BitSnark

A place of scribblings located in the darkest corner of the internet. Yup.

God Of War III Review (PS3)

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Very few gaming franchises can, from a critical point of view at least, get away with running with the exact same formula for each subsequent release as the God of War series has. Kratos has been hacking, slashing, jumping, flicking switches, collecting orbs and pressing cinematic button prompts in pretty much the same fashion for the last six years. So, if you were hoping that the third and seemingly final instalment in the franchise was going to shake things up any, I fear you will be gravely disappointed since God of War 3 essentially re-treads that same ground once more; just in prettier shoes.

Even so, it’s difficult to be so bitter towards a game that shows no sign of evolving when the core gameplay remains so compelling. Indeed it’s quite possible to undersell these ‘same old’ mechanics despite the fact that it still necessitates a level of game design to keep them compelling and engaging in the first place; let alone to allow them endure for over half a decade.

Like previous entries in the series, God of War sticks you in the blood stained sandals of the supremely volatile Spartan Kratos, who is now poised to gain retribution from the Olympian big cheese Zeus for the loss of his family and the horrific nightmares inflicted upon him as a result. What follows are such deliciously epic levels of destruction and carnage that operate on such a titanically large and viscerally orgasmic scale, that even the most cynical folk can’t help but appreciate the raucous, bloody spectacle that developers Sony Santa Monica have put before them.

The traditional God of War experience of killing wave upon wave of Greek mythological foes and bosses with various weaponry and combos remains, this time however, the experience is greatly amplified over previous instalments and dressed in the sort of extravagant spectacle befitting the end of such a grandiose saga.

In previous titles, non-boss enemies would often attack the player in numbers never exceeding fifteen or so, yet in God of War 3, it’s not uncommon to be swarmed by mobs consisting of nearly thirty enemies. Another example, and certainly one that best illustrates the leap in epic spectacle from the last PS2 bound entry in the series are the bosses; particularly the Titans.

One such of these mythological giants is so pant-wettingly massive, that as you’re fighting him you’re also climbing and running across his limbs and torso whilst fighting legions of undead soldiers all the while he tries to swat you away with his massive hands. It’s a genuinely staggering Hollywood level event and one that epitomises just how ambitious and visually spectacular this game truly is.

The gods themselves also revel in the epic spectacle afforded to them with Poseidon conjuring up a gargantuan, multi-bodied and multi-headed water horse elemental to do battle with the player in a clash which is no less breathlessly exciting to watch and play as it sounds.

From the abyssal, dark pits of the Underworld, swarming in lost souls and spoiled architectural beauty, to the ornate, glistening Olympian temples and effortlessly towering boss fights; the game never fails to draw breath and stagger with the sort of epic scope that should make (on the evidence of the Clash of the Titans movies at least) Hollywood blush a deep, bloody red.

Even the smaller visual flourishes rarely fail to impress, with the violence in this newest instalment being gruesomely OTT in detail – Entrails spill out of stomachs like overactive, elongated frankfurter sausages covered in crimson grease. While a particularly nasty head-tearing sequence, looks like something taken out of Dawn of the Dead moreso than anything else with stretched tearing tendons and sinew ripping aplenty.

God of War has always been most comfortable in its spectacle fighting shoes and nowhere is this more evident than this latest instalment. Whilst the puzzles remain, they are diminished over previous instalments and offer little that would strain the old grey matter. Indeed, they appear to have been generally relegated to the wholly unchallenging and do little else than disrupt proceedings until the next section of visceral, stylised hyper-violence arrives.

The unchanged core of this frenetic violence and arguably its bread and butter is its fighting and combo systems. Like every other entry in the series, Kratos collects red orbs allowing him to gradually unlock new moves and abilities for any weapon that he possesses, while green and blue orbs replenish his health and magic meters respectively.

Sadly also like every other entry in the series, you won’t do far wrong by ignoring every other weapon you collect and just focus on upgrading the one you start with – effectively making all the other armaments you come across completely useless outside of contextual instances such as using the Nemean Cestus to smash through certain obstacles for example.

Ranged combat too remains largely unchanged and remains as functional here as it always has in the series. These long-ranged attacks are still used to kill far-off irritators or as part of a strafing strategy to pepper bosses with distanced attacks, meaning tactics wise we’re looking at almost identical fare as well. Boss fights also play through the exact same motions as before; a combination of wearing down the enemy by striking weak points and evading attacks en route to a somewhat disengaging yet visually epic QTE sequence. Few of the bosses pose much of a challenge to a seasoned player and the final boss himself isn’t a patch on the annoying bastard that was Ares from the first game.

From a gameplay perspective, God of War 3 struggles to compete with recent genre stable-mate Bayonetta; a game which freshened up the hack and slash genre in a manner akin to how the original God of War did back when it was released in 2005. Whereas the former is significantly less accessible and epic in scale than the Sony Santa Monica product, it trades in shine and sparkle for excelling with deep and innovative combo systems that while have a high difficulty curve, are both rewarding and satisfying to use.

Five iterations in, including the PSP spin-off titles, and one Bayonetta later, I would have perhaps somewhat naively hoped that God of War 3 had boasted gameplay improvements in line with the visual upgrades; alas this isn’t the case.

As a result, as more and more time passes since the original’s release six years ago we acknowledge the fact that we have basically been playing reiterations of the same game in incrementally prettier husks. That doesn’t give enough credit to just how engaging the game remains however; from fighting Titans who stand many miles high, to engaging in fist fights with Hercules and brutal melee combat with Hades, God of War 3 never fails to be anything less than gratifyingly spectacular hack and slash entertainment.

With the closure of the current trilogy though, it seems silly to suggest anything other than God of War needs to reinvent itself far beyond just implementing Hollywood production values to its tales of revenge and bluster in order to remain relevant among its peers.

Recommended then, but from a gameplay perspective, don’t expect it to blow your mind as much as the Hollywood esque visuals will.

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Written by bitsnark

January 4, 2012 at 4:08 pm

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