The pissed off ex-God is back, and you won’t know how much you missed his reign until you’re back in the fold, looking back at the action titles you’ve purchased this generation with new-found empathy. The industry’s come to expect more of the same from Kratos, but when your formula is the best in your genre, that’s not even close to a condemnation.
Picking up instantly where God of War II’s cliffhanger left off, Kratos has hijacked the titan population from the time-stream and is hitching a ride to Mount Olympus, a handful of gods separating him from his vengeance against Jupiter himself, poppa Zeus. The Clash of the Kill-Bill Titans plotline strings together the mind-boggling set-pieces, seamlessly, the anarchic violence and gore capable of bringing out the darker side of any entertainment appetite. Kratos and his adversaries are still as one-note as ever, but the care given to the presentation and delivery feels perfectly in place to the kind of theatre the ancient Romans would have enjoyed, popcorn-ed up for an adventure that has few equals across any medium.
The well-worn gameplay mix of hack-slash-platforming makes a return en masse, each component fine-tuned to a blinding sheen. Kratos once again has access to multiple weapons throughout the game, each gained through some of the most badass of in-game moments. Each weapon performs impressively well, and for the first time in the franchise; arsenal experimentation is encouraged. Various monster types go down much easier with a combination of Cestus and Blade of Olympus strikes rather than just Blades of Chaos spamming. The mapping of each of the game’s weapons to a D-pad directional button is a godsend, allowing for in-battle (and even in-combo) switching. Needless to say Kratos’ combo list has grown exponentially to incorporate all of the new goodies, collecting red orbs and selecting your updates feeling just as thrilling as back in 2005.
Puzzles are also back, this time feeling much more integrated into the level design and structure than before. A few exceptions will have you frustrated with their multi-tier game-lengtheners, but for the most part they feel genuinely integral to the experience. Most are still easy as Hades, but even the simplest object-pushing routine benefits from the game’s sense of grandeur. Collectible objects still populate each level, with Minotaur Horns being added to the Phoenix Feathers and Gorgon Eye fold. Ten legendary god items can also be found during the game, their abilities accessed during the next playthrough, complimenting the already-surprising level of replayability present on disc.
Even with the quicktime event still enjoying its spot as one of the most universally hated gameplay mechanics, God of War III still employs the best, mostly due to the unbelievably brutal animations that Kratos performs while the buttons are hit. Ripping the optic nerve straight from a Cyclops’ singular eye cavity or messily disemboweling a fell Centaur are almost too gruesome even for the most stoic of gamer stomachs. Key word: almost.
The mounted combat segments that often result from these quicktime events feel thick with power, controlling an enraged Cyclops feeling as heavy and thunderous as one would expect. The controls may still not have that last tweak of fluidity that would make them as effortless as ground combat, but the complaint quickly shrivels to obscurity within the rest of the gameplay. What doesn’t manage such an easy hide-away are the platforming segments. The understandable trade-off that comes from using a fixed camera is still present, the occasionally stubborn angles taken mid-platform making quite a few jumps much harder than they needed to be. The eye-blistering views and vistas are a most deserving consequence, but the finicky jumping mechanics are more noticeable than ever against the butter-smooth combat.
While it may be a common phrase tossed around this generation, but rest assured when we say that God of War III is the best looking game ever made, and it would be easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for another game to enter this kind of graphical Heaven. Kratos’ final adventure is relentless in its exhibitionism, from the literal first moments to the final catharsis, Sony Santa Monica is unashamed to flaunt what it unmistakably has above every single other game ever released. The on-titan battles alone bring a new definition to scope: massive limbs flaying in the background affect minute flora and fauna beside you with each realistic flexing of a joint, the entire game shoving its ethereal realism lovingly in your face. Fully rendered titans will swat at gods 1/100th their size far off in the distance as you repeatedly bash a stone golem with his own giant hammer, it’s enough to bring tears to the eyes and a bleed to the nose.
But nipple-perking graphics weren’t enough to satiate the God of War brand. The series’ trademark grandiose orchestral soundtrack and pitch-perfect voice direction return with gusto. Rip Torn as Hephaestus stands out as the best casting decision in recent video game memory, and most other performances at least hit their intended emotional tone. Coupled with the graphics, everything from in-engine cutscenes to mid-battle eviscerations look and feel more epic than anything you’re likely to experience for years after its release.
Yeah, heed the call of your returned epic-action savior. God of War III further bulges the series’ formula with new (actually useful) weapons, more combos, more magic attacks, and more gore than previously conceivable in a single game. Platforming and puzzle issues still dwell within these halls, but they are the same niggling faults you came to terms with an hour into the first game, and aren’t likely to notice now. It looks better than sex and plays even hotter; it’s the God all gamers can worship. Kratos’ final chapter is an experience you can’t get anywhere else, and it’s going to be fun to see the rest of the industry try and catch up.