God of War 3 Review
Kratos is back with a vengeance. Hear him roar.
A title such as God of War 3 was always likely to be a high-quality production. It is the first game in the series that was developed for PS3, and as such expectations were very high. Now that Kratos is finally back, it’s safe to say that he delivers a proper conclusion to the series’ story arc. All of the elements that fans loved from the previous games are back, now more refined and adjusted to near perfection. From graphics to gameplay, God of War 3 is a flagship title for PS3 that is very much worth playing for any action fans. Not mentioning the fans of the series, which already likely have the game ordered, the PlayStation 3 audiences are in for a real treat.
In order to make sense of what happens in God of War 3, it is best to play the series from the beginning – not only to catch up on the story, but also to experience some great action and to see how much the game has evolved over the length of the franchise. God of War I and II are still widely considered some of the best action titles of our time, and they are well worth checking out – now as part of the God of War collection on PS3. Given that you’ve played the first two games, players will recall the second title ends on a rather huge cliff-hanger. The story of the previous two games is merely drawn out in a few great images during the game’s credits opening, which means that fans unfamiliar with the story to this point are unlikely to catch on. God of War 3 starts right where the previous game left off, as the Titans are climbing the Mount of Olympus in order to take down the gods, and more importantly for Kratos, to kill Zeus. Atop the mountain, Hermes, Poseidon, Hades, and Helios assemble and plan their defense. The first god that decides to engage the attacking Titans is Poseidon, and the ensuing battle is an epic scene that’s a thrill and easily one of the highest points of the game. As Kratos defeats the god and advances further, however, he and Gaia are knocked off the mountain. Kratos pleads for Gaia to catch him, but she is unable to for fear of falling herself. As such, Kratos loses trust in his only ally against Zeus. As Kratos falls into the river Styx, his power is drained and he emerges in the Underworld to begin his long and challenging adventure back to the top of Olympus. Given that this is the conclusion of the story, the ending felt a bit uneven and dragged on for a bit too long, leaving the player wanting much more to finish off the series.
On his journey, Kratos meets a few classic characters from Greek mythology, though some seem to be very shoehorned in. While huge in the source material, some characters appear for mere minutes and play no vital role in the proceedings. Kratos himself seems to have a very uneven personality – and not in the usual way. In previous games, our hero had a few weaknesses, but could always overcome his issues in believable ways, while continuing to kick demon ass. In God of War 3, Kratos seems to be extremely torn and unstable with his decisions. He continuously flip-flops between the Kratos we know from previous games, and a new type of hero that is so careless and reckless that it’s hard to cheer for him even as an anti-hero. When the whole world of humanity is crumbling because of his selfish actions, he doesn’t take a moment to ponder on his actions – but later on becomes so attached to a spirit creature (who he planned to sacrifice for his own good) that Kratos is willing to risk his whole life’s purpose to save it. As a lead character, he is supposed help the players understand his goals and personality and has done a great job doing so in previous games. But in this epic conclusion, Kratos simply does not find a stable persona that players can relate to and at least try to understand. It seems that in the goal to make Kratos a real bad-ass character, the developers went overboard a bit resulting in some very rough patches of character development.
But, as many players will argue, God of War’s story is second to the action. And my, what action that is. Anyone who’s completed previous games will simply pick up and controller and go, as very little has changed. The menu navigation, the fighting combos and even the menu sounds are all unchanged from the original game. Players can start slashing away as soon as the game begins, leading to one of the most memorable and epic introduction sequences of any title. The sense of scale is great, and Kratos feels very small compared to the events occurring all around him. But, as most great sequences go, the intro ends and as you plummet down and then climb out of the River Styx, you are back to the usual series formula. Now, Kratos must travel across various locales, speak to different characters and creatures while regaining your lost health and strength, and acquiring new weapons. The first hour after the game’s mind-blowing introduction feels rather stale and Kratos seems especially weak having just lost all his powers after a great showdown. But after a while and the first boss fight, things fall into place and the game picks up on a steady pace towards the end.
Boss fights do not make up a large portion of the game, but when they do occur, they are quite memorable. This time around, every boss is physically stronger and, oftentimes, many times larger the size of Kratos. This leads to many great showdowns, some QTE-based, while others let you freely control Kratos and whack away at the health of the boss. The cinematic quick time event-based bosses are very visually impressive and a thrill to play, but failing one of the prompts results in having to restart the whole sequence again. Meanwhile, the live fights with some bosses take skill and precision to dodge their varied and powerful attacks – but even these fights come to an end with the classic QTE takedown sequence. While the bosses are memorable, the regular enemies are of the same variety as seen in previous games. This time around, the only big differences are more ways to perform takedowns on the classic skeletons and minotaurs. There are a few new types of enemies, but their special attack attributes don’t do much to break up the flow of the classic series gameplay. And that’s not a bad thing.
To battle, Kratos brings a wide assortment of items and weapons. In his arsenal, there are four different weapons – three are chain-based, and the last is blunt force based. Nemean Cestus is the blunt weapon in the game, which is similar to the Blade of Olympus from God of War 2 (which Kratos has in this game, but does not use in a weapon slot). The Cestus focuses on brute force attacks that are not very aerial-based and focus instead of delivering hard punches and throwing enemies away. Kratos’ other weapons include the Blades of Exile (classic series weapon), Claws of Hades and the Nemesis Whip. The Claws are acquired from one of the bosses, and play very similarly to the Blades of Exile but with various special moves thrown in. The Nemesis Whip meanwhile acts as a very powerful electrical whip that’s extremely useful in delivering tons of hits via electrical damage from your swings. Switching between all these weapons is now simple and can even be done mid-combo. In addition to being different in their attack characteristics, each weapon also carries a unique magical power that Kratos can use when wielding that particular weapon. These attacks are intended to deliver massive damage and send enemies flying so you do not get overwhelmed in battle. In addition to the usual health and mana meters, God of War 3 features a new item use meter. This meter acts like mana except it is only used by Kratos’ special items. There are four items in the game that Kratos claims or discovers during his travels - Bow of Apollo, the Head of Helios, and the Boots of Hermes. These items provide various abilities and attacks, and can be used until the item meter drains – but it refills quickly and automatically overtime, which makes these items very useful during gameplay.
Outside of battle, Kratos will once again solve various puzzles and often retreat to previously visited areas to access newly available areas. The puzzles in this title seem to be on the easy side compared to the rest of the series, but they are much more creative and will more often awe you rather than make you think for very long. The exploration still remains based purely on finding areas that the fixed camera will reveal only when Kratos approaches the edge of a level. As in earlier games, God of War 3 remains linear and scripted, but in a series that does it so well, it’s not a complaint. The game is also bug-free and there were no issues (technical or otherwise) experienced playing through the title twice. It is a very polished experience, which is an admirably impressive feat.
One of the notable features of the previous games was their ability to push the PlayStation 2 hardware to its limits. God of War 3 carries on this tradition – the game looks great and could very well take this year’s Crysis 2 head-on for the best visuals award. This is a very good looking title on PS3, and looks to challenge even PC-level graphics. The textures are mostly sharp, character design is outstanding, and the light and bloom are breathtaking at times. On the opposite end of the detailed visuals are the gorgeous backdrops, which are often seen as Kratos travels across the world and engages with various Titans. There are even overlook points during some levels that allow the player to stop and read a small note about the events occurring in the world, as you stare out into the distance. The classic soundtrack from the series also makes a return, with some new melodies that are one of the best in the series. The gameplay remains fixed-camera based, which allowed the developers to focus on a lot of the detail players see. This results in good detail, but also makes you wish that a free camera was available to get a different angle on some of the great views in the game. The camera also sometimes positions itself in weird places, giving the player a poor view of the level which results in awkward platforming deaths. Regardless of these small issues, God of War 3’s presentation is stellar.
All good things must come to an end, and God of War 3 delivers a worthy conclusion to the series. The game manages to surprise the players with some great new tweaks and additions to the gameplay, great graphics and a solid soundtrack. But at the same time, some odd decisions have altered Kratos’ character into a few uneven personifications, and the ending goes on for a bit too long and somewhat spoils the epic conclusion that many were hoping for. Nonetheless, God of War 3 is an excellent action title that action fans must definitely check out, and with it. Kratos achieves a series conclusion worthy of the gods.