God of War 3 Review - Lutzie's Opinion

   22/03/2010 at 12:05       Stephen Farrell       8 COMMENTS. - Score 5/5
 - God of War 3, Playstation 3, Sony, Kratos, Anger

Warning: This game contains spoilers for God of War 1 and 2. They were last generation; get over it.

Let me make one thing abundantly clear from the outset, I am an xbox man. I could go into a whole diatribe of why I personally think that Microsofts offering is better than Nintendos or Sonys, but this isn't the place. What I will say is this; I purchased a Playstation 3 for two reasons, and two reasons alone. Firstly, it's a good blu-ray player. Secondly, God of War 3. I've not been disappointed with the former, and now that the latter is here, well... it was worth the wait. Oh boy was it.

In many respects God of War 3 is a very difficult game to review. For example, on one hand it is just  more God of War. But on the other hand, it's more God of War! The previous 2 games in the trilogy were on the Playstation 2 and were arguably the best games that the console ever saw. They set the bar so  high that it's very hard to raise it any more, but amazingly the team at Santa Monica Studios have  succeeded. However, Like Usian Bolt trying to shave milliseconds off of the 100m sprint record, it's easy to see that although Santa Monica were hard pressed to improve what was already a superb game, they  have not only risen to the challenge, but succeeded with some flair and panache. While each  improvement may only be minor, they only add to the brilliant polish of this stunning gem that the  Playstation crown so sorely needs.

A personal gripe of mine in sequels is that there's frequently some form of gap between the parts,  explained in either back-story or even in the manual. Thankfully God of War 3 starts off exactly where  God of War 2 ends, with the ultimate anti-hero Kratos ascending Mount Olympus on the back of the Titan Gaia to wreak vengeance upon your Father, Zeus. Kitted out to the nines with the maxed out Blades of  Athena, health and mana bars, and a whole host of equipment, you're able to rip your way through everything that the Gods of Olympus can chuck at you right from the very beginning, and chuck stuff  they do. Gorgons, Chimeras, Minotaurs, Hellhounds... pfft, these are just the staple foods in your diet of  death and mutilation. The game grabs you by the ghoolies from the start and very rarely does it let the pressure up as you progress through the game, encountering what feels like the whole pantheon of Gods. Of course, keeping Kratos so powerful would make the game very dull, very quickly, and Kratos is soon back to being a weakling, in a similar move used at the start of God of War 2. Undeterred, Kratos starts off again to do what he does best; find the power to kill a God. Or in this case, many, many Gods.

And find power you do. The whole story of God of War 1 was just to take out Ares, the original God of  War. But in God of War 3 you'll soon be crushing Gods as if it was they who were mere mortals. You'll find a variety of weapons along the way in which to carve your legend even deeper. The magic system has been tweaked now, instead of having magics to choose from each weapon has it's own unique magical power. But why stop there at weapons and magic?

Not one to shy away from getting his hands dirty Kratos will use the scenery, bits of enemies, or even his own bare hands to hammer across the point that he's mightily pissed off with the world in general and the Gods in particular. It's not just about raw power either. Going from A to B to C just to end up in another "hit another God or big bad monster repeatedly until they die" would be very tiresome, and thankfully it's another pitfall that was avoided. OK, so there's a lot of plain old violence pretty much all of the time, but each of the encounters is different, and equally brutal in new and awesome ways. I won't spoil anything, but I think that whoever designed the murder (Yes, murder is the only word that describes it fully) of the first boss has one impressively twisted imagination. He's the kind of guy I'd like to meet, but preferably at a distance, and definitely away from his thumbs.

Bungie are often quoted for saying that Halo has it's own "triangle" of fun - shoot, melee and grenades. God of War uses a similar system, but has multiple triangles. Hack, slash, rend is one. Gut, disembowel and quarter is another. Slice, skewer and fillet is yet another, although admittedly that sounds like Ready, Steady, Cook: Kratos edition. But there's more to the game than mere blood guts. Oh yes, it's those puzzle and platforming sections. I recall a great many people complaining about the platforming sections in the first 2 games getting a bit too tough (Some poles in Hades' domain spring to mind). Personally I didn't find much issue with them, but in God of War 3 there is some issues. Firstly, in a few places the similarities in colours between various backdrops means it's not quite clear on where you can go (Usually when you need to climb). Couple this in with some sections that are "timed" and it's a bit more frustrating than it should be and will sometimes result in just trail and error in order to suss out what to do.

Another problem is an annoyance that is down to pure game design/coding that is very irritating: the  double jump doesn't "quite" work. Hit it too soon or too late and you simply don't do the second jump.  The second jump causes Kratos to unfurl his Icarus wings that he gained in his previous outing, and I  can only presume that it's because of this graphical change that occurs that the double jump must be fairly well timed, and it gets a bit of getting used to. Sometimes you may think that you only need to jump a little bit more than a normal jump, so you'll quickly hit X again to do the double, only to find it didn't work, ad you tumble to your death. You'll find that you'll have to speed yourself up and/or slow yourself down on the pressing of jump to navigate some areas. I don't want to put a dampener on peoples spirits, but during one section I'll refer to as "the chase" I ended up dying over 15 times in a row, falling into a chasm repeatedly. Thankfully the check pointing system is very good and keeps any back tracking down to a minimum. I think the most I ended up behind was about 60 seconds, and 30 seconds of that was onscreen footage of things moving about.

I only found one other flaw in the game, the sound effects; something definitely isn't right with them, and a quick google shows I'm not the only one with issues here. I'm not sure if it's God of War 3, or the plethora of settings on the PS3, but something needs fixing here. I played the first few hours using just the TV speakers and I was a little disappointed with the lacklustre sound of things being executed in horrific ways.

At first I thought it was my TV, so I tried out a Blu-ray on the PS3 and checked out a game on the 360,  and both were fine. So I played the next part of God of War using my surround sound headphones, and  all of a sudden all of the sound effects were there in all of their glory. Hearing Kratos breathing  laboriously convinced me on that score. So something isn't right if you're playing in bog standard stereo. But frankly, don't. After shoving on my cans I was sucked into the game even more,showing just how  good the sound effects actually are.

These minor details aside it's clear that the Santa Monica team have treated this game with the utmost respect that it deserves and have really gone to town on polishing it up. The production values speak volumes as a testament to the hard work put into it. From the CGI cutscenes (beautifully done, not too long, all plot and no filler) to the new graphical style of telling the back story (Sort of a cross between an animated comic book and the film "300") through  to the actual plot itself and the hidden treasures (Which unlock extra powers on subsequent playthroughs), new weapons allowing you to rain destruction upon your enemies in new, exciting and above all, interesting ways.

The QTE's of the first two games were also annoying in that you spent more time worrying about the upcoming symbol than you did about watching the gory death of another mythological creature. In a touch of brilliance though the QTE symbols have moved on screen to their respective location on the joypad (Triangle up top, Square on the left etc) meaning that your peripheral vision is enough to complete 90% of the QTEs; if a symbol appears at the top of the screen you know it's a Triangle, so all you need to see on the edge of your vision is something appearing somewhere. This new approach means you can enjoy the mini cutscene without worrying half as much about getting your button presses correct, and as a testament to this I've only failed two or three QTEs in the whole game. Finishing the game also unlocks the challenges and the harder difficulties for the more masochistic amongst you. So although the game may be considered by some to be a touch short (About 10 hours, which personally I think is acceptable) there is certainly an incentive to replay the game again, either to challenge yourself more, or to make yourself even stronger with the treasures you've found and revel in some more grotesque carnage.

All in all God of War 3 is the epitome of a brilliant game. In the future when new and budding games designers look at other games to see why they're brilliant then God of War 3 will be a good contender to analyse. The non-stop, non-padded, set piece after set piece pace will provide you with a hell of an entertainment and sore muscles in your cheeks as you grin the whole way through this most beautiful of macabre experiences. Now please excuse me, as I've just purchased the God of War Collection, and I'm off to start the whole trilogy again.

Can't wait!

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