GOONL!NE Review: God of War III

Developer: Sony Santa Monica Studio
Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment
Also on: N/A (PlayStation 3 exclusive)
Format Played On: PlayStation 3
Release Date: March 19th 2010
Age Rating: BBFC: 18, ESRB: M OFLC: MA15+, PEGI: 18

And so this is it, the final instalment in the God of War saga, the end of Kratos’ lust for vengeance and probably one of the best action games you’ll play this year.

This is classic God of War in every sense, don’t come to the game expecting a complete control revamp or a brand spankin’ new way of playing the game because you’ll be  a bit disappointed, Santa Monica stick to what has come before, the tried and tested formula that has made the series so revered. Why fix what isn’t broken?

The big thing for God of War III is scale, and I mean big, you won’t have played many (if any) games like it. Right from the start were Kratos is making his way to the summit of Mount Olympus atop titan Gaia, the malice in his voice as he bellows at Zeus and co., you know you’re in for a treat.

The game often dwarfs you in it’s quite massive scale, the Labyrinth being a perfect example, with Kratos turning into a tiny blip on your screen at times. It’s not also just the scale that impresses, the attention to detail with the graphics is also exceptional. Whilst I wouldn’t say this game redefines the boundaries for what is possible with the PlayStation 3, God of War III is easily a rival for Uncharted 2 and in some areas does slightly exceed the colossal challenge it laid down to other games in the looks department.

The design of Kratos is exceptional. It’s easy to design a fictional alien being as a designer as they often have no real life frame of reference that they can be compared to and for someone to say it doesn’t look real, whereas when designing a human being in a game, it’s very easy to decide on what looks real and what doesn’t. Kratos looks fantastic, from his scarred brow to his ripped torso, his character model is a triumph, and even with pasty skin like his you can sense the realism off it.

Again I’m going to talk about the scale of the game, but it really does beggar belief at time. Gaia is a level in herself, something that will actually make you sit back and think “Wow.” The attention to detail mentioned earlier on Kratos extends to other characters too. When fighting Cronos there is a delightfully sick moment where during your titanic clash with him you sink your blades into this fingernail and tear it off bit by bit. Grotesque yes but hugely satisfying and enjoyable.

Speaking of grotesque moments, another piece I found quite impressive visually was after defeating a Centaur, the body actually gets opened up and its guts spill out everywhere. Visualise the Tauntaun Han Solo cuts open in Empire Strikes Back and you sort of get the picture, but it’s much, much cooler.

Director Stig Asmussen hit the nail on the head when describing the action in God of War III, “The best way that I can describe it is take D-Day, the Battle at Normandy, combine it with the movie Cloverfield, and put Kratos smack dab in the middle of it.” That’s right folks, it is that action packed. The relentless pace of the game never lets up (bar the brief interludes for some puzzle solving yet they still are done at a frantic pace) and it’s all the better for it. Never are you worried the game is going to get stagnant and boring, never will the game make you want to turn it off.

The puzzle solving in God of War III is also impressive. The puzzles are varied and do require a bit of the grey matter to be used. They vary from timed challenges when you’re rescuing Pandora to more traditional puzzles where you move some things around to help you progress.

Gameplay is familiar but that’s no bad thing. If you’ve played God of War before you’ll instantly be able to pick up and play God of War III. Kratos’ weapons too are similar, if a little too similar to each other in some ways. The Cestus are really the only weapon that’s truly unique and feels different from your other 3 choices in the game, and have a real meaty feel behind them.

A new element to the franchise is borrowed from Batman: Arkham Asylum. If you’ve played the E3 2009 demo you’ll already be able to visualise the scene in your head. When you’re chasing after Helios you encounter a huge lumbering Cyclops (It carries a tree trunk. Best avoid) that jumps in to create havoc. Jumping onto the back of the thing, you ride it much like a Titan in Arkham Asylum, smashing all other puny minions out the park.

Quick time events also are still present in God of War III, hell, what God of War game would be complete without them? The QTE prompts appear on screen to reflect where the buttons appear on the pad. The first time they appeared like this I almost fudged up but the logic behind it makes sense and their addition is welcome, particularly in the more intense QTE sections. For example, X will appear at the bottom of the screen and triangle will appear at the top.

Another new element to the game is the occasional switch to first person. During some of the boss battles you’ll switch to Kratos’ view of the action, seeing the violence how he sees it, and it’s fantastically done, making you feel every punch.

All of the boss fights feel epic and don’t let the side down. Arkham Asylum was a game I praised for it’s outstanding game play but the boss fights where majorly underwhelming, but God of War has no such problem. Each boss is varied and you’ll never tire of smashing them to pieces, and the characters themselves are well acted.

Final Thoughts: Stig Asmussen stated that “Our goal is to create not only the defining game for this series, but the defining game for this generation.” He’s certainly achieved the first part there, no question, but, the defining game for this generation?

Well, it’s close so far to being that but I’d argue because it doesn’t tread any new ground it can’t be the defining game. Yes it’ll be up there as one of the best, but games like Uncharted 2 and Heavy Rain have done just that little bit more to differentiate themselves from the crowd.

Story: 9 - The story is well conceived and told, you really do feel Kratos’ urge for revenge, however the ending of the game after the credits roll is slightly disappointing. Could we not just have left him dead rather than go for the half assed cop out of leaving it open for another sequel?

Gameplay: 10 – Classic God of War gameplay. The combat has been refined and is verging on nearly being perfectly balanced.

Graphics: 10 – Stunning, stunning, stunning. No frame rate drops, lighting is incredible, character models are highly detailed, the scale, my God, the scale. You could run our of superlatives describing God of War III.

Sound: 10 – The orchestral score to the game is excellent and the voice acting is a treat to listen to.

Overall: 10 – One of the finest games this year no question. This is an epic that pushes the PS3 hard and will leave your jaw lying on the floor.