Published on March 21st, 2010 | by Cameron Woolsey
Review: God of War III
Release Date: March 16, 2010
Developer: SCE Santa Monica
Platform: PlayStation 3
The measure of a man is what he does with power.
If by using power you mean killing thousands of monsters and several deities in a spinning orgy of blood, metal and entrails, then this simple quote by Plato sums up Kratos’ character quite nicely.
It has been five years to the month since Sony Santa Monica unleashed their bleach-white murder machine known as Kratos upon the world and gamers everywhere have been eagerly anticipating the final chapter in this legendary series. Well the wait is over; Kratos will finally have his vengeance.
And it will be epic.
Since the beginning of God of War 2, Kratos’ single purpose in life was to destroy the Olympian god, Zeus, who betrayed him in the beginning chapter of the game. The story of God of War 3 picks up immediately after the second game ended with Kratos riding the titan Gaia as they and several other titans climb Mt. Olympus. Of course, as things must, Kratos eventually gets knocked down to the lower levels of Mt. Olympus stripped of all his power and gear and now must make the climb back up the mountain. Despite an interesting twist early on, the storyline itself is pretty straightforward in the beginning. Kratos must climb the mountain and regain his powers and find new weapons while destroying everything, monsters and gods alike, foolish enough to get in the way. The several gods that Kratos must dispatch on his way up all fall into the story as having a reason to try and kill Kratos. Some gods, such as Hades (see Chains of Olympus), have grudges against Kratos while others think that they are too skilled for Kratos to kill (nope). Either way, they all fit nicely into the story and fans of Greek mythology will be pleasantly surprised by some cameos of pretty famous gods and demigods.
Unfortunately, the story gets somewhat skewed near the end of the game. Many explanations felt like they were attached at the last moment in an attempt to connect many of the elements from the previous games which ultimately makes the plot progression seem jerky and confusing. However, while the overall story of the franchise is fairly good (though it has never been anything more complicated than what a couple of college students with a Greek mythology book could conceive), it has never been the reason people have enjoyed the games anyway. No, the heart and soul of God of War has always been the brutally fun and violent combat. Still, God of War 3 does Kratos justice; the ending was spectacular and the closure left me with a feeling of satisfaction absent from many games that I have finished recently.
If you have played any of the previous titles then you should already know how the gameplay works with God of War 3. Strong attacks, weak attacks, grapples, and the occasional quick time event which either kills an enemy outright or causes massive damage are the elements which make up this intense and exciting combat of the series and you will find all these elements in GoW 3. Yet, there are some differences in the combat system that are well worth mentioning. Certain items in the game, the Apollo Bow for example, have their own meter nestled under the health and magic meters which recharges quickly after the item is used. This is a great option for taking health off of a powerful enemy while safely far away, or picking off those annoying archers who fire from a distance. Another welcome addition to the combat is the ability to switch weapons in the middle of a combo by holding L1 and tapping X. This allows the battles to flow smoothly without forcing the player to have to take their thumb off the stick in order to change weapons. The magic is now mapped to certain weapons so players will know exactly what magic spell they have equipped. Overall the combat feels much more refined and tweaked than previous titles. This is the pinnacle of the God of War combat system.
In fact, the combat is so good that Santa Monica must have decided to base most of the game on combat alone. There are puzzles, sure, no God of War title worth its salt will be complete without some, but there aren’t as many and not all of them are very complex. Now, there are a few pretty clever puzzles that will leave gamers scratching their heads, but it’s obvious that the primary focus of God of War 3 is the blisteringly fast and fun combat. This is probably why the game ended up being a little shorter length-wise than the previous two games. Without the exploration and puzzles of the previous two, I was able to push through to the ending, all upgrades found, in around nine hours. Still, if you enjoy the intense combat of God of War, you will love playing through God of War 3.
The new weapons of God of War 3 are both a source of praise and of complaint. There are several weapons that Kratos must discover over the course of the game. Every weapon found is a two-handed weapon much like the original blades. Some may complain that this creates a lack of variety in the combat it and would have been better to include weapons with different play styles. However, I disagree. A common grievance about the previous two games for me is that none of the secondary weapons have ever interested me enough to want to use them on a normal basis. Sure, I liked using the Blade of Artemis (original God of War) against those pesky gorgons, but I used my regular blades over 80 percent of the time.
God of War 2 was even worse for me. I never used the Barbarian’s Hammer and I only upgraded the Spear of Destiny when I ran out of items to upgrade. I only used the spear out of guilt for never using it. To use these weapons properly would force me to take time to properly learn all the moves and techniques needed to master them. I never had the patience to do so since by the time I found them I was already facing strong enemies in which required a mastery of the skills in order to defeat. Like I said above, the weapons of God of War 3 all behave much like the original blades. This means that mastering their use is as easy as using the original blades themselves. I no longer needed to take time in trying to discover the best ways to utilize the weapons – I already have.
The only thing that is needed to learn from these new weapons is their different functions. In the end I found myself using the many different weapons besides the original blades. Not everyone will reach the same conclusion about the weapons but in the end each one has its own special place in battle and they are all very fun to use.
Now it’s time to talk about that part that truly separates the third title from the rest of the series. Forget the graphics you saw from the God of War 3 demo, this game is truly a sight to behold. Right from the start you will know that GoW 3 is all about massive scale. Kratos starts out riding on the back of the massive titan, Gaia (much like how GoW 2 ended), and must fight off waves of undead enemies while Gaia slowly climbs up the mountain. It is hard to describe the sight of seeing Kratos as such a small figure as the camera zooms in and out of battle to show Gaia and another titan as they scale Mt. Olympus.
It is simply breathtaking. My mind was further blown when the god Poseidon decided to join the fray and send his horse-crab-tentacle thing to attack Gaia. During this moment, Kratos has to fight off this new monster on Gaia’s arm while she is constantly being assaulted. The living environment constantly shifts Kratos’ perspective as he must soon climb then hang on to fight off the giant horse-crab monster. I won’t spoil what happens during the entire opening scene, but take it from me, you will be impressed. The God of War series has been known for amazing opening scenes, but God of War 3 blows the others away.
Kratos has one of the most impressively detailed character models I have ever seen in a game. But beyond that, many of the different set pieces of God of War 3 are also just as impressive. The many dungeons and temples come to life with intricately detailed art and lighting. Unfortunately, not all environments are created equal and some fail to impress thanks to being too plain or having some blurred textures. But overall this is one of the finest looking games to come out in recent times; the incredibly cinematic fight scenes, the amazing detail on Kratos, and the artistic flair of the “past” cut scenes all come together nicely in one beautiful package.
The music in God of War 3 is the always appropriate epic orchestra that has been heard throughout the entire series of games. The music has always been good at setting the mood for both platforming and genocide and you should expect nothing different in GoW 3’s soundtrack. The voice acting is fairly decent thanks to the hard work of the many voice actors however, sometimes the angrily forced dialogue of Kratos can sound a little campy (“I bring the destruction of Olympus!” Haha, really?). Overall, nothing memorable but still good.
Every God of War title to come out has always offered an impressive array of special videos and features and God of War 3 is no different. After playing through the game once, you will be given the chance to view many “Making of” videos in the options menu as well as unlock Chaos difficulty and costumes for Kratos to wear. You will also be allowed to test your skills in the Challenge of Olympus mode where you must finish a challenge under a certain set of parameters. One, for example, challenges you to purposefully get stoned by a gorgon ten times while dodging blows from an increasing amount of enemies. Difficult, absolutely, but satisfying once completed. The challenges themselves are not too impossible; I was able to finish them all during one sitting. All in all the extra features are really nice to experience. Really, all developers should offer this extra fan service in their games.
In the end, God of War 3 succeeds in giving Kratos the ending he deserved. The controls are finely tuned, the graphics are amazing, and the combat is fluid and fun. In the end I feel that God of War 2 is still my favorite in the series but don’t feel upset about this, God of War 3 is an amazing ride that everyone will love. If you liked the previous God of War games then there is absolutely no reason to pass this one up. If you don’t have it already then what the hell are you doing? Get out there and go buy a copy! I guarantee you won’t be disappointed.
+ Classic God of War combat is tuned to perfection
+ Sense of scale is jaw-dropping
+ Kratos and some environments look incredible
+ New weapons are actually useful!
+ Greek mythology buffs will enjoy the many godly cameos
+ The extra features are great
– Story gets wobbly near the end
– Not all environments are equally impressive
– Length falls a little short compared to God of War 2