God of War III Preview (PS3)

God of War and its sequel, aptly named God of War 2, are two of the greatest games ever made for the PlayStation 2, period. Both Metacritic and our own scores support that as fact. Now, however, David Jaffe is not working on the end of this epic trilogy, but Sony Computer Entertainment America's Santa Monica Studios is still on it, working their magic.

Having had the pleasure to play it at the very end of E3, literally the last game I saw at the show, beside N'Gai Croal and Mike McWhertor (of Kotaku). For those who've played either (or both) of the previous titles, God of War 3 is more of the same, this time in all the high-def glory. If you thought Kratos looked menacing back two years ago, you ain't seen nothing yet.

Kratos returns to finish what he started, helping the Titans fight off the Gods and put an end to their ways. Having failed in killing Zeus in God of War 2, Kratos' only concern is leaving a wasteland of Olympus, as the god of war that he is. His heavy-set punishing ways, meaning throwing enemies into hell most inhumanely, return, more gruesome than ever.

Half of the improvements, or updates if you will, are because of the shift from PS2 to PS3. There's simply more space and better visuals to produce and accentuate the pure carnage Kratos unleashes on his foes. Albeit the demo we played was slightly laggy, meaning it stuttered at times during play, it looked great otherwise. It might also be the top-of-the-line Sony TV's they had in Sony's upstairs meeting (wonder) room.

Several things to note about GoW3: new enemies are a serious influence on this one. Our playtest had at least three new enemies, one of which was a ridiculously difficult mini-boss that was half lion and half snake. Or what seems to be that grouping. In any case, Kratos is (or seems to be) a god in this title, so the enemies are going to come harder, stronger, and more resilient than ever.

Second are Kratos' weapons. His Blades of Athena (the Blades of Chaos after being supped up by Athena) are of course the most prominent weapons, attached to him and all, but four weapons are in all games. The Gauntlets of Zeus return from Chains of Olympus, just as powerful as before. They all feature new moves, but all the old moves are still there. New fighting moves include grabbing an enemy and running through crowds with them as a shield and severing heads with your bare hands.

Collectible items are also back, the first of which is the head of Helios. Which Kratos literally got by the method previously mentioned. We'll leave its functions for the actual review.

Some minor tweaks have been made to gameplay that we did notice right away. Dodging and leaping, performed with the right analog stick, is now a much shorter jump than before. Perhaps I'm just out of practice, but my leaps from danger were met with repeated blows in almost every circumstance. Also, moments where persistent button pressing was required now labels the required button on the corresponding portion of the screen. X goes on the bottom, Square on the left, Triangle on top, etc. It helps a little, though we imagine practice makes it help plenty.

All in all, the biggest change looks to be, well, the look. The feel of God of War 3 is much more visceral, where before it was extremely imaginative, but limited by the hardware. That limit is no longer there, and I can safely say that we're eagerly waiting for its release.

God of War 3 will release in March 2010 exclusively for the PlayStation 3.