re looking at a game that will probably take less than 10 hours on medium difficulty.

The game manages to mix things up nicely though, with platforming, fighting, puzzles, and other sections balanced out well enough so that you don’t get tired of killing just about everything by the end. Length may be an issue, but pacing certainly isn’t; you’ll rarely want to put the controller down. There’s a good amount of challenge to it too, but sometimes the difficulty will spike and you’ll start to get more than a little annoyed at trying to clear just one section for a while.

One problem is that no matter the length or scale, God of War III can’t help simply feeling like the epilogue to God of War II’s cruel cliffhanger. Sure, you do a lot and kill a lot, but the story didn’t really have anywhere to go at the end of the second game past killing Zeus, and it shows here. There are attempts made to give it some sort of meaningful plot, but after Kratos has slaughtered every man, creature, god, or titan in his path, any attempt to try and humanize him seems futile.

Still, you probably won’t notice seeing as you’ll be drooling over every cutscene, the majority of which use the in-game engine. God of War III is quite simply gorgeous, fighting with Killzone 2 and Uncharted 2 for the best visuals on PS3 and consoles. The detail on Kratos is just crazy, and the series’ standard gore-filled quick-time events will constantly widen your eyes and scream some sort of verbal amazement. The way your blades brilliantly flicker orange light as they zip around the screen, the colour as you unleash the Blade of Olympus, the list goes on and on.

Not everything gets quite the same level of attention; a few flat textures here and there bring the quality down ever so slightly, but overall this is truly an assault on your eyes, and it plays a big part in the whole feel of the game. Voice work is fine, not that there’s any especially engaging dialogue to perform, though I feel sorry for the guy who voices Kratos, his throat must have hurt like hell by the end of the script. Slap the movie-quality soundtrack over it, and you’ve got a game boasting some serious production values.

In the end God of War III is one of the most gloriously over the top video games to date, and shouldn’t be missed. It’s one of those titles that defines why we all love our hobby so much, full of moments that only games can deliver. This is a big, dumb, splendid celebration of gore, beauty, death, and so much more. Get a nice big TV, get a nice big snack, sit down on a comfy chair, and ignore all your wordly woes by letting Kratos do the talking for a few hours, there’s nothing quite like it.

+ Fun, frantic fighting that doesn’t tire out for the whole game.
+ Amazing boss fights mix with huge set-pieces to make for some of the most memorable battles out there.
+ Stellar productions values make it a visual treat.

– A little too short, just needed a few more fresh ideas to pad it out.
– Story isn’t especially gripping as it suffers from God of War II’s ending.
– Some of the feeling of adventure lost due to repeating locations.

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