When the original God of War made it’s debut back in 2005, it really pushed the PS2 to its limits. The sequel was even more technically impressive, and it was clear that the next game in the series would have to go some way to top it. With the release of God of War III, Kratos makes his first appearance on the PS3; bringing his trademark anger and violence into a new generation.
In truth, this review could consist of one word and a score; the term “epic” sums it up perfectly. From the sheer scope of the environments and characters through to the incredible sound design, GOWIII looks as impressive as any summer blockbuster movie or videogame to come before it. Sony has stated that development cost around $44 million in total, and whilst that is a lot of cash it’s clear to see where every single dollar has gone.
Picking up right where the second one left off, an angsty Kratos is assaulting Mount Olympus to end the reign of the Gods and destroy Zeus once and for all. Gaia – the mother of the Titans – climbs up the side of the mountain, providing our bearded hero with a platform from which to battle a host of enemies that stand in his way. An impressive sense of scale is immediately evident, and especially so when the camera pans out to show Kratos as a tiny speck compared to the hulking size of the titan. The ground constantly moves as Gaia climbs higher and higher, tossing our protagonist around in the in the slickest way possible, with a frame rate that remains constant throughout. The first boss battle of the game quickly begins, and the visceral combat foreshadows the violent tone to come.
Things are a little different this time however, and the character model for Kratos has been built from scratch for God of War III. His muscular frame is probably the best looking thing in the game, but every single object in the world contains an impressive attention to detail. Nowhere is this more apparent than the environment design itself, which features dynamic geometry alterations that change the very structure of the ground on which you walk, opening up some fiendish puzzle design along the way. Whilst these sections remain decidedly untaxing, the change of pace and break from the hectic combat is welcome.
Throughout the course of his adventure, Kratos is handed several brand new weapons, moves and abilities, which help to keep things fresh for existing fans. Whilst some of these are fun and, more importantly, useful, a couple of them are very similar to the standard Blades of Chaos, though not as effective. However, most of the new abilities have their place. As an example, Kratos is enabled to see in the dark using a lantern of sorts, which doubles as a way to blind your enemies and leave them open to attack. The methods of obtaining these are some of the most memorable moments in the game, and so I won’t ruin the experience here.
Elsewhere, the combat remains as tightly designed and varied as ever. The action is fast and frantic, but you always feel that it’s within your control, even though the running time may be a little short. From the first boss fight to the final blow, the gruesome manner in which Kratos destroys his victims is a sight to behold. At the end of every boss fight a QTE section plays out, ending with some of the most over-the-top execution moves in any videogame to date. The button prompts for these have been moved to the relevant side of the screen corresponding to the layout of the pad, allowing the player to focus on the action instead of the overlay. It’s a small change, but one which creates quite the impact.
If you are new to the series, you may be a little disappointed. It is assumed from the beginning that you have played the previous titles as there is hardly anything in the way of explanation for previous events, further raising the bar of entry. That said, it isn’t essential to have played either of the previous games, and the story really isn’t the main selling point – although it does do a good job of moving the narrative along at a swift pace. The ending however, is a little underwhelming. The final fight isn’t as epic as others, which is a disappointment considering the five years of anticipation to reach that point. Sony has made a few interesting choices with the conclusion, but ultimately I would have liked a bit more solidity.
One further aspect worth mentioning is the audio; the music is dramatic and matches the action perfectly, and the soundscape offers a great dynamic range. In DTS the subwoofer gets a real workout, and the voice acting is great throughout, featuring performances from Malcolm McDowell and Kevin Sorbo as Hercules – the same actor as the 1990s TV series of the same name. TC Carson returns as Kratos, and as usual does a fantastic job of delivering the anger necessary for the Character.
Overall, despite the relative brevity of the campaign there was never a dull moment, and I never felt anything less than compelled to continue until the end. The inclusion of a challenge mode and arena mode add further value, whilst the several hours worth of “Making of” documentaries are extremely well produced and entertaining. God of War III is an extremely well crafted game with production values that really shine through. Despite its length and slightly lacklustre ending, the game is a non-stop thrill ride that will grip you tight with it’s compelling atmosphere, gorgeous visuals and fun game play.