I’d never played the previous God of War games. All I knew about them is that they did spectacularly well, seeing as they were released during the PlayStations 2’s twilight years. I was pretty keen to see what all the fuss is about when I sat down, ready to unleash some serious classical Greek whoop-ass, with the latest chapter in the saga, God of War III. God of War III continues the tale of the Spartan, Kratos. After a quick recap explaining why Kratos is so miffed at the gods of Mount Olympus, the player is hurled straight into the action. In the first level you must make your way across a massive dynamic environment that is actually the gigantic form of the earth titan, Gaia, as she climbs up Mount Olympus. It is an astounding graphical achievement, literally the stuff of legends.
While God of War III isn’t going to win any awards for the accurate retelling of Greek mythology, there are enough references in the game to see that the developers did their homework, even if they bent the tales somewhat to fit their own aims. In any case, it works well in giving the player the sense of being part of a classic mythological tale.
While the God of War series reinvented the hack-and-slash genre and as impressive an effort as this third instalment is, it doesn't really add anything intrinsically new to the proceedings. The gameplay is remarkably standard fare that, understandably, doesn’t stray too far from the award-winning formula of the previous games.
Ignoring the amazing visuals for a moment, what God of War III lacks in originality it makes up for in scale. I’ve already mentioned the huge environment, but there is also the immense size of the opponents. The developers were obviously not satisfied with run-of-themill bad guys of similar proportions to Kratos No, they come in all shapes and sizes, the camera panning out to perfectly frame and accommodate the action. I’m not just talking about the bosses, who dwarf Kratos unlike anything I’ve ever seen.
Kratos must battle his way through an exotic variety of opponents as he hunts down the gods of Olympus. Combat is a combo-driven bit of button mashing that is easy to pick up but difficult to master. Defeating foes releases orbs that can be spent on power-ups. The game is littered with chests and urns that also release orbs which charge up health, magic and special abilities.
The battles are a hyper-fast flash of steel and gore. Oh yeah, expect to see blood. There’s blood everywhere. God of War III doesn’t mess about when it comes to gore. The game oozes sticky entrails and splashes of crimson as Kratos slices open and pulls off the heads of his opponents with great gusto.
A few little issues stood out in what was otherwise a flawless gaming experience. The game could do with giving the player some camera control, especially with the more complex puzzles. The game engine can get a bit precious with having to accurately position Kratos for a leap or to face a rock face in the ‘correct’ manner in order to walk along a ledge.
I’ll admit I wasn’t sure quite what to expect at first with the bitter-sweet taste of God of War pretender Darksiders still in my mouth. I’m pleased to say that God of War III is a delight to play.
If you thought that Killzone 2 or Uncharted 2 unleashed the full power of the PS3, think again. God of War III is quite honestly jawdropping, a true high-def slice of gaming excellence. It’s not perfect, but if you own a PS3 my best advice is to just go buy yourself the game; it’s as simple as that.