Kratos and God of War III have patiently sat atop Mount Olympus watching the likes of Bayonetta, Darksiders and Dante’s Inferno clamber their way upwards in their efforts to usurp him. He’s let them get tantalisingly close, before stirring and smiting them from the mountain in amused rage at their audacity.
The end of the trilogy begins where GOWII ended, with Kratos clambering up Mount Olympus with his new Titan buddies for the climactic war to kill Zeus and any gods that cross his path. There’s seemingly nowhere for the Olympians to hide anymore seeing as he’s dispatched pretty much every mythological monster they’ve thrown at him already.
It’s great see that Kratos himself hasn’t changed over the years. He’s still so gloriously f***ked off with everything and everyone. There are several points where you might think the game’s going to offer you a ‘moral choice,’ but no, you just kill everyone. It’s a pretty clear message to Dante’s Inferno and its conscience.
King of Chaos
Kratos is still in a league of his own with weapon based combat in effectiveness, style and more importantly, fun. His default chained blades, now the Blades of Exile, swirl around the screen with their familiar frenzy that we’ve come to love. There’s a new grapple move where you can pick up man-sized enemies and use them as a battering ram, running around smashing everyone out of the way, before hilariously hurling them off a cliff.
Bosses and tougher enemies are still dispatched with quick time events. This time though the button indicators have been shoved to their prospective side of the screen (triangle: top, square: left etc) which lets you enjoy the cinematic action as you can spot the icon out of the corner of your eye. It’s a minor tweak to an existing model but an excellent one that makes a large amount of difference. To discuss the bosses in detail would give away too many spoilers, but seeing as the first boss is Poseidon you can imagine what sort of a challenge awaits you in later levels.
There are three other weapons to unlock, the best of which are the Cestus gauntlets that act like oversized metal boxing gloves. There’s a good chance you’ll carry on using these instead of the blades as they’re just so damn powerful, smashing through most blocks and armour. The two other weapons feel very similar to your default weapon, I won’t go into details for spoiler reasons, but they’re a bit meh.
Looking at the moves list you can’t help but think ‘is that it?’ Unlockable moves are startlingly similar for each weapon too, so no matter what you’re holding, you’ll be using the same button combos. It might be more fun to play than its recent competitors, but Bayonetta absolutely hammers it for depth.
Perhaps it’s for the best then that the game only lasts 8-10 hours. The game’s producer has already said that while this is the end of the trilogy, it’s not the end for God of War games. We’ll be expecting some extra moves next time, there’s only so much glorious graphics we’ll put up with you know.
There’s one flaw that’s worse than the over-familiar fighting; the platforming’s never been great inGOW, and it’s still a bit borked here. The main issues are the unresponsive or unpredictable controls. Change pads all you want, you did press double-jump, it just won’t recognise it sometimes. There was a really annoying bit when swinging on beams chasing Hermes when I must have died over ten times at the same gap; I finally made it with the same jump I’d been asking it to do the majority of the previous attempts.
There’re a few new elements that work well, but perhaps should have been used more. Dispatching one boss with QTEs shows you the action from your victim’s point of view. Seeing Kratos that close kicking you in the face is terrifying. Another part has you move forwards with an over-the shoulder camera tracking you as you move and control a hand to block out a bright light. After ‘acquiring’ this light via a Daily Mail baiting moment you can use it to stun enemies and as a torch in the darkness. It can also be used to find hidden doors and chests.
Puzzles are once again generally lever based, with the only standout one being one with Escher style perspective puzzles which once you get the hang of, work really well. There’s nothing too complex though like the rotating tunnels in GOWII, god that was a pain in the ass. You get the feeling the puzzling has been toned down to keep the momentum flowing and on the face of things it’s not a bad decision.
If you played the demo recently you won’t believe how much better looking the final version is. Don’t forget that demo’s been knocking around since E3 last year. The lighting has been significantly re-worked and the extra detail is obvious. The layout of that level is packed with a few extra surprises too.
The cast of characters are all stunningly animated and well voiced. Hephaestus shows off the gaming tech by going from cutscene back to in-game still showing the same level of detail. Kratos looks like a PS3 graphics showpiece every time he gets a close up. TC Carson is suitably angry throughout as the voice of Kratos and Rip Torn has a good stab at playing Hephaestus. Hera gets some quality lines and is brilliantly realised as the bitter and apparently drunk wife of Zeus.
The game starts out on a suitably epic scale with Kratos clinging to a Titan’s back as they climb Olympus. The ‘wow’ factor’ of the levels is up and down. For every epic level that screams ‘huge’ at you there’s another one in dark caverns or (admittedly well-polished) halls.
It’s easily one of the best looking games out there. But is it better looking than Uncharted 2? Well for me, nothing really beats the views of the Nepalese city or Shambhala. However, anything involving the Titan’s here will pretty much rock your socks off and makes you wonder why the whole game wasn’t built like this instead of dragging you indoors all the time. The only ‘average’ level though to be fair was the entrance to the Labyrinth. It’s as close as you’ll ever want God of War to get to having a warehouse level. The series has set itself some very high standards for design so anything that dips below them will stand out. In fairness, the ‘warehouse’ level is saved by yet another brilliant boss fight at the end of it.
The different art direction for the backstory cutscenes is brilliantly done in a silhouette illustration style and works particularly well for a scene near the end of the game. The music is just as grand and powerful as the visuals and is well scored for each area of the game, with very little repetition.
As is standard for GOW, camera angles are dictated by the game but they do a great job of showcasing the action in the most cinematic way possible. Sometimes it’ll zoom out to show you as a speck while you’re still fighting as a spinning flash of orange fury. You’ll be too busy thinking how awesome it looks to complain about not being able to see what you’re doing.
The barrier between cutscene and in-game has been completely destroyed here and frequently shocks you with moments of ‘Shit I can play this bit?!’ There’s not even a compulsory install to your hard-drive as it all flows directly from the Blu-ray with barely a pause even for loading. Sony Santa Monica has matched Naughty Dog and got the PS3 purring beautifully. Not bad for a series that was originally only down for a North American release.
- The best boss fights the genre has seen yet
- Production values are staggeringly high on all fronts
- Still immensely satisfying combat
- Not much new for the combat
- Occasionally infuriating platforming sections
- Not the longest of adventures for your money
The Short Version: The scale of some of the levels and boss fights are technically superb and a joy to play. The only real let-down is how the combat has barely evolved over the years. However, if all you want is another brilliant God of War game, you won’t be disappointed by this spectacular PS3 debut that is easily one of gaming’s most exciting titles.