Summary [9.8 out of 10]
Picking up right where part 2 left off, God of War 3 brings the trilogy to a close in the best way possible. Carving his way through what is left of Greek mythology has never been this good.
God of War 3 is epic from start to finish and never disappoints. The game doesn’t do much to innovate from a gameplay stand point but when you have achieved the pinnacle of action games there is really no need to reinvent anything. This is the sort of game the AAA designation was made for and should be a benchmark for how action games are made from here on out. It joins Mass Effect 2 as an early Game of the Year contender. I hope the games this Christmas really bring it because first quarter has set the bar ridiculously high.
Editor’s Note: Totally agree.
I have been into Greek mythology for many years now. In high school I was teacher’s aid to the mythology teacher and was once asked to teach book 5 of the Iliad when she was out sick as she told the substitute I would know more about it than he did. You couple my love for Greek mythology with my love of extreme gore and violence in video games and you have a winning combination.The story of betrayal and revenge may take fairly substantial liberties with the myths themselves but it never fails to be compelling and interesting. This is sort of a ‘What If ?’ version of Greek Mythology that asks the question ‘What if the gods really pissed off the wrong Spartan and he decided that he needed to kill the hell out of everyone?’
After two PS2 games and one PSP offering, the series moves into HD and answers that question once and for all and the answer has to do with a happiness that may or may not include my pants. As much as I love traditional mythology, the myths would have been at least 80% more badass had Kratos been in it. It is very nice to see a trilogy close with a bang and not a whisper.
- Graphics: When I saw screen shots and video from this game in the years leading up to its release I found myself strangely unimpressed and underwhelmed. I didn’t feel like I was seeing anything much different than the PS2 games. After having played through the thing now I can only assume that the videos were from early builds or from sub-standard cameras. The graphics in this game are jaw dropping and are easily on par with those found in Uncharted 2. Up until now I thought that game was the best looking console game ever but now I have to revise my stance. The visuals are crisp, clear and vibrant and feature a wealth of detail I have never even though possible. The textures are also amazing and really add to the experience. After playing the God of War Collection with upscaled graphics for HD it is really apparent just how much juice the PS3 has and how important little details can be in delivering such a definitive experience. Details like entrails spilling out on the ground when you gut someone. It is important. Going from this game to just about any other is almost guaranteed to hurt your eyes’ feelings and they won’t understand what they’ve done to make you punish them so badly. The bar has now been raised ridiculously high and it really isn’t fair to other games and developers.
- Gameplay: Not a lot has changed in the basic formula here. There is the intense action, the platforming and the puzzles. While Sony Santa Monica didn’t reinvent the wheel here they did deliver what continues to be the best action game model ever. The balance is incredible and keeps you interested the whole way through. Nothing really stands out per se it is just that it is all so good. The basic formula has been pretty consistent for three games now and still manages to remain engaging and fun. That is really something and it speaks to Santa Monica’s talents that they know what to improve and innovate and what to leave alone. What you get here is a very tight, fun and challenging game-play experience that makes even the best in the genre look like also-rans. That your skill set you built up playing the earlier games transitions over to this one makes it that much more enjoyable. There isn’t a lot to learn or relearn. If you’ve been honing your skills on the previous entries then you are going to be in great shape here. If this is your first foray into the God of War series, the learning curve is not too steep and allows you to feel like a badass right out of the gate. Also, shame on you.
- Weapons: All of the previous GoW games have offered multiple weapons, all able to be upgraded and all almost completely useless. Kratos’s Blades of Chaos were so unrepentantly awesome that it was hard to justify using anything else. In GoW 3, the Blades of Exile are still enormously awesome but so are the other weapons. The cestus in particular is brutal and incredibly effective. It was nice to have worthwhile weapons to switch to and it went far to alleviate potential boredom from repetition. Aside from that, the strong weapon variety served to make the game-play itself feel more creative and you always felt like you had options. In previous games it always felt like if you couldn’t get it done with the Blades of Chaos then it wasn’t getting done. Here if you find yourself in a desperate situation a change in weapons can really turn the tide.
- Design: It is easy to take level design for granted most of the time and I personally usually only notice it when it is bad. In GoW 3, the design is so good that it is impossible to take notice. Now I am not just talking about the looks of the environment as by and large those are fairly standard caverns and Greek style buildings. What I am talking about is how it all fits together and what the player has to do to get around in it. And then there are the Titans. Areas like the Hera’s garden, the Icarus Ascensions and the Labyrinth are almost diabolical in their design and truly impress. The titan battles, however, take the game to a whole new level. Reminiscent of Shadow of the Colossus, these levels are not static planes covered with pits and obstacles but rather living, moving entities who either need your help or are trying to kill you. It is one thing to have to fend off an onslaught of enemies on uneven terrain but another thing altogether to do that while the terrain is actively trying to kill or eat you. This leads to truly awe inspiring and innovative gameplay moments that will not be soon forgotten. One of these stages in particular is both harrowing and exciting and really elevates the experience far out of the ordinary. Again, most of the levels in this game are creative and noteworthy but the titans are really just beyond the pale.
- Polish: This game is just flat out good in every respect and never feels off or janky. There is nothing here to suggest anything other than the greatest care in design and programming and nothing at all feels rushed or half-assed. This is how games should ship. Everything works and nothing comes off as lazy or tacked on. This is a studio at that top of its game and it shows.
- Controls: As Kratos you have a lot of options. There are tons of ways to get around and kill people. You have multiple weapons, multiple magic and multiple items. With all those options it might seem as though the controller would feel crowded and gameplay confusing. That is not the case. At all. Quicktime events notwithstanding, I never felt at odds with the controller and doing the right thing at the right time is effortless (with one notable exception which will be addressed in the Bad below). It might be my the experience with the last three games but the controls are tight and responsive and I never had to think about the controls at all. I was able to just do what I needed to do which is how it should be. Other games could learn a thing or two about proper button mapping from GoW 3 (Dragon Age I am looking at you…).
- Kratos: I think that Kratos may be one of the greatest video game characters ever. He is an unstoppable force of violence, hate and revenge and he is not at all a nice person. Is he a good guy? No not so much. He is maybe better when viewed next to characters more selfish, ruthless and depraved than him but that is about as far as it goes. His abject lack of concern for those around him in service of his mindless quest for retribution is refreshing in a field of tortured but basically good characters who are on a quest for redemption. Kratos doesn’t care about redemption, he just wants revenge and if he has to ruin the whole rest of the world to get it then so be it. He is also a raging badass and it is nice to play a character like that every once in awhile. Kratos is great escapism and is a whole lot of fun to play. Also, he likes to yell Zeuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuus!’ a lot and that is very amusing.Editor’s Note: Totally agree that the Kratos character is fantastic to play because he’s not a psychopath or a jerk — he’s just SO absolutely focused on his sole purpose (revenge) that he will cut down the world around him to get it. There are moments of humanity in God of War 3 as well which I liked that showed a more sane side to Kratos… but then he quickly cut some dudes in half just to let me know he wasn’t getting soft.
- Story: The story in GoW 3 isn’t earth shattering and doesn’t have much by the way of surprises but still manages to be very effective. Character interactions are always well written and interesting and seeing Kratos finally get to end his quest for vengeance is fun and engaging. Again it is nothing spectacular but it works well withing the context of the series and manages to be somewhat touching near the end.
- Voice Acting: Along with series regular T.C. Carson as Kratos, GoW 3 boasts an impressive voice cast including Rip Torn as Hephaestus, Malcolm McDowell as Daedalus, Adrienne Barbeau as Hera, Clancy Brown as Hades, Linda Hunt as Gaia and Kevin Sorbo as Hercules. These actors really lend a lot of weight to the proceedings and the performances elevate the story and make it resonate that much more. It isn’t that you get to hear celebrity voices but rather the talent they bring to the part. These actors really do provide the scenes with more gravitas and it elevates the proceedings to something even more special than it was before.
- Puzzles: Puzzles have always been an integral part to the series but the puzzles this go around are the best yet. The puzzles are challenging without being irritating or frustrating and even in the times when I was stuck for a moment I was able to sort them out with proper consideration and a little bit of trial and error. The puzzles are also fairly organic insofar as they make sense with that environment and don’t seem out of place or particularly contrived. When the puzzles require action and platforming they are challenging without seeming impossible and the satisfaction you get from their completion makes up for any momentary frustration you might have had. These are clever puzzles without being punishing and you aren’t asked to do anything stupid or arbitrary. As an aside, there is no balancing on poles whatsoever so that is really nice too.
- Replay: The main game takes about 10 hours or so depending on exploration and how many times you are owned. That may not sound like a lot for your $60 but it feels pretty perfect while playing and once you finish your first run through you are offered a host of incentives to continue playing. The first of these is just that the game is so badass that you want more. There are enough difficulties here to keep you busy for a long time if you want to climb that particular ladder. There are also challenges in which you have to meet a particular goad to pass the challenge. There is also the Combat Arena to keep you busy after that. Further enhancing replay, there are godly items to be found in the main game which unlock as cheats after your first completion. So you can go back through with those items, each one offering some different benefit, to see how different your game can be with added advantages. Then you have alternate skins that have their own bonuses and negatives to make the gameplay something new each time. GoW 3 is game you could be playing the rest of the year and still have some more to see.
- Extras: Like the previous releases GoW 3 has special features like a DVD. These are delivered by way of featurettes which cover all aspects production from design to voice acting. They vary in length but they are very interesting and go a long way to pulling back the curtain on what goes into making a top-tier AAA title. These are just diversions ultimately but they are really interesting to watch and are generally informative so if you are interested at all in how this game was made it is well worth it to check them out.
- Cheap Deaths: Looking at my stats about 3/4ths of the way through the game I found that I had died a lot. I already knew this but the amount was kind of astounding. It is a tough game and all but the thing that annoyed me was that through the whole thing I died only once by being killed by a foe. The majority of the rest was from jumps gone awry. Now when I say that I am not saying that I just couldn’t stick the landing, I am saying that the double jump and Icarus Wings failed to happen and Kratos would drop like a rock into a chasm or pit. I would assign this to user error except that in reading around a bit I have found complaints from other players that they had similar issues. And a lot of these were not difficult jumps. Some were just small chasms that needed a little extra double jump juice. Instead of the second hop Kratos would just plummet straight down as if I had just run off the ledge. There was one spot that I think I died five times in a row to a point where I had to do a standing double jump and then glide over with the wings and it was tiny. Irritating. I will say that it helped a bit with my self control as screaming like a lunatic and throwing my controller would have woken up my girlfriend. So aces on that.
- Aphrodite: There’s always been some sex in the God of War series and the women in said scenes have been as hot as the technology allowed for. GoW3 is a next gen HD game so it is only fitting that the women in this one are top shelf. As far as sex goes, Kratos gets to bone the woman on the topmost shelf, goddess of love herself Aphrodite. Not only is she smoking hot and super topless (with boob jiggle physics when she lays down better than any boob jiggle I have ever seen in a game) but while you are going to work on her you get to watch her two companions watch the action while they comment on your prowess and fondle each other. If you are successful they are overtaken with desire and go at it with each other. They are both topless as well. As far as video game sex scenes go, this is much better than seeing a fountain spit water any day. Oddly, Aphrodite seems to be the only one who’s boobs don’t look like the plastic surgeon sneezed while installing the implants. Oh well, baby steps with the nudity I suppose.
Editor’s Note: I am suppose to be mature and not say that this was awesome, but it was… it was so awesome.
Conclusion [9.8 out of 10]
God of War 3 is sort of a hard game to review, particularly in an itemized breakdown just because the whole game is outstanding. The experience is great from start to finish and every aspect is well done and well refined. They have had a few games to get to this and get it all right and they did. So it is difficult to say that one thing stood out more than any other because it all fits together so well. Suffice it to say that this is the finest action game I have ever played and is a must purchase for any fan of the genre. I really hope that despite this being the end of this particular story it isn’t the end of the series. With games this consistently good, it would be a shame to see it end.
Editor’s Note: Agreed with everything Patrick said… the gameplay is so tight that you get to bask in the beauty that is this tale being told in Olympus/Hades/etc. The re-creation of how grand things in Greek lore were was one of my favorite items — the Chains of Balance spanning between two worlds, the epic vastness of Hades as well as the battle grounds of the titans… christ, the titans themselves were some of my favorite and jesus christ was the Kronos scene beautiful/awesome/fun.
The gore and boobs are fantastic, but won’t carry a game. The only reason they make God of War 3 epic is because the game was already epic, and you want more of it.
If you liked God of War 1 or 2, you have to buy 3… have to. If you did not like 1 or 2 AT ALL, 3 isn’t different enough to change your mind, but you might also go to the doctor cause you could have a brain tumor.