Friday, March 12, 2010
God of War III
It is a fact of the universe that every review of a God of War game is going to have the word "epic" in its opening sentences, and this review is no different. God of War III ($59.99, list, PS3 only) is colossal, bigger-than-life, and redefines the limits of video game scale—it's epic in both plotline and technical prowess. The opening moments of the game have more action and high drama than some other games' climaxes, as the player—controlling the very bald, very pale, and very angry Kratos—rides to conquer Mount Olympus on the back of a nearly-mountain-sized-herself Titan. Massive set pieces like this are the hallmark of the series, and the series' move to next-gen on the PS3 ($399.99 direct, ) allows them to be truly stunning in scope.
The storyline picks up directly where God of War II left off in its cliffhanger climax, following Kratos's quest to kill his father, the god Zeus. Those who haven't played the games leading up to this one will be able to pick up the basic thread of the plot quickly: Kratos is angry at Zeus (possibly the angriest anyone has ever been, judging from the way his voice actor growls and screams), and he will kill anything and everything in his path to get his revenge on Zeus. What's he getting revenge for? He has good reasons, but in the end, they don't really matter; while God of War III's plotline is full of betrayal and famous faces from Greek myth, no one is actually coming to this game for the story—they're playing for the action, and the game does not disappoint in that respect.
Combat is primarily a two-button deal, alternating between light and heavy attacks and performing combinations of the two. On an easier difficulty setting, one can get through the game by gleefully and aimlessly button mashing, but at higher levels, some tactics, like blocking, dodging, and timing your hits, come into play. No matter the difficulty level, combat is brutal and satisfying; Kratos is a one-man army against hordes of enemies, taking them out with the twin blades that swing out from his wrists on chains, with brutal punches from giant stone gloves, and with other weapons and special attacks.
When it comes to larger enemies—the gorgons and centaurs and cyclopses that rise above the more easily-dispatched undead horde—Kratos has the option of dispatching them in violent and gory ways unique to each enemy class, with timed button-presses following prompts that appear onscreen. These minigames get a little repetitive, especially once you've seen the same animation of a minotaur getting a sword rammed into its throat six times, but it's hard to resist going for the gore.
God of War III absolutely earns its Mature rating. It elevates violence almost to an art form; on the way to take down Zeus, Kratos murders his way through other Olympians and stars of myth, each more bloody and shocking than the last. The game is not for the squeamish or those who don't enjoy some simulated violence; when you beat Hercules's head into a nigh-unrecognizable pulp, you have to pound a button for each skull-crushing blow. When blood is not enough, the game offers some nudity, as well. Bare breasts abound (though most of them in the form of less-than-sexy gorgons, harpies, and sirens), and there is a sexual mini-game featuring the goddess Aphrodite. Simply put, God of War III is for adults only in every way.
There isn't much to find flaw with in God of War III. The largest complaint that can be made is that gameplay just hasn't changed much from its previous iterations; some new elements have been added, but the game stays the same at its core. However, when it comes to God of War III, it's a definite case of "if it ain't broke, don't fix it." The game simply works, a basic formula refined over several games. Quicktime events can become a little tiresome or are sometimes out of place (one puzzle involves a Guitar Hero—esque rhythm mini-game), but for the most part they're well-integrated into the flow of action.
In the end, God of War III brings the series to a stunning climax, finally giving PS3 owners a game-based justification for buying their console.