God of War III Review
It didn't take long for God of War to become Sony's biggest property, next to Gran Turismo. In fact, it wasn't that long ago we got our first God of War game, helmed by David Jaffe, back in 2005. And now, four years later, the end to our trilogy has arrived for the PlayStation 3 after a much anticipated and grueling wait. The hysteria around God of War III has been nothing short of epic, as coverage in the press generated massive amounts of feedback...people really wanted this game, and they wanted it bad. Videos and screenshots sent all gaming message boards into a buzz, and I'm about to tell you why.
As we all know, God of War is franchise that pretty much rewrites much of Greek mythology. But in addition to rewriting Greek mythology, the franchise has also rewritten the rule book for what an action game should be, and God of War III takes everything the first two games did and adds to it to what I call the 'infinith power'. About two hours into the game, I picked up the phone and gave Ben a call, and ask about his day. Basically, the point of my call was to setup Ben to ask me how *my* day was, and when he did, I promptly respond with a: "oh, you know...slaying gods, demons, a titan here and there. Just the everyday usual stuff." A few seconds of silence later, Ben told me how much he hated me, and I proceeded to fill that hatred to the brim, by telling him how utterly epic God of War III was.
Ben said he wasn't surprised, seeing as how epic the first two were. And I told him to forget about the first two. Just forget them. Because what God of War I and II were isn't even a bread crumb on a giant loaf of bread. It was hard for me to explain simply how nuts the first hour of the game was, because it is without question *the* most epic first hour of a video game. Ever. Now, a word like epic gets thrown around a lot, and usually when I use it, I mean it. Because games like Uncharted 2 and KillZone 2 were, indeed, pretty damn epic.
But in this case, I need a word that's bigger than epic, but unfortunately, I can't think of one...so what I will do is simply tell you God of War III is epic2 - yes, that's epic squared. And no, the demo most of you have played is not part of that first hour of the game, like past GOW demos are. In fact, the downloadable demo is very heavily edited and is missing tons and tons of segments and key moments (that are obviously spoilers) that you'll see when you reach the stage in the actual game a few hours into it.
Much of the same concepts remain for the sequel, albeit with newer weapons, abilities, and such. One notable change I've noticed was that the QTE minigames have been given a minor revision. Instead of displaying the button in the center of the screen, obscuring Kratos and whatever enemy he's about to demolish, the buttons are now designated and displayed based on their location on the Dual Shock. So Triangle will appear at the top, X on the bottom, Square on the left, and Circle on the right.
The action is still the smoothest of any action game, bar none. I don't care what you throw at me, you can combine all of those other action titles, and they still don't add up to the lunacy of God of War III. The boss fights are fantastic, and more diverse than you may imagine - I'll refrain from giving out too many details, so you will see how diverse for yourself. The atmosphere of the game is utterly engrossing, moreso than the past games, and that's likely because of the power and flexibility a machine like the PS3 offers the developers. Furthermore, the story is brilliant, and some of the twists you'll encounter will have your jaw on the floor - Kratos does some stuff that's just...cold blooded, and yet so badass!
Now, unfortunately, there are a few quirks, largely related to controls. You will experience a number of cheap deaths as platforms will unexpectedly break, a fire comes from behind and burns you to death, you're trying to dodge falling boulders and instead of shimmying right quickly, Kratos goes straight up, or the worst, you hit an invisible wall mid-jump and plummet to your death. The shimmy and platforming issues bothered me most. There are times I would look straight at my controller, see my analog stick pointed perfectly right or left, only to witness Kratos jump up. After many deaths, I'd eventually get through the segment, only to find myself at a platforming segment that requires a lot of well timed jumps, double jumps, and some wings. Often times my wings wouldn't deploy, or the second jump would barely even happen and I plummet to my death over and over again.
In all seriousness, all 20+ of my deaths were because of the issues mentioned above, and not from a battle. I've also experienced a number of times where I'd be standing directly in front of a chest and the R1 prompt wouldn't pop-up; some chests I had to open either standing further back, more from the side, or walking away and coming back. There are definitely some control quirks here.
Moving on, I will make this very blunt: God of War III is the biggest powerhouse to run on any console at the moment. It is easily the best looking game available today - just a smidge better looking than Uncharted 2, if only because of the better framerate and sense of scale being so tremendous. The texture detail all around you is absurdly detailed, and the work applied on Kratos makes him perhaps the single best looking videogame character to date. Sony has gone through great lengths to make God of War III an unparalleled visual experience and they've succeeded in their efforts to do so. The screenshots and videos simply do this game no justice, it is truly needed to be witnessed in person.
Furthermore, since I mentioned the framerate, unlike the first two God of War games, God of War III is not locked to 60 frames per second, but rather, runs between 30 and 60, depending on the situation. It's no drawback to the game, solely because the changes in framerate aren't very perceptible at all, and if I can barely notice them, I highly doubt anyone else will have an issue with it. The framerate was left to vary in such a way so that the game can boast a horde of extra effects that truly give the visuals a beautiful and cinematic effect. To add to this cinematic effect is the downright flawless lighting, the superb animation (which, we're told, is not physics based), and a slew of other visual goodies that make this the absolute best looking videogame to date.
Now, the audio is a bit of a questionable issue here, because the retail game seems to have a problem with the voice acting sounding way too low. As some of you may recall, this is an issue that's occurred in the past with other games, and has been patched. So I'm certain Sony will address the issue...unfortunately, I'm grading this based on what I have in front of me. And at this moment, I can only play the game using subtitles, otherwise I can barely make sense of the cutscene dialogue. Oddly enough, the voices of gigantic characters have no problem coming through the speakers loud and clear, just characters like Kratos, Zeus, etc. When the audio is loud, I can most certainly hear how brilliant the voice acting is, and how every aspect of it is acted out so flawlessly. Moreover, the orchestrated soundtrack and those powerful sound effects deliver a punch few action games can compete with. Let me make note of this: if Sony addresses the voice volume with a patch, I will raise the audio to a proper 10.
So what else can I say about God of War III? There probably isn't a whole lot to say to make you guys want the game any more than you already do. I can't praise this game enough for everything that it does so effortlessly. The adventure will run you about 8-10 hours, and chances are you will go back for another round with your acquired goodies in tow. God of War III is the epitome of what this generation is all about: lavish visuals, marvelous gameplay, storytelling that is unlike any other, and an overall presentation that simply cannot be beat. God of War III is an early candidate and sure fire front-runner for game of the year.
3/8/2010 Arnold Katayev