-When it looked absolutely incredible including the new stylized cutscenes
-Better weapons and Quick-Time Events
-Thorough and HD bonus content
-Some amazing boss battles
-The rest of the boss battles
-No matter how streamlined, Quick-Time Events still suck
-Weakest story of the trilogy
-Surprising lack of cool locales
-Some bizarre hand-holding
I’m a newbie to the God of War series. I got the Collection late last year, slowly beat the first one and then blasted through the second game in a few days in late February. And while I didn’t fall in love with the games like so many have, it was perfect timing to lead into the final instalment of the Kratos trilogy. And after completing all three games in under half a year, I found that God of War III managed to be the best in the series despite falling a little flat in a number of occasionally surprising areas.
First off, it’s important to note that when God of War III is at the top of its game, it is unstoppable. The opening sequence is beautifully choreographed, unbelievably epic, incredible looking, and perfectly paced. The game manages this feat in a few cases, but less often than the opening might have you believe.
But more on the downfalls later, because there are a few great choices made for Kratos’ finale. First, the control scheme was thankfully tinkered with a bit. A single magic attack is now tied to a specific weapon and mapped to the R2 button now. This leaves L2 free for the new addition of “items”. Items are tied to a third bar under health and magic, but instead of collecting item power through orbs, it automatically regenerates. This system allows for the introduction of a new abilities without necessarily ditching some of the classics, and all the abilities, items, and weapons are surprisingly easy and quick to access which is necessary for the pace of battle in God of War. And while this is largely a great system, and some new items are great and include providing a satisfying new way to treasure hunt, others are surprisingly gimmicky. I’m reminded of the new Prince of Persia in which Elika’s new “abilities” aren’t so much abilities, but are different animations triggered by finding a coloured platform. On a more positive note, it seems like Santa Monica Studio realized that the chains were always the best weapon in the first two installments, and made a few worthy imitations among Kratos’ weapon arsenal. For the first time in the series, I used an alternate weapon as my primary means of tearing enemies to shreds.
Speaking of tearing enemies to shreds, God of War III is the most brutal game I’ve played. Granted, I never played Manhunt, but I like to think I have a fairly strong stomach and I turned my head in a few instances. But beyond occasionally going a bit too far, it does mean that the series retains its badass status. There are new ways to rip apart the bad guys, and even use them as battering rams, which is very satisfying. It was also nice to see fewer doors requiring button mashing and Quick Time Events streamlined to be noticeably less stupid; although still stupid.
Staying in the vein of good decisions for just a moment longer, God of War III sports the best puzzles of the series. Never getting too annoying or too easy, they feel more polished than the original’s frustrations or the sequel’s reliance on happenstance. The music also learns a lesson and finds the balance between epic and ambiance.
Finally, because the game is void of CG cutscenes and looks great doing it, God of War III tries to switch up some of the story-telling by using a new art style that makes me hard pressed to describe as anything but “really cool”. It’s a stylized cel-shaded look that is a welcome addition.
Well…most of the time. There is a section in the end that uses it in gameplay, and while it looks fantastic, it’s during a low point for the series. God of War III tries to place emphasis on perspective, occasionally letting you look through Kratos’ eyes or the eyes of his victims. The gimmick looks fine, but the focus was a bad idea. Kratos is a badass, but that’s where his strength of character stops. God of War III tries to introduce more story and themes than ever before, and while the personal approach works for a time, it is ultimately a definitive dud. Kratos is not a sympathetic character, and his arc in this game makes absolutely no sense and it makes for a very anti-climatic finish including a disappointing boss fight. In fact, excluding two incredible examples, the boss battles are disappointing in general. To compound the disappointment, none of the environments are really that interesting. After the sequel upped the ante, God of War III fails to introduce the same level of beautiful and intriguing environments, it just feels like a step backward.
And that’s the thing, although there were some good decisions made, they were still made within the God of War universe, and there was only so far the series could go before it started to feel stale. While the better puzzles, combat configuration, and occasional moments of spectacular visuals and scale are enough for me to call this the best game in the series, I’m glad it’s over for now, because the formula is aging when it wasn’t spectacular to start.
God of War III is a worthy conclusion to a, frankly, overrated action series. It’s still a lot of fun and will absolutely satisfy every fan of the series, but it’s a little annoying to see every good decision countered, while not fully delivering the boss battles and environments we all expected. Still, despite a story gone sour, it was nice to finally see Kratos’ insane antics have an impact on the world around him, and to also experience the game’s strong moments which were, admittedly, incredibly strong. A must for all God of War fans, and worth looking into if you own a PS3.