Second Opinion: God of War III

god of war 3 box artLIKED:

-Graphical presentation. Absolutely gorgeous

-Newfound usefulness in alternate weapons

-Improved puzzles and level design

DISLIKED:

-Painful cutscenes and dialog

-Lame final boss

-Lame ending, too

God of War has always been very, very good at what it does. Frankly, it doesn’t do much – it’s a really solid combat system, accompanied by a thin but badass plotline, and a bloody, over-the-top sense of brutality. Like its predecessors, God of War III executes this concept brilliantly, and in fact, it’s easily the best of the three. Some rather odd decisions have been made in the realm of story development, and the ending is sure to disappoint many, but ultimately, God of War III brings the franchise to the PS3 with style, to say nothing of ferocity.

You don’t need prior experience with the franchise to enjoy God of War III, but know that it is the final act of an ongoing saga. The game picks up precisely where God of War II left off, with Kratos scaling Mount Olympus with the help of the monstrous Titans. And from there, things go more or less as you’d expect – Kratos kills a lot of dudes. And, this time around, most of them are Gods. He’s hell-bent on having his revenge, and if you’re a franchise veteran, there’s a good chance you’ll want it just as badly.

god_of_war_iii_demoUnlike the first two games, God of War III attempts to adopt a more emotional, character-driven approach to its storytelling. If that sounds completely and utterly out of left field, that’s because… it is. It’s not all bad, really; for the first half of the game, it almost works. Kratos’ interactions with supporting characters such as the deranged Hephaestus come across fairly well, and some of the Gods you encounter during your journey actually succeed in being marginally interesting characters. Unfortunately, though, God of War III goes a little too far in this approach. When playing God of War I or II, did you ever stop and think, “wow, I’d really like to see a more human side of Kratos.” No? Me neither. Unfortunately, Santa Monica seems to think that we did. As a result, all cutscenes and dialog for the last quarter of the game range from painful to excruciating. One would think, if Santa Monica really wanted to tell a more human tale, they would have hired some better writers. And voice actors. They didn’t. God of War III tries to make Kratos more than just a bloodthirsty badass. And, unfortunately, all God of War III ends up proving is that Kratos is nothing more than a bloodthirsty badass. Or, at least, that’s all he should be.

While we’re throwing stones, I have a feeling that a lot of God of War fans will be disappointed in how the trilogy concludes. I’ve only been a fan for the last three months, and it disappointed the hell out of me. Obviously I can’t spoil anything here, but let’s just say that our friend Kratos does some things that go very strongly against his character.

Outside of its confused story progression, though, God of War III gets almost everything right. Not a whole lot has changed – despite its migration to a new console generation, Santa Monica has left the original formula intact. But a noticeable layer of polish has been applied to nearly every facet of the game, and as a result, God of War III is undoubtedly the best in the series.

GoW3-2As we’ve come to expect, God of War III is unabashedly huge, epic, and violent. The oft-discussed opening sequence of the game deserves all the accolades it receives, because it really is one of the most grandiose videogame setpieces ever created. God of War III will make your jaw drop more than once, be it due to the magnitude of the events on the screen, or their sheer brutality. As if the first two weren’t gory enough, God of War III ups the ante in some occasionally shocking ways. But despite this, I never thought the game “crossed the line,” as it were – every bloody, remorseless murder you commit manages to feel in-line with the general feel of the experience, and with Kratos as a character. Call me sadistic, but the violence level was actually one of my favorite things about the game.

Combat has always been the main staple of the series, and it’s definitely at its best in God of War III. Some subtle additions have been implemented, such as the ability to use enemies as battering rams, and Heavy Attacks that are actually worth a damn. Also worth noting is the slightly altered approach to Quick-Time Events: instead of throwing button prompts in the middle of the screen, they now appear on the side of the screen that corresponds with the button. (i.e., a prompt to press Triangle will appear at the top of the screen, and a prompt to press Circle will appear on the right side.) They also seem to be a little more forgiving this time around, which cuts down on the number of times you’ll see a “YOU ARE DEAD” screen on account of missing a button. It’s nice that the prompts no longer get in the way of the actual animation, which is all anybody wants to see anyway. At the end of the day they’re still dumb, but I can honestly say that God of War III’s QTEs rarely actually bothered me.

god-of-war-iii-demo02God of War has always featured a variety of alternate weapons, but God of War III is the first time they’ve ever actually been worth a damn. I actually found myself switching weapons to adapt to specific combat situations, and in fact the game makes you use alternate weaponry from time to time. Additionally, magic attacks are now mapped to specific weapons, which makes alternates that much more useful. Throw in the ability to switch weapons mid-combo, and you’ve got the deepest, most enjoyable combat the franchise has ever seen.

Any review would be remiss for failing to mention the boss encounters. For the most part, God of War III does not disappoint in this regard, and in fact, some of the encounters are extremely memorable. But a few of them feel like missed opportunities, and the final boss is just awful. In fact, it’s a big part of what makes the ending so bad. Santa Monica couldn’t have made Kratos’ final battle more boring and unimpressive if they tried.

New to God of War III are “items,” which have their own meter beneath the Health and Magic bars. For example, the bow from God of War II, which consumed magic, is an Item in God of War III. Along with it are the Head of Helios, which lights up dark areas, and the Boots of Hermes, which let you… run fast.

These minor re-toolings go a long way, and as a result, God of War III’s combat is some of the best you’ll find in a hack ‘n slash game. It’s intense, challenging, relentlessly violent, and like always, it’s an incredible amount of fun. Scoring a 188-hit chain on a towering boss monster is still one of the most satisfying feelings in the world.

Combat isn’t the only facet of gameplay that’s been improved, though. Granted, combat is still the obvious focus of the gameplay, but God of War III features some really well-designed puzzles to boot. So often, the puzzles and platforming in God of War I or II felt more like exercises in frustration than anything else. Santa Monica has officially rid the franchise of that stigma; in God of War III, the puzzles actually feel like puzzles, and the platforming will never make you want to rip your hair out.

GoW3-1Graphically, God of War III is one of the best-looking games ever released. While it can’t quite match the artistic vision and direction of games such as Uncharted 2, it’s easily on the same technical level. Textures and lighting effects are mind-blowing. Character and enemy design is nearly unparalleled; Kratos in particular looks amazing. Environments are huge, gorgeous, and always a joy to explore. All graphics are in-engine, too, which makes it that much more impressive when viewing the game’s fantastic movie scenes. Kudos also must be given to the camera work, which is often gorgeous – key sequences, be they bloody boss battles or simple platforming scenarios, are complimented by a dynamic camera that captures the action in a suitably epic fashion.

With God of War III, Santa Monica finally figured out how to match music to scenarios. Not sure why it took them so long, but it’s a welcome change to the franchise. At no point in God of War III will you be forced to listen to an obnoxiously bombastic orchestral piece whilst scaling a cave wall. Like the previous two games, the music is really good – and it’s even better now that it’s properly placed.

God of War III is an epic, beautiful action game that is a worthy purchase for any fan of the series, or of hack ‘n slash games in general. While it’s disappointing to see the game occasionally fall on its face in ways that I would never have thought possible, overall, it delivers the current-generation God of War experience that gamers have been thirsting for since the second game was released. I had a great time with it.

Note: This article is a second opinion. For our official review, go here.

GoW3SE

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8 Responses to “Second Opinion: God of War III”

  1. SiliconNooB says:

    -Kratos should never be portrayed as a sympathetic character, he’s a badass and he doesn’t do any deeper than that. Honestly though, I kind of expected this after his ghost-daughter plotline of Chains of Olympus.

  2. Ethos says:

    The ending WAS terrible.
    But Riddles, what the hell?

  3. Riddles says:

    Oh Ethos, don’t get your panties in a bunch just because my review is better.

    @Noob: Precisely. And you just reminded me of the fact that I’ve never played Chains of Olympus… I probably should someday, since I actually have a PSP.

  4. Ethos says:

    “In fact, I actually think Riddles’ review is a BETTER review than mine (though I don’t agree with his slightly inflated score), but it doesn’t change the fact that he didn’t okay this when he and I okay EVERYTHING with each other.”

  5. SiliconNooB says:

    @Oliver- You know, I think your review may be up to 100% better than Ethan’s (j/k).

    @Oliver- IMO Chains of Olympus hinted towards the story taking an unsatisfactory turn for the sentimental (not exactly my favourite plot), it was still a good 6-8 hour game though, with solid gameplay and some of the best graphics on PSP. It really felt like GoW 1.5, where some elements were better than the first game and some were worse.

  6. Ethos says:

    @SN – Bah-ha, only because you agree with him more.

  7. SiliconNooB says:

    -I said I was joking, honestly I don’t think either of your reviews are better than the other, they just mean different things to different people.

  8. Pogo says:

    BOTH REVIEWS ARE BETTER THAN THE OTHER!

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