God of War III Review: Epic Start Unsustainable

With the highly acclaimed past entries in the God of War franchise selling millions of copies, few gamers – including those hardened Xbox fans – have not heard of the mighty Kratos. Having never had the privilege of owning a PS2, God of War III is my first foray into Santa Monica Studios ancient god-filled world. The experience is awe inspiring but slightly short of an epic gaming experience for a franchise newcomer.

Right off the bat it is crystal clear the story is geared towards God of War trilogy veterans more so than newcomers. Sure, there is the title sequence recapping key events from Kratos’ past, but it comes across as more of a killing montage of the games starring brute.

God of War III picks up immediately after the events of the second installment. Kratos joins the Titans as they make their ascending assault on Mount Olympus itself. Filled with rage and hate, the warring Spartan endeavors to destroy everything and everyone that stands between him and his lust for vengeance against Zeus. The storyline is fleshed out more as the game progresses, but remains fairly shallow until the last few acts.

Immediately upon starting the campaign, gamers are thrust into one of the most exciting and original levels I have ever played in a video game. Kratos rides the monumental Titan Gaia as she climbs for the summit of Mount Olympus while battling all types of baddies. The entire ground beneath moves and lurches as the camera sweeps around to perfectly capture the action and shear size of the environment around the player. I have yet to see anything come close to matching the opening level visually or through design on any console to date. Unfortunately most of the game, although exceptional, cannot match this first act.

God of War III as a whole is extremely polished. The anti-aliasing, lighting and textures are near perfect, but this visual perfection seems unbalanced as far as detail is concerned. Many of the middle acts have nowhere near the artistic detail or level design of the opening or ending levels. Prime examples of this mediocrity are Hera’s Garden/Maze as well as the countless filler hallways which are simply marble covered torch lined passages. These areas still look great technically but come across as boring and effortless designs. God of War III is a visual feast, but Uncharted 2 still reigns as graphics king on the PS3.

Kratos sets a new standard for character modeling, but once again there is this inconsistency with the rest of the cast. Kratos is probably the best human type model in a game up to this point. You can see the pores on his skin, as well as dirt, grime, blood covering every inch of his muscular frame. On the other end of the spectrum characters like Zeus look like they were carved from wax or plastic with a poor illusion of detail. The same can be said if you were to compare the sexy and well modeled Aphrodite versus the plain and plastic Hera. Enemies are original and pretty awesome to behold throughout the game. Only the bosses suffer from the occasional weak design and level of detail. Poseidon, Hephaestus, Gaia, and a couple others do not disappoint.

Game play is virtually unchanged from the previous installments. The player controls Kratos in a combination of combat, platforming, and puzzle game elements. Generally the puzzles are pretty straight forward with the only real challenge coming from ones with a time element. Magical attacks have changed from previous games in the series by limiting their use to specific weapons. Army of Sparta will only work with the Blades of Exile, Soul powers only with the Claws of Hades etc.

Control is extremely fluid as you unleash your flurry of devastation. However God of War III can quickly become a button masher on easier difficulties. A player could use the cyclone attack with the standard blades and quite easily complete the game. On harder difficulties you will still be using most of the same moves over and over, but evading attacks and switching weapons will be come a necessary key to success.

The jump mechanic is another thing entirely. Never in my life have I played a game where I have died so many times while jumping. To say I died ten times more while jumping then during all my boss battles would be a conservative understatement. I would gladly blame my controller or skills for my frustration had I not just played through Uncharted 2 again with zero problems with ledge and jump navigation. My experience with God of War III’s death by jumping is ridiculous.

God of War III is a key title this year for the Playstation 3. It is geared towards those who have waged war with Kratos before but still accessible and enjoyable for those new to the franchise. The visuals sound and gore factor are stunning, though some levels and designs seem noticeably rushed or weaker. This is not epic storytelling, but it is undoubtedly action at its finest.

– Jason Krahn

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