God of War III review

SPOILERS AHEAD

“My vengeance… ends now!”

The word ‘epic’ tends to be banded around a lot these days, but when it comes to the God of War franchise and indeed God of War III in particular; one would have to say that such a claim is utterly justified. In keeping with its portrayal of the Gods themselves, it’s a bombastic, monumental spectacle and a complete technical behemoth.

The opening is perhaps the most extraordinary introductory sequence ever seen in gaming; the honestly just takes the breath away. Picking right up after II left off, Kratos is scaling the dizzying heights of Mount Olympus on the back of a Titan, whilst the God Poseidon has already been eviscerated and you’ve barely played half an hour. From then on, the game never seems to let up, perhaps this is due to the context, it’s the concluding part of the trilogy after all, thus there’s a sense of scale and pacing rarely experienced.

First things first, I need to mention how incredible this game looks, it’s been nearly five years since it’s came out and this is one of the most visually impressive games I’ve ever seen. Seriously on the loading screen even, I was aghast at how detailed Kratos face was, I’m sure this game looks better than Ascension, I don’t know how that’s even possible but I reckon it does. Furthermore, neat camera angles give the game a cinematic feel, whilst set-pieces including Titans the size of skyscrapers, rich locales and fantastic weather effects make this a stupefying visual experience for the eyeballs.

Although it’s not quite so pretty when you’re annihilating your enemies in the most grotesque ways possible, whether you’re pulling a God’s head off with your bare hands, to smashing another with such force that there isn’t even a face left, this is an immensely violent game. Quite so, that there were a few moments were I thought it was crossing a line and becoming excessive, I’m not one of those who complains about violence in games, I’ve played most you can think of. I also realise that GOW revels in the sheer barbarity of Kratos and in its Greek mythological world it is based on. But there are a few scenes like when you are finishing off a fallen, defenceless enemy and you proceed to kick his head into the ground with every button-prompt. Moreover, the section where Kratos brutally tosses around a scantily-clad princess whom he then discards by using her as counter-weight to get through a gate made me feel a bit uncomfortable. I’m never one to condemn the use of violence in games and it is a God of War game after all, you know what you’re getting into but I do believe it’s excessive in some cases.

Let’s forget all that serious lark though and get back to the game and what better way to forget than indulging in the increasingly ridiculous story with every passing GOW entry. Let’s face it, the story has always been the weak point in the series, Kratos’s burning desire for vengeance has been stretched out over three games and its beginning to wear thin. The writing is terrible, as subsequently are the characters, Kratos has always been hard to like, that’s why he’s an anti-hero, but he does some quite awful things throughout the game that make him pretty much repulsive and nothing more than a mindless thug deserving of his fate. Pandora is up there with the worst characters of all time, Athena now rallies to your cause after apparently seeing the truth or something or whatever maybe? Despite sacrificing herself to save Zeus just before in the last game; furthermore the ending is just really underwhelming, I mean ‘hope’ defeats Zeus, really? A game as barbaric and fierce as GOW and you’re using hope as a means of defeating the Gods?  The Zeus confrontation is similarly anti-climatic, I wanted a massive, exhausting struggle against Zeus pushing the game to its limit, for a game that is so strong and fames for its boss-fights, it’s somewhat surprising that it fails to deliver.

I haven’t even mentioned how the game plays yet, it’s GOW, it’s more refined but it essentially is the same as it ever was. Of course, there’s a ton of new combos and grapple moves, the new complex animations really pay dividends with regards to the combat with environmental kills, indeed a certain fluency can be attained whilst you are gleefully dismembering the hordes of enemies. The new weapons are largely quite unremarkable, you’ll be using the original blades as your preferred weapon for most of the game, magic returns, and it’s the same as it ever was really. The familiarity of the gameplay is no bad thing however, given its solid combat system and its technical achievements make it the best it has ever been.

God of War III is a breathless spectacle, unapologetically savage but also one of the most unforgettable gaming experiences you’re ever likely to have. III represents the pinnacle of the ambition of the series, the scale is bewildering, the pacing is at its most compelling and its production values are so high it’s preposterous.

8.5/10

+ Incredible production values

+Same excellent combat

+Awe-inspiring set-pieces

+Blistering pace

Terrible story, an annoying theme for this franchise

Anti-climatic ending