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God of War III Review

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On 03/27/2010 at 03:25 PM by Chessa DiMola

God of War III coming soon to a theater near you.

It goes without saying that God of War fans will not be disappointed. But those looking for deep combat in their gameplay experience should stay away.

Back in 2005 when the original God of War was released, I was not a PlayStation 2 owner. In fact, it wouldn't be for at least another year after its release, close to the release of God of War II, that I would actually acquire one. When I finally got my hands on the game, I was in love with it from the minute I turned it on. As someone who had always been deeply intrigued by Greek mythology I felt a connection with the game as it centered on a topic that I was passionate about. I put many hours into the game, beating it on every difficulty and unlocking everything the game had to offer. Not only was the game fun, but the storyline was fantastic and honestly I just couldn't get enough. With God of War 2, the same was true, and Kratos' second journey was even more interesting and epic than the first. Naturally with the announcement of God of War III, I was just as excited as the next God of War fan, especially with all the hype and the promise that it would be the best game yet in the series.

So let's just start right from the beginning of my God of War III experience: the epic Poseidon battle. Beginning in traditional God of War fashion, I was immediately thrown into turmoil; however, this time the situation was a bit more turbulent than usual. As I took control of the very pissed off Kratos, and held tightly to Gaia as she struggled to climb up Mount Olympus while battling the gods, I felt right at home in this new adventure. While the initial platforming had me sold, I was less than thrilled with the impending Poseidon battle itself; in fact, what I was about to experience set the tone for nearly every other aspect of the game.

So the battle raged on, and from time to time, in between all of the scripted animations and quick time events, I was able to get in about one minute here-or-there of actual gameplay. Upon completion, I felt as though I had witnessed a very well done scene from a movie, rather than actually playing a video game.

Now, I know that God of War has always been known for its heavy emphasis on quick time events, and scripted sequences, but God of War III took it too far for me. Although there are many wonderful aspects about the title that fans will undoubtedly love, and other gamers will surely appreciate, as a whole, I feel as though God of War III is greatly lacking.

The lack of innovation is really my biggest complaint. By no means did I expect Kratos to suddenly stop smashing dozens of enemies at a time with ease, or for quick time events to disappear, but for the first God of War title on a new generation system, I was certainly expecting it to be more than a slightly better looking copy of its predecessors. The game barely takes advantage of the PS3's capabilities. Before the game came out, I read about the crazy number of enemies that would appear on screen, the new amazing animations, and the incredible character models that were to be featured. After playing the game it seems clear to me as though the number of enemies on screen is at maximum twenty, the incredible character models feature a decent attempt at realism, and as for the great animations…Kratos and his movements look and feel just as choppy as they did in the PlayStation 2 predecessors.

But it's the gameplay and storyline that really get to me. First off, it becomes painfully obvious within the first two hours (I'm being generous here) that the player's main goal throughout the game is going to be a No More Heroes-style slaughter fest of every God and Titan who gets in Kratos' way. With a storyline that was so predictable I felt almost as though there was nothing waiting for me at the end, since I already knew what I was in for. That of course wouldn't have been such an issue had the rest of the gameplay and boss fights compensated for the weakest storyline the series has seen yet.

But the problem is that, while some of the gameplay aspects are great, there are others that range from horrible to mediocre, all against a lame (and predictable…come on, we knew this was coming) storyline. I fought mostly the same type of enemies I've been fighting since 2005, in the exact same manner, but with some more blood and guts flying around.

Thankfully the game has changed up the general battling a bit, as players now rarely just fight droves upon droves of incredibly weak enemies that can be killed with one hit. Instead, many of the battles now consist of being quarantined in an area and forced to fight several stronger enemies in addition to lesser ones. Having to survive the onslaught of numerous larger enemies, while dealing with attacks from others, provided a sense of strategy to the game; forcing me to consider my actions, rather than running headfirst into the pit of enemies using mere brute force. Also, as players acquire and level up new weapons, the intensity and difficulty of the enemies also increases enough to keep them on their toes, but not enough to become annoying.

While the quality of the general combat was always relatively consistent, I felt the God/Titan boss battles to be a bit bipolar: some lame, others mediocre, and a few that were unique and tons of fun to play. Returning to my first complaint, the biggest problem I found with many of the boss battles was that they focused too heavily on cinematics rather than gameplay. In many cases the actual battling is incredibly brief, only to be interrupted by quick time events which show the enemy being killed in some over-the-top violent manner. Not surprising at all, it was the boss battles that featured more confrontation that I truly loved. The Hades battle for instance, sent players through multiple difficult battle phases, each requiring a different strategy; brute force would have been useless in this instance. Also, the Chronos battle was phenomenal, with combat and cinematics being balanced perfectly.

As heavily focused on combat as the God of War series is, I would have liked to have seen more puzzles this time around. I felt as though God of War III forgot them a bit, as players will rarely have to think twice about how to solve the few they do encounter. In fact, they are so simple and obvious, that many players may not even understand they are solving one. Considering the expansive and gorgeous locales that players visit throughout their playthrough, the developers really should have incorporated some type of challenge to not only change up the gameplay, but allow players to explore the intricate world a bit more than they're able to.

So now I've come to my most hated, despised, sickeningly loathed aspect about God of War III: the camera. To design an on-rails camera in a current generation game based on combat and finding hard-to-see chests is incredibly short-sighted. Rather than designing the game to be entirely cinematic, more consideration should have been put towards how the camera would affect gameplay. This camera created more frustration for me than anything throughout my play experience. Instead of placing the camera over the player’s shoulder when something like a bridge comes up, the camera takes a more cinematic review from the side of the bridge. Considering the smallest dip of the joystick in any direction other than exactly to the left or right could mean not landing (because naturally we can tell how far left or right we're moving when the camera isn’t behind Kratos!) players get to redo everything from the last checkpoint. But that's a minor irritant, as is finding the chests containing items that give players life/magic/item upgrades… until you reach the end of the game and have no upgrades. The camera is the most annoying during combat in certain areas. There's nothing like fighting tons of enemies when you can't actually see them on the screen!

Regardless of my complaints I did enjoy the game, but was really just disappointed that it didn't do anything to make it feel like the first God of War on a next-generation system. Overall, I didn't really mind fighting the same enemies over and over, and was just relieved that a more complex sense of strategy finally showed up in the combat.

For some, everything about this game will be badass to the extreme and absolutely phenomenal. I get the "awesome" factor that comes from killing all of the Greek gods in an insanely violent manner, I really do. I also understand why many people will be able to overlook, or not even notice, many of the issues that bothered me. Most fans of a series only want more of what they had the first time, and there's nothing wrong with that. But fans of God of War like me, who always thought the game was great, but missing that one final piece of perfection, will be severely disappointed by the lack of any attempt at innovation within this game. If you're a die-hard God of War fan, chances are you are going to love this game unconditionally, and find it to be the greatest experience that the series has to offer. But for those on the fence about God of War III, this title may be more worthy of a rental or a discount purchase years down the road.

Review Policy

In our reviews, we'll try not to bore you with minutiae of a game. Instead, we'll outline what makes the game good or bad, and focus on telling you whether or not it is worth your time as opposed to what button makes you jump.

We use a five-star rating system with intervals of .5. Below is an outline of what each score generally means:

All games that receive this score are standout games in their genre. All players should seek a way to play this game. While the score doesn't equate to perfection, it's the best any game could conceivably do.

These are above-average games that most players should consider purchasing. Nearly everyone will enjoy the game and given the proper audience, some may even love these games.

This is our middle-of-the-road ranking. Titles that receive three stars may not make a strong impression on the reviewer in either direction. These games may have some faults and some strong points but they average out to be a modest title that is at least worthy of rental for most.

Games that are awarded two stars are below average titles. Good ideas may be present, but execution is poor and many issues hinder the experience.

Though functional, a game that receives this score has major issues. There are little to no redeeming qualities and should be avoided by nearly all players.

A game that gets this score is fundamentally broken and should be avoided by everyone.



Lukasz Balicki Staff Alumnus

03/27/2010 at 09:27 PM

Wh am I not surprised that GW3 is more of the same. Looks like I'm passing as the first two didn't appeal to me.

Our Take

Sam Wakefield Staff Alumnus

03/27/2010 at 10:46 PM

I agree with about 90% of what you said, with a few exceptions. I'll definitely agree on the chuggy-ness of the controls from time to time mostly in regards to grabbing/throwing enemies (some of the dodge animations were also a little odd). Camera, in my opinion, proved to not be an issue with one major exception in the first part of one of the earlier boss fights. People who played 2 will have an odd sense of deja vu to the Barbarian fight, where his massive size blocks the camera. While I don't see an over-the-shoulder camera really working in the God of War series, having a camera that swivels at the very least would have been nice.

And what I found funny was how while enemies themselves are definitely a bit on the hardier side, that God (normal) mode seemed somewhat easier. Or, at least, seemed easier for that first playthrough compared to the first playthrough of GoW 1 or 2, for reasons I can't fully articulate. Perhaps it's because there are no huge jumps in enemy difficulty. I don't think it's so much an issue with puzzles, which I think were much better in 3... puzzles in 1 and 2 seemed thrown in for the sake of having puzzles. GoW3 puzzles are better integrated into the environment and for that flow better.

All in all, God of War 3 did what most trilogies do: everything literally has been building to this point and Kratos is finally able to take his revenge on the large scale. For that, the over-arching plot is predictable... but I'm disappointed in the lack of mention to the subplot of this game. Kratos, the gloriously unrepentant bastard he is, also finally has to really face his past actions not as a war machine (though everyone you encounter in the game will inform you of how much you're really screwing everyone over) but as a character. Kratos major rage trigger in this game involves family. There are really moments where you go, "seriously, this is Kratos normally... you don't want to see him pissed off." It adds a bit more flavor to the game beyond revenge.

I agree to the rating and the recommendation - if you didn't particularly enjoy the other God of Wars, this won't change your mind.

Chessa DiMola Assistant Director

03/28/2010 at 07:54 AM

@ Sam

If that game had a swivel camera I honestly would have rated it higher. And while the subplot is cool, it doesn't really affect the core of a review, which basically focuses on gameplay.

I'm just tired of the repetition at this point, and what they did with the story. Because while everyone may think this is the end of God of War, Sony isn't gonna let the series die like this. I cringe to think of what lame storyline they are going to develop for IV...or if they are going to take Kratos out of it altogether.

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