Tuesday, March 23, 2010

God of War III - Review

Score: 9.5/10

Developer: Santa Monica Studios
Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment
Release Date: March 16, 2010

Pros: Incredible overall scale, variety of weapons, Starts off with an epic opening, overall flow keeps you guessing as to what is ahead, one pretty looking game with amazing environments, brutal finishes for bosses and enemies alike

Cons: One particular puzzle puts the brakes on any immersion, certain segments warrant trial and error, grab that guy!...no the other guy with the O on his head

  God of War ranks pretty high among the PS2 titles worthy of anyone's time. With fast-paced combat and brutal action sequences, Kratos was able to set himself apart from the typical hack and slash genre. Ask anyone who has played the series and they will be able to name their favorite kills or boss fights with little hesitation. With its first appearance on the PS3, God of War III continues the trend set forth by previous installments. Kratos returns to conclude the trilogy and offers the same classic gameplay with an experience that one-ups the previous installments.


  The game picks up right where the second installment ended. Kratos is riding on the back of the Titans, with vengeance on his mind after Zeus's betrayal in GoWII.  That is the Cliffnotes version of the matter. Along the way there are plenty of other story elements to delve into, but the matter remains the same; Zeus betrayed you, go kill him and anything that stands in your way. Needless to say the story is nice but with the character of Kratos already known so well, there is just so much one could do with him. They do nicely with what they have though, and the plot becomes much more interesting at the latter half of the game.

  What makes God of War far from any other typical hack and slash is the overall presentation of the game, the key factor here being the immense scale on which the game is based around. You are simply some guy that is going up against gods and titans. At times you will appear as a mere speck on the screen as the camera pans back to reveal you are riding on a Titan, or you start whaling on a boss four times your size. Combined with gigantic environments that takes a whole "level" to get to the top, and you get this sense of being a small guy in over his head. Not only that but the way the fixed camera positions itself provides a truly interesting take on the typical over the should perspective. Twisting and turning to match the terrain, panning off to watch a fight in the distance, or even going into perspective of Kratos's next victim the camera just adds to the cinematic presentation the game offers. These elements are what makes the game truly epic and helps it stand out among the many others.

  Even with the gigantic creatures and characters you encounter, the game maintains a look that is hard to duplicate. Character models are incredibly detailed, showcasing polished and shiny metallic armor to a scaly and slimy Medusa. Kratos has been updated as well with a grittier look, readable angry expressions, and becoming practically soaked with blood after each brutal finisher. Besides the models themselves, the worlds you explore are truly a sight to stop and behold. Environments range from dark, gruesome depths of the Underworld to the snowy hilltops of Mount Olympus. Each world is a sight worthy of a camera pan.

 The voicework from the previous installments remains just as good as it was. Terrence Carson delivers another incredible performance as Kratos, still maintaining that fearsome and intimidating persona. But he remains just a small portion of the cast they were able to procure. Rip Torn comes in as Hephaestus, Malcolm Mcdowell lends his voice, and even one huge surprise comes in to reprise a role he has played on television for a long time. The soundtrack accompanies the stellar cast with a full on orchestra capturing every moment. Nothing beats impaling a minotaur with the classic theme in the background. The soundtrack gets you pumped for overwhelming odds or strikes a cautious approach as you delve deeper into dark caverns.


  The classic God of War gameplay returns with a few tweaks to keep the combat fast-paced. As before, you rack up combos and toss minions into walls, earning experience along the way. This becomes much more difficult as numerous enemies come at you at once, and difficulty definitely increases as the game progresses throwing enemies such as cerberus and stone golems at you all at once. Combat becomes incredibly fast paced at this point, really making you retreat to devise the best method of disposing of them. Luckily you will be equipped with a vast array of weaponry in addition to the classic blades, which you can switch on the fly with a quick button combination. Though they are slowly gained, once you acquire an arsenal you'll find yourself switching between them to match the situation. Couple this with a slew of new magic to devastate the battlefield and you become one deadly god-killer. After damaging an enemy enough the classic "O" button appears over the head indicating the ability to perform a brutal finisher. Instead of being placed right on the screen, they are off to the borders corresponding to placement on the controller (Triangle appears at the top, Square to the left, etc). This allows the actual player to enjoy the satisfying finishers themselves, concentrating on the next button in their peripheral. The finishers this time around are just as awesome as the previous installments, providing incentive to finish baddies off in style.

  Upon killing enemies you gain experience orbs that you can use to upgrade or "power up" your weapons. Leveling weapons unlocks additional moves as well as increasing damage dealt. This classic system works well enough, but after gaining enough orbs to completely power up some of the final weapons to their maximum potential you are left with a short time to enjoy it. While finding hidden chests does help you progress a bit faster, the typical person will simply upgrade their initial arsenal with little incentive to deck out the fun new ones.

  The newest addition to the game is an item bar. This bar constantly recharges unlike your magic and health bar. This is used for unleashing a volley of arrows, using a certain someone's head to blind the masses, and even charging into battle at high speed. While many find themselves conserving their magic bar for the dire situations, this additional bar allows you to mix up the typical combat with a few added tactics to experiment with as they are equally enjoyable to use.

  To put a break in the hack and slash combat, there are a slew of other events to mix things up. Puzzles become the typical event you run into the most. Though these start out simple enough, they become much more complicated as you progress. Even with the added complications, I only found myself truly stuck on one end-game puzzle for a small time. Coupled with puzzles, there is also the occasional Star Fox minigame!....kind of...Basically you guide Kratos through a Death Star trench dodging debris along the way. While this can be fun on the easier difficulties, it becomes very trial and error when a few wrong turns into a wall kills you. It does not help that when I run into one beam, I cannot regain the ability to see so I end up hitting about four more in a domino effect. Platforming becomes another central element as you swing with the chains or use a harpy for a taxi ride to the far away platform. These become incredibly fast at the latter portion of the game and you occasional get mixed up on where you are suppose to jump, but stay relatively manageable. With all of these added elements mixed into the combat, the game never falls into a steady rhythm of predictable design. You never round a corner thinking here comes a boss fight or here comes a puzzle, the game keeps you guessing and ensures there is never too much of one thing.

  While the game is an epic piece of work, there are a few things that hold it back from perfection. One puzzle in particular throws a halt on the immersion the game offers. Clearly represented are the triangle, x, square, and circle button in their Olympian representations. It gets better...these are used to play Kratos Hero: Olympian Tour. The puzzle is simple enough and goes by quickly, but compared to the other puzzles and elements the game offers it really throws the breaks on the typical feeling of the game. Another trouble I come across far too often is the detection in the game, mainly pertaining to when I try to grab an enemy. When that awesome circle appears over the head, at least half the time I will grab a baddie in my way and end up staggering back. While acceptable at lower difficulties, on tougher battles where health is crucial it is beyond difficult to precisely get the intended target through the horde of baddies, and can be a problem even if a couple are near your intended victim.

  God of War III captures the best qualities of the previous installments while still tweaking them to create an experience that is unmatched by any other game. Being the last in the trilogy, I can safely say it provides a satisfying conclusion to one of the most epic gaming trilogies in Sony's arsenal. It is one of the few games that you can complete and immediately desire to go back through a second time. You will find yourself going back again and again to relive certain moments and even conquer the additional challenge rooms. Though the occasional and rare flaws can pop up, they are so fleeting compared to the rest of the game that one can see this for what it is; a prime candidate for Game of the Year and all around brutally fun experience.

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