God of War III
by Invictus

Basic Information:
Developer: Santa Monica Studios
Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment
North American Release Date: March 16th, 2010
European Release Date: March 19th, 2010
Australian Release Date: March 18th, 2010
Trophies: 18 | 10 | 4 | 4 | 1

"You’re talking about glory. About vengeance. About retribution.

You’re talking about one of the most visceral, entertaining, brutal and satisfying experiences to ever grace an interactive medium.

You’re talking about God of War."

I wrote those words for a review of the God of War and God of War II re-release back in November.

It's been almost five years since God of War, and three since its sequel. God of War III sees Kratos' story being helmed by a new director, new artists, and new staff, with a few old hands left to guide them. The style has evolved, the characters have evolved. The controls are different, the difficulty is amped up, and the story comes to an end.

It's been almost five years since God of War, and three since its sequel. God of War III has been out for three weeks by the time you read this. Is Kratos' story worth seeing through to its conclusion? Or shall we forget this game, and pretend that there were only ever God of War and God of War II?

Let's put it to the test.

The gameplay of God of War III is very, very similar to its predecessors. The same hack 'n' slash gameplay is supplemented by the same style of weapons and items, although in greater quantity this time around.

Thankfully, the new supercharge, "Rage of Sparta" retains the same characteristics as "Rage of the Titans" and can be turned on and off. Additionally, new items such as the bow and Helios' head have a bar which dictates their use. Rapidly (but not too rapidly) recharging and coupled with the new in-combat weapon change it allows for very fluid custom combos to be built by the player. This grants more freedom in the direction with which you plan your attack.

The new weapons were actually useful this time around, and I found myself using the Nemean Cestus and Nemesis Whip - something that didn't occur in God of War II. I was disappointed, however, when I found out that instead of the traditional selectable magic, each weapon has its own magic ability and they aren't very well balanced. In the final bossfight, for example, I found myself using the Cestus but switching over to the Blades of Exile (yes, they get a new name again) to use their Army of Sparta magic ability as I found it to be superior. Even if they still wished to forgo the traditional granting of powers to Kratos by the various deities, the magic still should have retained its independence.

Too much disappointment here. I was honestly fueled more by my desire to see the series through than my actual desire to finish the game. While the story was delivered well, pacing felt off and certainly the characters had changed too much. While I can understand Kratos' altered state at the end (no spoilers), he seems too different even at the beginning, considering the third game begins hours or even minutes after the second.

This leads to some bizarre occurences within the story, most notably of which is Kratos' seeming indifference to the number of entities trying to influence him and the number of times he has to run errands to achieve his goal. Whereas in the first two games he would be pissed to be subjected to such machinations, in God of War III he seems to no longer care.

This evolution of character is too sudden for my taste - Kratos just isn't the same Kratos. He feels older, and dare I say, more in touch with his emotions. The transformation is too sudden if you look at the in-game timeline, and it throws the experience, adding another layer to the surreality of the narrative.

This is taken even farther by the tweaked art and character design. I must express regret over the voice acting. While the lip-syncing and character animations match perfectly, I noticed a distinct shift in the voicing and even look of a few characters, notably Gaia and Kratos. While this won't be a major issue for new players, someone like me who played God of War III literally the same day as finishing God of War and God of War II was thrown by this, and a little disappointed. This may simply be the aging and maturity of the respective actors, and I hope it wasn't a decision of director Stig Asmussen or anyone else.

There were also too many and not enough boss fights. While one or two are particularly memorable (Poseidon, Cronos, etc), many become repetitive or were over far too quickly considering who Kratos was facing. And he left far too many alive - everyone knows that while their identities may vary person to person, there are twelve Olympian gods (plus Hades). Kratos only kills seven of them, and while his reasons for leaving one of them alive are clear, there's no explanation as to why the others fail to even make an appearance. Admittedly he killed two in the previous two titles, but that still leaves three completely absent from God of War III.

All in all, I'm a little disappointed with the plot. It was too much that went by too quickly. An easy fix would have been to account for the other three gods, and stretch out the playtime by four, five or even six hours. There's a mountain of material to cover in Greek mythology, and plenty of loose ends still to be tied up.

And once the plot's done, the challenge mode is a joke. The Challenges have gotten progressively easier with each installment of Kratos' saga, and God of War III is no exception. While Challenge of the Gods could take up to three hours to complete, Challenge of the Titans could be done in one and the new Challenges of Olympus can be completed in a scant twenty to thirty minutes. If you managed to snag the Ultimate Edition, I suggest playing the Challenges of Exile for a real challenge. They'll definitely offer a few hours of play.

God of War III blows every other game out of the water in terms of its technical capabilities. While not always running in real-time, every single asset was in fact rendered using the in-game engine. This means that everything, from the massive level/character Titans to the gorgeous, jaw-dropping cutscenes use the game's engine and no CGI work done outside.

That's a bit impressive in and of itself, but to do that and have such a phenomenal look? That's simply astounding.

Forget Uncharted 2, Killzone 2, half-Life 2 and Crysis. None of them (well, maybe Uncharted 2) can hold a candle to God of War III. From impressive, luscious environments like Hades or Mount Olympus to details like the intestines hanging from a centaur's belly or the pores on Kratos' skin are rendered beautifully, and I had to change my pants at least once while playing the game in 1080i. God of War III is to HD gaming as Avatar was to 3D movie-watching.

And the sound - oh, the sound. Being the big spender I am, I took the liberty of buying the Ultimate Edition, and downloaded my soundtracks quickly. The audio score for these two is meteoric - sweepingly epic and introvertedly melancholy, the tracks will delight.

And the editing is fantastic - the music plays at exactly the right moments, and sound effects are varied and spot-on. Not only is it flawlessly done, but it appears to be done effortlessly so. The sound work in the game is completed masterfully, and the orchestral team at Santa Monica Studio (big shout-out to composers Gerard K. Marino, Ron Fish, Mike Reagan, Jeff Rona, and Cris Velasco) deserves a hearty round of applause for their work on not only God of War III's score, but on the first two games as well.

The trophy list in god of War III is rather similar to the list found in the God of War Collection. Many of the trophies can simply be achieved by playing through the game. There are a few challenging ones, such as completing the Labyrinth without dying or failing a puzzle, or the one that requires you to complete the game on Titan mode, but aside from those, you'll find yourself acquiring a high completion percentage without much effort. This is good and bad - you'll easily be able to platinum this fantastic game, but I would have liked more challenge from a title that was my inspiration in purchasing a PS3 in the first place.

Gameplay: 9/10 brilliant

Singleplayer: 8.5/10 superb

Multiplayer: N/A

Technical: 10/10 flawless

Overall: 9.16/10 brilliant

This is not the flawless title that everyone has been dreaming of and saying it is. It's far from perfect, with too many departures from God of War and even God of War II for it to even feel as though it's a true part of the series.

Despite that, it is still one of the best games money can buy. It will be remembered among the true giants of gaming, like the Uncharted, Resistance and Ratchet & Clank series, as well as the standalone success of inFamous and Killzone 2. Sony doesn't always hit gold with their exclusives, but in God of War III they have.

Again, it isn't the perfect game. It's a got a few issues and uncomfortable pieces, and the most hardcore God of War fans may find themselves a little disappointed. But the story was solid, if rushed, and whatever you say about other portions of the game, the graphics and sound are the best yet seen in a videogame. If Barlog had perhaps stayed on as director, or Asmussen hadn't departed quite so much from the art direction and feel of the first two games, this might have been simply the greatest game ever made. But it's a few shades shy of that glory, and that unfulfilled potential might be the greatest disappointment of all.