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We Review: God of War III

My god this review is horribly late. It’s so late that even the fast-talking reviewer Yahtzee famous for his tardiness has gotten his done. I’d tell you it’s worth the wait, but the last time a waitress told me that at an Indian restaurant, my food was far from tasty.

By now, you’ve probably played-finished-loved it so whilst you’re here, feel free to read on and compare notes with us. However, if this is your first time hearing about it, join us as we ride along with the Ghost of Sparta in his quest for vengeance in God of War III.

The full review is after the jump.

Revenge, best served bloody

The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines epic as “a long narrative poem in elevated style recounting the deeds of a legendary or historical hero. Refer to God of War III.” – OK I clearly made that last bit up, and it’s most likely due to my lack of vocabulary, but if there was one word to describe God of War, epic would sum it up in pretty well.

Sony Computer Entertainment’s Santa Monica division has been dishing out the epic since 2005 when the first God of War game hit the PS2. The sequel promptly wowed audiences in 2007, followed by a trip to the mobile phone and later to the PSP in 2008. The time has finally come for one of Playstation’s greatest games to come to its most powerful console to date. It’s a match made in heaven.

Having it roots in Greek myths, the God of War series follows Kratos, a remarkably violent Spartan who, for personal benefit, willingly becomes a tool of the gods of Mount Olympus. After being tricked into performing a heinous act, Kratos is fueled by anger and vows vengeance against the gods. This is a rough chalk outline of the plot, and if haven’t played the first two games in the series, it could be well worth your while to check out God of War Collection for Playstation 3 as it contains re-mastered ports of those two games. But that’s not our focus here, so let’s move onto the main course – I hope you like it bloody, because revenge is best served that way.

God of War III picks up directly after the events in God of War II where the still-angry Kratos is riding atop titan Gaia as she and the other titans scale the imposing Mount Olympus to fight Zeus and the other Olympians. It is amid this ferocious battle where the player gets control of Kratos on the moving level that is Gaia, and experience by all accounts the most thrilling start to a video game yet experienced. We’re not going to ruin anything for you but this opening sequence is jaw-dropping in its scale and brutality,and really does whet your appetite for the thrill ride that is to come.Not guts no glory

If you’ve played them before, you’ll be in familiar territory as God of War III features mechanics similar to the previous installments. If you’re new to it, the combat is relatively simple to pick up as it’s the main focus of the game. The controls are good and responsive, and the combos are easy to pull off, so a little button-mashing can go a long way (trust me, I know). With the combat being as fluid as it is, it won’t be long before you’re blocking, countering, evading, and dishing out the pain. The damage inflicted upon your enemies is very satisfying to watch, be it cracking enemies heads against walls, or breaking their bodies in two, or our personal favourite, examining the bloody entrails of the beast we tore into.

Saying the God of War series is brutal is like saying the sky is blue. This kind of over-the-top violence has been a staple of the series, but in God of War III, the brutality has been amped up several notches. With heads, limbs, and intestines flying about the place, it seems Kratos’ bloodlust is on steroids this time around. As blood is spilled by the bucket load, Kratos gets covered in the red stuff. It’s pretty gross, and that’s why we think there are puzzles in this game – so that Kratos can get himself clean before the next round of fights. For the majority, the puzzles are extremely simple, with one or two that might require a little head-scratching. Overall they serve to break up the fight scenes and as we mentioned previously, to get bits of skull out of your underpants.

The traditional orbs and items from the previous games appear in the God of War III, and these work the same to replenish health and magic. The red orbs serve as blood money to upgrade the weapons you pick up as you progress. Each weapon has its own magical ability, and your use of magic is limited to the weapon you currently have equipped. I found the Army of Sparta magical power quite graphic and beautiful to watch. A couple of new elements make it into the game, namely the combat grapple that works as intended, various items that can be used in combat or to solve puzzles, and the ability to switch between weapons mid-battle. The weapon-switching ability allows you to string combos together and pull off some badass moves, which I’m sure you’ll agree is all that and a bag of chips.

Oh, in case you’re wondering, there is a interactive sex scene in the game, and given its M for Mature rating, I would have hoped for a little more action. God of War III has no trouble rubbing your face in gore, but the moment Kratos wants a little sugar, the camera pans away to focus on a pair of lovely girls watching the proceedings. Blood and entrails are fine, but sex is a no-no – I just find that contrast a little odd. So we don’t get to see the actual scene, rather we get to watch two girls who are watching the action. This is one of the quick-time event scenes in the game, so press the required buttons correctly to get the job done. If you mess up the button sequences, the girls show their displeasure. If you mess up and your partner is watching you play, then prepare to be laughed at twofold (trust me, I know).

Visuals to die for

Given that God of War II was on the PS2 some three years back, you’d expect Kratos’ adventure on the PS3 to be a little grander. And it is – God of War III has higher production values, far superior graphics, greater attention to detail, more treacherous enemies, much more expansive environments, … it’s grander in every way really.

God of War III has some of the most impressive visuals I have yet seen in a game and Santa Monica Studio has done a fantastic job bringing Kratos and the vast world around him to life. The contents in the world are animated well, and the scale of some levels is truly impressive to behold. The camera angles give a cinematic feel to the game, and are especially cool when it comes to some of the kill sequences. Our protagonist is drawn beautifully; the textures used are so rich that his ashen face and angry expressions look altogether real. Not only is the presentation quite simply brilliant, there is some technical wizardry going on under the hood – all the cut scenes are rendered in the game engine, no install to the hard drive is required, and there are no load times (unless you die or load a save game). Quite impressive, no?

The amazing visuals are backed up by an equally impressive score. Performed by the Skywalker Symphony Orchestra, the music sets the right mood for the situation – solemn during the quieter moments through to fast-paced and powerful during the intense combat sequences. The voice acting is good as well, with TC Carson providing the powerful voice of Kratos as he has done since the first very God of War game.

Good luck and good night

Like me and a whole lot of other people, I think Santa Monica Studio attends the school of thought where one doesn’t need to fix what is not broken. They have a working formula and in God of War III, they tweak and innovate to give fans of the series more of what they like. The game should take between 10 and 15 hours to complete on the first playthrough. I did it on normal in around 12 hours snagging 25 out of the 36 trophies available, not bad for a mediocre gamer.

Finishing the game nets you a swish costume and unlocks a further difficulty mode, entitled Chaos (or very hard mode). Replayability also comes in the form of a mode called the “Challenge of Olympus” where you need to complete seven tasks under varying conditions. Winning that mode unlocks the Combat Arena where you can set up your own battles and to test your skills. There are also 17 videos that go behind-the-scenes with the Santa Monica Studio team as they work on different aspects of the game.

All in all, God of War III has lived up to its triple-A status and gives the player an utterly visceral, violent, and immersive experience that they expect. It may not add that much innovation when it comes to the gameplay, but it checks all the other boxes – the game is beautifully made, the sound design is top notch, and the story is deep and involving. This is undoubtedly one of the best action games I have played in a long time, and I’ll surely remember it for some time to come. It’s a fitting send-off to one of the most iconic Playstation characters and if you’re a discerning PS3 owner, God of War III deserves a spot in your collection.