Kratos may be the be the most unlikable main character in video game history. He’s killed countless numbers of innocent people and he is always angry and yelling. He’s also one of the most fun characters to control.
“God of War III” starts immediately where the second one left off. Riding the back of the Titan Gaia, Kratos is making his way up Mount Olympus to kill the Gods who promised to remove the memory of him slaughtering his own wife and daughter.
From the start it’s clear Santa Monica put a ton of work into the environments. The game actually starts riding the shoulder of Gaia. Playing on the gigantic moving Titan starts off “God of War III” with a “wow” moment. As soon as the undead soldiers spawn around you it’s easy to get right back into things. The same way “God of War II” allowed Kratos to start out with all the powers he had at the end of “God of War,” Kratos has full life, magic and maxed out Blades of Athena to start out this one. Also like the first two games, Kratos fights the boss throughout the entire first level. Like the Hydra and Colossus of Rhodes before, the battle with Poseidon and his Leviathans is an epic one.
Part of what makes this fight great is how Gaia moves while you fight which leads to Kratos having to find a way to hang on to her. So not only are you fighting the Leviathan standing up, be prepared to fight while scaling Gaia’s arm or hanging on for dear life. So many times game developers try to do something outrageous as a gimmick, but this game’s fight sequences on a moving environment are executed brilliantly.
Of course, a good thing never lasts and after Kratos destroys Poseidon, Zeus casts him down to Hades where he loses all of his abilities while in the River Styx. Fighting through Hades is nothing new to Kratos; he’s been there a few times but always found a way out. After Kratos climbs out of the River Styx, he is greeted by the spirit of Athena who he killed accidentally at the end of “God of War II.” She gives Kratos the Blades of Exile and from there the real journey begins.
Basically, the story of “God of War III” is for Kratos to find the Flame of Olympus which holds Pandora’s Box and once again harness its power to kill Zeus. Of course there’s a bit of a twist. No god or human can touch the flame without being killed and Pandora herself can’t open the box. The story is largely non-existent until you get to the end, and even then it gets a bit muddled, but is still entertaining enough not to take away from the game. It’s not as well told as the previous two games, but in fairness, there was only so much they could do at the end of the series.
The two best aspects about the “God of War” franchise have been the incredible graphics and fast-paced, devastating gameplay. While both were great in the PS2 games, “God of War III” features substantial improvements in both areas.
The graphics in “God of War III” are simply stunning. It is perhaps the best looking game yet, even better than the beautiful “Uncharted 2.” Kratos himself is has to be the single greatest looking character in video game history. His muscles and scars are as realistic as a video game can get. What they’ve done with Karatos is nothing short of amazing. As you play through the game, you’ll be in awe at some of the environments as well as the other characters. Everything from Hades to the top of Olympus is nearly flawless. The PS3’s engine truly allowed the developers to go all out such as one of the quick time events against a centaur ends in the guts being spilled out: Gruesome, and awesome.
Really, the only aspects of the game that doesn’t look top-notch are the facial expression of Gaia and some of the bodies of the other Titans. At times they look a little too cartoonish, but that’s the only real flaw in the graphics. Just as “God of War” and especially “God of War II” pushed the PS2 to its limits, it appears this third installment has done the same on the PS3, raising the bar for games everywhere.
As for the gameplay, while it’s certainly not a revolution in button mashing, “God of War III” rises above its predecessors. The core gameplay is still the same: square for light attack, triangle for heavy and circle for grabbing. Why change what other games have tried so hard to copy? The subtle improvements have less to do with basic combat button mashing and more with how Kratos switches his weapons, uses his magic and using objects.
As in previous games, Kratos gets new weapons throughout to use besides his Blades. The Claws of Hades, the Nemean Cestus and Nemesis Whip are the three main weapons you’ll gain along the journey. What the game improves upon is switching to and from each weapon. Now, each of the four weapons is assigned a slot on the D-pad and can be switched to mid- combo. This gives the player more incentive to actually use the new weapons. While the Blades will always be the iconic weapon in “God of War,” these other three have their uses, especially the Cestus. What’s unfortunate is that the Claws of Hades and Nemesis Whip behave very similarly to the Blades, but aren’t as much fun to throw around. Of the four weapons, the one that is most unique, and quite frankly the most fun is the Cestus. Nothing beats pummeling your enemies into submission with this giant metal boxing glove like weapon.
The other big change is the magic. No longer is Kratos allowed to use these abilities at will; they are now tethered to the weapon he has equipped. So when you use your magic with the Blades equipped, it’s different from when you have the Cestus. Now what this change really opens up for the game is the use of items that use gain throughout the game such as the Bow of Apollo. Unlike the last game, the Bow is no longer attached to magic, allowing you to get more use out of it. Instead objects like the Bow of Apollo, and later include Helio’s Head and Hermes’ Boots, using magic, have their own energy source which refills itself after a short period of time. This is a big change because the Bow, Helio’s Head and the Boots are incorporated in the game to help Kratos overcome certain obstacles. It’s a slight change, but it makes a big difference in the overall game.
Although a relatively short game, eight to 10 hours long, there are plenty of memorable moments throughout. Famous for its quicktime events, the in-battle cutscenes are as gruesome as ever. One of the additions to these events is the ability to ride an enemy like the cyclops. Getting on the back of a creature and forcing him to lumber around and kill any other enemies around you is both fun and necessary at times.
Another exciting moment is when Kratos has to fly up a vent with Icarus’ Wings (which are kept from “God of War II”), avoiding falling boulders and other obstacles as he makes his way up Mount Olympus. Still, the real standout moments are the epic boss battles. Kratos isn’t killing just anybody this time around; he’s killing Gods, all of them, and it is satisfying. Fighting Hades and Poseidon is spectacular; taking down the mighty Gods gives you sense of power unlike any other game. Even though it may not be the best battle in the game (that honor goes to Hercules), the most awe-inspiring fight is the one with Kronos. Taking down a Titan whose fingernail is bigger than Kratos is as satisfying a moment as a video game can give. The scale of this battle is truly incredible.
Perhaps the only real drawback in the entire game is the lackluster puzzles. With the exception of Hera’s Garden, which is a wonderful and inventive puzzle, everything else falls short. Usually “God of War” balances the action and puzzles perfectly, but it’s clear that the action was at the forefront of the creators’ minds.
One of the unsung elements of the series has been the excellent, and most importantly precise, platforming elements. Jumping from place to place is even more fun with the Icarus Wings and latching onto hooks and swinging from one to another is a blast. Though very simple, even sliding down a wall or long chain is a highly entertaining part of the game. With all the blood and guts, large enemies (in both size and amount) and epic boss battle, the platforming is an overlooked part of what makes this series great.
Any way you look at it, “God of War III” is an amazing achievement in video games. The combat, the visuals, even the score is perfect in this game. They don’t deviate too far from the original formula, which made them so successful, but such additions as ride-able enemies and flying up with Icarus’ Wings give this game its own identity. As the game comes to a close, the story telling becomes a little bit disoriented, but surprisingly stays true to the Greek epic. Obviously, many liberties were taken with Greek myth, including the story of Pandora, which plays a major part in this game (for example, in Greek literature, it’s a jar, not a box), but actually stays true to the often forgotten part of the story. As a conclusion to the trilogy, “God of War III” gives a satisfying resolution to the epic of Kratos. For an action adventure game, you’ll have hard time finding one better.