By Andy Marsh
God of War 3 is the latest instalment in the hit franchise from SCE Studios Santa Monica. This finale has been a long time coming for fans of the series. A shameful admission of mine would be that I have never played a God of War game, largely thanks to SCEE not releasing the God of War collection for PS3 in Europe at the time of writing.
I find myself in a bizarre situation to review this third iteration. On the one hand I have no preconceptions of how the game should play, but on the other I have no idea what has gone on before in the previous instalments. This leaves me in a unique position to play and judge the game based on it’s own merits, so here goes.
Starting with the overall presentation of the game, the opening sequence of Kratos riding on the back of the Titan Gaia who is climbing towards the summit of mount Olympus is stunning. From this grand start, you know you’re going to be in for a visual treat. Graphically the game is gorgeous; the high definition visuals are some of the best I’ve seen. Characters are for the most part beautifully realised, with Kratos particularly highly detailed. Unfortunately some characters pale in comparison to the brooding and scarred hero, looking a lot less elaborate and kind of flat.
Locations are full of grandeur and incidental touches, like the Pit of Tartarus with its fallen souls raining down from its cavernous roof or Hephaestus the blacksmith working away with his tools in the forge. Camera control has been taken away from the player for SCE to best show off the epic locations. This can be a double edged sword, while some of the camera shots are great for showing off parts of the world, other times it makes some platforming sections difficult, ending in a lot of unnecessary deaths. A free look mode would have made a lot of difference, to be able to take in the views when you wanted is something that’s sorely missed.
God of War 3 sticks with what it made famous in the first place, brutal fighting intermixed with mind bending puzzles. The combat forms the main part of the adventure and it’s easy to pull off large combos with the square and triangle buttons. There is also a large comprehensive list of moves to use, most of which are not needed on the easier difficulties. Button bashers are well catered for on easy and medium settings and will find themselves pulling off a large variety of flashy and devastating moves. On the higher difficulties things become a lot more intense and a good knowledge of what is available in your repertoire is necessary to overcome the games challenges.
While there are a lot of GoW pretenders out there, one thing that does set the combat apart from it’s imitators is the finishing moves. Wear an opponent down enough and you are prompted to start a over the top, brutal and gory take down of your foe. These are handled with quick time events, while not normally my favourite addition to modern videogames, QTE’s in God of War 3 are intelligently handled. Button presses appear on the screen in the corresponding locations they are on the pad, so if you need to press triangle it will appear at the top of the screen, and so on. This makes a lot of sense as you are able to concentrate on what Kratos is doing to some poor fool rather than watching what the next button press will be. It also helps that the button symbol never gets in the way of the action.
Mini games range from fun little Guitar Hero style rhythm action stages to rather repetitive flying sequences. It’s not that these flight sections are badly designed it’s that they are repeated a little too much and in the end it becomes insipid and dull. Some sections can get your blood pumping for entirely the wrong reasons, these usually revolve around trial and error. Running through a collapsing city is exhilarating but needs to be attempted a few times to get what you are supposed to do next. Checkpoints are thankfully sensible and you’ll never have to go far back to try a section again.
There’s a wealth of lovable and loathsome characters in GoW3. Hephaestus is by far one of my favourite and charismatic characters and is voiced brilliantly by Rip Torn. Hermes is wonderfully camp, egging you on to catch him through the streets of Olympus. It’s a shame that Kratos comes across as such an unlikable hero, caring for nothing other than his quest to destroy Zeus. This reaction is likely due to my lack of knowledge regarding the story from the previous games and what has happened to Kratos along the way.
That being said he still holds a great presence with his gruff and menacing voice work. It’s the bosses though that you’ll be remembering for years to come. A stand out moment for me was the fight against Chronos the Titan. This gigantic fight takes place upon the huge Titan himself, working your way around his different appendages it’s up to you to find his weak spot and ultimately triumph. The feeling of being an insignificant speck on the Titan is a great feeling and when he’s defeated just adds to the elation. It’s not just the boss fights later on in the game that have such a sense of scale, even the very first boss Poseidon is a massive and intricate creation for you to destroy.
God of War 3 will take you around 10 hours to finish depending on the difficulty level, but that is just the start. Upon completing the game you open up the challenges of Olympus, these comprise of different arena fights with varying rules. Starting off fairly easy but soon ramping up in difficulty, these challenges are a great for the adding to the games longevity. There’s also plenty of collectibles to find during your journey through the games locations. Taking the form of items of the gods you have bested these can then be used in subsequent playthroughs as modifiers, from the amount of health and magic you have to the number of orbs you collect.
God of War 3 is not without it’s annoyances, the trial and error parts can begin to get frustrating after a few restarts. But for every section that lets you down there are a wealth of epic and stand out set pieces to make you forget about them. I can thoroughly recommend God of War 3 to both established fans of the series and newcomers alike. Although for the uninitiated it may well be worth waiting for the GoW collection to be released at the end of April so the story in this third instalment can be properly enjoyed.