God of War III – Review

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God of War III thumb.jpgName: God of War III

Genre: Action/ Adventure

Platform: PS3

Price: £37.73 (Amazon)

God of War III opens with the kind of show-stopping sequence that most other games would happily end on. The mythic cliffs of Mount Olympus are depicted as a sweeping, war torn battlefield, with conflicts exploding across the craggy rock-face far into the distance. Colossal Titans scale the mountainside in what they hope will lead to a final face off with the Greek gods of lore, but are being pummelled by Zeus’s lightning bolts, causing them to plummet into the clouds miles below. Zooming in close, the camera rushes along the Titan Gaia’s back, revealing a lush, detailed forest and our anti-hero Kratos cleaving his way through hordes of foes. And then, in a moment of jaw dropping realisation, you find yourself seamlessly in control. The stunning preceding action was not a pre-rendered cut-scene, it is the actual interactive challenge you are about to face.

It is the first in a relentless series of jaw dropping moments that make up God of War III’s grand adventure. It’s gaming on an unparalleled scale, and perhaps the defining PS3 moment thus far.

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It’s not that Kratos’s monster slaying, deity defying adventure has drastically changed between the PS2 and this next-gen iteration. It’s just that events now play out on a gargantuan stage. Kratos has been betrayed by the heavens innumerable times before, but whereas previous games have built to a climactic duel with a single god, your hit list this time reads like a “Who’s Who” of Greek mythology, including Poseidon and Hades. Ultimately, Kratos is looking to indulge in a spot of patricide this time around in order to end his tragic saga once and for all, which is no mean feat when your father is the God of gods himself, Zeus.

Graphically, God of War III is unrivalled on consoles at the moment. From its epic battlefields down to the smallest undead grunt, the level of detail is incredibly high. Santa Monica Studios’ art team deserve every accolade they are likely to pick up here, with some of the most fully realised and creative level design I’ve ever seen in a game. Texture sizes have apparently quadrupled since the last instalment, and paired with some lighting wizardry, the moody stages are really brought to life.

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This extra layer of graphical sheen also means that God of War’s signature levels of ultra-violence get a makeover too. I can say with some confidence that this is one of, if not the most violent game I’ve seen during this console cycle. Kratos’s quick-time-event kills are more brutal than ever, and whether you’re gutting a centaur or dicing a snake-hipped gorgon, you’ll likely be shocked and thrilled in equal measure.

God of War’s combat system has barely changed across each game, but that’s no bad thing when it’s as slick as what’s on offer here. Kratos again has a menagerie of combos and grapples to dish out against his hapless foes, and long-time fans will likely be stringing together 100 hit flourishes straight off the bat. Kratos can now also use his chain-like blades to grapple from a distance, which is genuinely useful when taking on airborne nasties, as well using baddies as a battering-ram, which apart from a few early crowd-control moments is really merely just a giggle-raising cosmetic addition.

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There are also a slew of new weapons to acquire across the course of his quest, including Apollo’s Bow and Herme’s fleet-footed Boots. Our personal favourite was the Cestus, a pair giant metallic gloves shaped like lions heads that were completely ferocious at close-quarters. God of War III bests its predecessors here by making each new weapon fun and useful in its own right; these aren’t little distractions that you’ll eventually tire of, reverting back to the standard Blades of Athena. You’ll want to experiment with each new item, and will have to swap between each if your quest is to be a bloody success.

I’d say it’s roughly a 70/30 split between combat and exploration in God of War III, in favour of the brawling. The few puzzles that litter the game are intricately woven into the stunning levels, and are some of the best the series have offered. One that clearly takes inspiration from the artist M.C Escher is particularly memorable, and visually captivating to boot. In fact, you’ll often be so busy ogling the visuals that it’s usually some time before the penny-dropping solution hits you with certain puzzles.

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The cracks in the game’s near-perfect execution are few, but worth mentioning considering the incredible level of polish exhibited elsewhere. God of War II’s Icarus Wings return for some light platforming sections. Like all other assets in the game they look amazing, but the timing of their double-tapping glide-jump seemed a little inconsistent, resulting in some cheap deaths. Likewise, as the game is viewed nearly entirely from fixed camera angles, there are a few rare occasions where viewpoints result in “leap of faith” moments where a precision landing can be a little difficult to achieve. It would have been nice also to to see another dimension to Kratos’s character other than the old gruff, angry-shtick; while his unrelenting quest for vengeance is portrayed as unsettlingly admirable, he’s starting to sound a bit like a broken record by this game’s conclusion.

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But picking holes in God of War III is like noticing a smudge on a 20-storey diamond. Though the series has inspired many copycats (with Darksiders and Dante’s Inferno worthy games in their own right), none come close to replicating the level of spectacle displayed here. A showboat on a sea of guts and gore, Kratos’s intimidating shadow will loom far and wide long after God of War III’s final curtain falls.

5/5

Related: Aliens Versus Predator – Xbox 360 review

Gerald Lynch

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