My anticipation for this game has been palpable. I loved the first game, and consistently cite the second as one of the best action games of all time, so it was with shaking hand I put my review disc in my PS3 in hot anticipation of having to wait for the damn thing to pre-load on the system. No such bad luck; God of War III loads directly off the disc, and does so with ease - win number one already.
Presentation kicking things off, what we're essentially looking at with God of War III, from the immediacy, is Ancient Greek storytelling crossed with a James Bond intro - but it's enough to get the hair on the back of my neck standing on-end. I'm preconceiving all the massive set-pieces I'll be putting Kratos through, and all the death and destruction he'll be leaving in his wake. I'm also thinking about how damn good this game is going to look on the new system; the PS2 seemed almost short of Santa Monica Studios' original vision, but surely that won't be the case here.
Intro out of the way and two minutes into gameplay, everything is just as I expected. Kicking off right where God of War II left us, Kratos is riding the back of the Titan Gaia, as she and her fellow Titan brethren climb Mt Olympus to take down Zeus once and for all. The scene is grand beyond words, and the game looks every bit as good as I'd hoped. Gameplay remains largely unchanged as the powerful Kratos tears through minions and flesh, leaving the sort of bloody mess behind him that would embarrass the entire Mortal Kombat cast. The rich, new details able to be captured by the powerful PS3 now make the game that much more brutal, and engaging as a result - you are the
God of war after all, and it should feel like that with every movement you make.
" is an understatement as I make my way to my first sub-boss encounter, and then something happens. Something I'd completely and utterly forgotten about the previous two games. Something annoying, scathing and unwarranted. God of War III, like the two before it, is wrought with roadblocks in the form of frustrating combat design of the large-scale kind. Hard fail scenarios in the boss sense, and fantastically frustrating as a result.
It's not that I'm a bad player - I destroyed the first two games through and through, but not without turning a Kratos-inspired purple in the face as a result. And here, it delivers in greater spades than I've encountered before, which is doubly annoying because the game is so grand in scale and visual burst, that despite this I'm still going to make my way through. It becomes a relationship of love and hate; though Kratos' demeanour never alters once - he's pissed off from start to finish, and even in the disparate (for brutality) underworld of Hades, broken and practically mortal once more, Kratos stands his angry high ground. If he's not tearing a man's face off, then he's tearing a beast's heart out, and he does this with everything
. Hell, even the chests he smashes through throughout are probably forming a gang in response to his unnecessary destruction of them.
It's largely business as usual, with "largely" being the only real change. If you played the first two games and thought the series was epic in scope, God of War III rearranges your perspective like Kratos rearranges faces. An early encounter, in fact, with Poseidon, could go down as one of the most brutal moments in videogaming thanks to a dose of 'on the receiving end' imagery, and your own dishing out of prerequisite punishment for said reception. All of this is just a primer though, the early portion of the game does exactly what it's supposed to do - make you feel all powerful and put you within an arm's reach of your ultimate goal, before stripping you of your powers and knocking you off that perch, literally. In this case, Kratos falls from almost facing his father, Zeus, all the way to the pits of Hades for some side-by-side Dante's Inferno darkness. Dare I say God of War III actually comes up trumps in its vision of hell.
For the uninitiated, regaining your powers is a straight-forward affair of tapping into the rich resource that is the game's source material. Kratos will cross paths with other Greek myth legends, such as Hercules, Helios, Hermes and other characters whose names don't begin with "H". He'll earn new powers and abilities alongside the acquisition of new weapons and power-ups in the form of magic et al, as the game progresses, and it usually doesn't take too long for something rewarding to come your way, which helps in the overall pacing. Chests mostly contain orbs which are used to replenish health and magic, or collect as currency to spend on new moves and the like. Other collectibles litter the ancient land, of which full collection will net our angry purple friend even more to use in his destructive favour.
While the vast majority of the game is split between splitting
enemies in half and picking your jaw up from the ground (or kicking some poor soul's jaw about), there are a random and sparing assortment of puzzles thrown in for good measure. For the most part they're not overly cerebral or challenging, which is good because none of what's going on here is rocket science, it's fight club - only you're allowed to talk about it. Quicktime events are back and in similar form to the first two games, with that all-important sexual mini-game finding its way into the fold again. Bouncy boobs ahoy, with some tantalising girl on girl action are all part of the life of a bald man angry at the world, though with opportunities like this around, I really can't see why.
At the end of the day, God of War III delivers what you'd expect, and may be reticent to admit you want: pure unadulterated violence of the epic, legendary mythological kind. It's a non-stop roller-coaster that throws you once more into the breach, dear friend. Or at least on top of a giant lady made of trees, mountains and stone. There's nothing visceral or complex in the story in say, a Mass Effect 2 kind of way, but what's here is both satisfying and compelling, if only because you know the next set-piece is going to blow you away. Beyond that, random puzzle sequences (one that includes some dog-kicking - seriously), a bit of talky, talky in story form and boobs make up the rest of what is a pure adrenalin charged experience of violence, gore and (eventual) satisfaction.