God of War III Review (PS3)

When I reviewed God of War 2 back in 2007, it was one of the best games I’d ever played, and we rated it 9.9, as close to perfect any reviewed title has received here at Strategy Informer. Having to live up to such a standard, as Sony’s Santa Monica Studios themselves point out in one of their ‘Making Of’ videos, is insanely hard.

Only this time that standard was too high.

God of War 3 (GOW3) ends the series with Kratos seeking to destroy Olympus, the gods, and specifically his father Zeus. As Santa Monica Studio’s first official title on the PlayStation 3, they were tasked with recreating everything from their previous titles for the new platform, and indeed performed marvelously. Beginning exactly where God of War 2 left off, climbing Mount Olympus on the Titan Gaia’s back, players are treated to one of the most spectacular first levels ever. Several simple tutorials against grunt soldiers all take place on Gaia herself, the lumbering Titan who is constantly moving, allowing for an ever-changing background during combat. The entire level leads up to a tremendous battle against Poseidon, god of the sea, which sets up the rest of the game as an epic adventure with giant levels, hundreds of enemies, gargantuan bosses, and beyond melodramatic action sequences. Over the top doesn’t properly describe this first level, which is so great in scope that it may be the single greatest level of any game, ever.

Combat is exciting in its own right, but seeing a moving background, such as this Titan, is incredible.
The sheer beauty and depth of the game's visuals are astounding.

Without giving away the entire plot or all the level designs, I will say that there are several prominent sections of the game that players will greatly appreciate and a few that are the most memorable of any title this year. Some of the technology implemented is simply incredible, with giants and Titans moving in real time in-game, so fluidly that I did several double takes. At a nearly constant 60 frames per second, the entire experience proved surreal, and with the enhanced camera system, which allows for extreme closeups, occasional first person perspectives and pull-backs revealing the incredible scale of levels, players will always feel as though they are in an incredible adventure.

Improved graphics aren't the only upgrade. An excellent soundtrack has been included that helps define the game's visceral and dastardly feel, though it was weak at times, lacking the powerful notes that define Kratos as a character. New lighting techniques, water simulation, physics...everything has gone above and beyond what we've seen on the PS3 thus far, and it looks and feels great.

Unlike the previous God of War titles, GOW3 is beyond brutal. Kratos now regularly rips enemies in half, cuts open their stomachs, decapitates and unleashes general havoc on his targets. It doesn't step over the line, it obliterates it. We've all seen the E3 demo, available now for download, where Kratos slowly rips off Helios' (the sun god) head, and from that point on keeps it as a lantern. Watching his neck slowly rip, the flesh tearing and blood popping out, furthered by muscle actually hanging from the neck and dangling when held, is absolutely brutal and grotesque. This type of visceral, over the top gameplay is commonplace, and to be fair, refreshing in the face of so much censorship.

Sony's expected hit of 2010 is not without fault, and like Heavy Rain before it, has several serious pitfalls. The plot is amateurish in nature, and surprisingly immature. Much of the dialog is clean, and especially well acted by the likes of Malcolm McDowell, Rip Torn, and even Kevin Sorbo (as Hercules!). Yet little hints and clues are dropped along the way that don't feel right, and ultimately the ending will leave many gamers unsatisfied with the end of this tremendous franchise.

The real gruesome nature of GOW3 begins with ripping Helios' head off. Slowly.
Massive boss battles feel nearly as epic as Shadows of the Colossus, and they're twice as hard.

There are also some slight control issues, such as button presses not registering, which makes it very easy for players to suddenly fall off a cliff, miss a jump, or not pass a quick time event. This becomes a bigger concern on the harder difficulty settings and the bonus challenges, where a single misstep can be the end of any battle. Some directional controls are unintuitive (aiming at an enemy doesn't always attack or grab said enemy), and dodging doesn't always work because of odd collisions between Kratos and small spaces, most notably between two nearby enemies.

Puzzles in GOW3 are also less sophisticated than expected. Each one is clearly a videogame puzzle; that is to say, they lack imagination and creativity like most game puzzles do, though also unlike the previous God of War titles. No puzzle here was ever truly challenging or mind warping, and in fact puzzles are overall lacking, both in numbers and quality.

Cinematic cutscenes are mostly in-game, though flashbacks were made in a sort of artsy cell-shaded way, similar to the introduction of the latest Bond movie, Quantum of Solace. While artistic, they are completely out of place in this gory, brutal and extremely real game, and it really makes players step out of the experience instead of keeping them entranced.

Along with the 10-12 hour campaign are eight challenges and an arena mode for added play, as well as collectable items in-game which can be used on subsequent playthroughs. Unfortunately, these items are restricted to only the campaign, and cannot be used until the game is beat on the difficulty you wish to play, which is a huge bummer. These items, many of which are some sort of armor or article of clothing, aren't actually worn, instead simply activated in the menu screen silently. Different costumes are also available, which change the game significantly, but we'll leave that for the player to find out how. Using any of these special items will lock out earning trophies, so use them wisely.

Bosses aren't the only enemy Kratos need worry about. Plenty of new and reoccuring enemies can kill him all too quickly.
With new abilities and strengths, there is literally nothing Kratos can't do.

Once the game is beaten, "Treasures" become available, which includes collectable items, costumes, challenges and a very large selection of "The Making of God of War 3" videos. These videos are surprisingly long and detailed, the first and main one clocking in at around 45 minutes. All of these videos totalled to around two hours of view time, which is the most we've ever seen put into a game, with or without a bonus DVD. The lack of video controls however make the longer videos very frustrating to watch, because there is no rewind or fast-forward.

God of War 3 is fantastic, and has at least three scenes that are utterly magnificent. Design and gameplay-wise, it's absolutely stunning. The downside is that it doesn't have that clear cut perfection that its predecessor had; the polish shine that brilliantly lit up our eyes when we first enjoyed God of War 2. This final chapter of one of Sony's defining franchises is fun and visually extraordinary, but it has a number of minor imperfections that add up, especially with the story's direction and ending, some of the platforming, and minor control problems. Ultimately, I love it, and you will love it, and we will carry those memorable scenes with us forever, yet it's impossible to not think that it could have been so much more.



By Wowerine (SI Elite) on Mar 11, 2010
I might give it a try...
By Eversor (SI Elite) on Mar 18, 2010
Great game. Would get it, but it ain't on pc.sigh
By Wowerine (SI Elite) on Aug 05, 2010
I got it. Now have to squeeze some free time for it :)