God Of War III Review

8 Mar 2010  by   Paul Younger
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How much, or indeed how little, should a developer strive to push a series forward? While there’s the benefit of reaping critical plaudits for making something old feel like something new, there’s also the risk of alienating your core fan base. With God of War III, Sony’s Santa Monica team has arguably played it safe with the gameplay which may attract the criticism of those hoping for a bit of evolution. However, the good news is that, while it feels very familiar, God of War III also feels like the perfect conclusion to one of Sony’s most impressive series.

Right from the start of God of War III it’s clear that Santa Monica Studio intends Kratos to go out with a bang. The first level of the game is one of the most spectacular to date as our hero (well, maybe that’s a bit strong) finds himself caught up in the final showdown between the Titans and the Gods as the giant creatures ascend Mount Olympus with the intention of settling their age-old dispute. The scale of the conflict needs to be seen to be believed. If God of War II felt like the first game had been on a course of steroids, III has been mainlining radiation.

As you join Gaia and the Titans in climbing Olympus, it’s utterly impossible not to be impressed by the enormity of, well, just about everything. From the rock-hewn Titans to Mount Olympus itself to the first boss battle of the game – as Kratos faces off against the mighty Poseidon – it’s a pretty awesome spectacle. It makes you question why all games don’t start the same way, despite the fact you know even Quantic Dream would struggle to write Greek Gods into Heavy Rain (Zeus is the Origami Killer!) This is Santa Monica making clear its agenda from the very beginning. Size matters, it would seem.

Kratos’ pragmatic alliance with the Titans does not last of course and, before he gets the chance to take a pop at daddy, the Spartan is torn from the mountain and must begin anew. As always with God of War, you’ll encounter all manner of famous faces from Greek mythology on your way, most of whom you’ll end up fighting at some point. And again, as always, the developer has taken a few creative liberties with the source material. However, Santa Monica Studio has struck a clever balance in God of War III meaning, unless you have exhaustive knowledge of Greek mythology, you’re unlikely to find yourself baulking at the developer’s handling of the story. In fact the only major problem with the narrative in the game, is one that’s been present throughout the series: Kratos is a bit of a dick. Yes, I’ve always found it hard to feel any affinity towards the perennially amoral Spartan – his penchant for ripping the limbs of stuff doesn’t exactly make him a sympathetic character. But then, it’s his limb-removal habit that makes the gameplay in God of War III so gloriously gory and, well, fun.{PAGE TITLE=God of War III Review Page 2}

And, if you’ve played the first two games, you’ll know exactly what to expect from God of War III. Basic gameplay remains almost unchanged in the final instalment in the series, and this is  likely to be the sticking point for some reviewers. Combat still leans towards button-mashing, with some simple combos to get to grips with, interspersed with quick time finishing sequences for selected enemies and, of course, epic boss battles. And, without giving too much away, we can confirm that there are some truly spectacular boss battles to contend with in the game (and a couple of damp squibs) which also means you’ll often get your hands on their weapons, or equipment, afterwards. There are some nice new toys to play with in God of War III, including the Bow of Apollo (which fires blazing arrows), the Boots of Hermes (which give Kratos a dash ability) and, our favourite, the Nemean Cestus, two enormous gauntlets earned after a particularly satisfying boss battle. All can be powered up using the XP you’ve earned, upgrading their strength and unlocking new moves and combos.

Depending on your stance on quick time events, you’ll be glad/pissed off to see them return in God of War III, often with spectacularly gory results. The way that Kratos dispatches with the half man-half horse Centaur, for instance, culminates in a throbbing pile of damp guts on the floor. As always, God of War III is relentlessly violent and, if you’re new to the series, you should steel yourself for the eye-popping, limb-severing, gut-rupturing action ahead. Squeamish souls may want to look elsewhere. There’s also a fair bit of tit on show in the game, just to give the anti-gaming lobby something else to moan about. Yes, it’s puerile and about as sexy as Iain Dowie, but we can forgive Santa Monica Studio its indulgences when the overall package is so compelling. Haha, I said ‘package.’

In fact, the only weak link in God of War III’s chain is the puzzle/platforming gameplay which can become more than a little tedious on occasion. The latter has always been a bit of a pain in the series thanks to the lack of camera control and the slightly unforgiving jump mechanic. It’s more of the same in God of War III and feels like an unnecessary extension of the game at times. The puzzles, equally, are rarely very cerebral and it’s usually pretty obvious what needs to be done to advance. Which all conspires to get in the way of what God of War does best: action.

But, you’ll be glad to know that the action on offer in the game is the best we’ve seen in the series to date and this, combined with the staggeringly pretty visuals, well-designed levels and huge sense of scale make it not only a great advertisement for what can be done on the PS3, but also a perfect finale to an iconic gaming series.

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