Hordes of souls have been sent to the afterlife by his legendary blades. He has slain Titans, he has challenged the gods. He has been condemned and betrayed, and the desire for vengeance that drives him knows no boundries. Now, Kratos vendetta will reach its peak. The ash covered warrior beast's violent berserk will come to its end. The last drop of blood shall be spilled.
Up in the gods' stronghold of Mount Olympus, Zeus and the other Olympians are gathered. On the eve of the battle that will soon rage they have taken a defensive position. Kratos is angry, the Titans are angry and the gods are angry. In short, everyone is really angry at each other and the only possible outcome is war.
The God of War series has always been beautifully narrated, but also quite shallow; an adequate excuse for an excess of slaughter and an extravagant design based on Greek mythology. The dramaturgy does not deliver as it did in particularly the first God of War, but sometimes a game is just a game and it's a bit like that in God of War III. Expect no heartbreaking drama, in other words - Kratos is a simple person with Spartan needs. Old school revenge is the only thing on his agenda. Skulls are to be crushed and body parts torn off without mercy. Kratos lives by a simple mantra; "you stand in the way, you got yourself to blame, whether you have horns or are two kilometers high or not."
A powerful introductory cut scene where the Titans ascends the steep slopes of Mount Olympus sets the bar for the rest of the adventure. Shortly thereafter, I take control. Kratos stands on the bushy back of the mother Titan Gaia bush, and it will not take long before my skills at battle is put to the test. Press square, press triangle. I alternate between light and heavy attacks, juggling my enemies with my sharp chains.
The next couple of minutes are filled with spontaneous howling and adrenaline fueled excitement. The graphics in God of War III are fantastic and on the top end of all Playstation 3 games released so far. The environmental design is big and epic, the amount of detail is almost perversely high (just look at Kratos' shoulder pads when the camera zooms in), the lighting work is magnificent and the choreography of the fights are mind-blowing. I swing, climb and jump between Gaia's vast body parts, several kilometers above ground. It's hard not to get dizzy.
The pre-hype circulated around a technical monster, which would destroy everything that's been released during this generation so far. Kratos's Playstation 3 debut was supposed run at a resolution of 1800p, so everyone that owned a full HD television would be able to enjoy it a little bit extra. There were rumor of a constant frame rate of 60 frames per second. This is something that Santa Monica can't live up to in the end. We have to settle for 720p and a frame rate that jumps between 60 and 30 frames per second, depending on the environment and situation.
Despite this play God of War III is in the same league as Uncharted 2 and Killzone 2 when it comes to beautiful graphics. You can't really ask for more in this day and age. That the game requires no installation and is streamed directly from the bluray disc, with no load times between levels at all, doesn't really make things worse.
It doesn't take long before I can throw myself into my first giant boss fight. It is Poseidon who gets the first taste of my tough love. Powerful, grandiose, impressive and challenging. It is first class, testosterone exploding entertainment, and I got front row seat tickets. Kratos is truly back with a vengeance, that's for sure. And this is only the beginning.
The game's soundtrack switches neatly from the stately bombastic to the mysteriously quiet. Whether I am exploring dark caves or roll out of the way of a mighty titan's palm I am always in the right mood. In one moment, I am captivated by the dense mystery, in the next, I want to flex my non-existent gaming nerd muscles, dropkick the door to the offices and roar "FOR SPARTAAAA"! I can't help it.
The true greatness of God of War series has always been the accessible battle system. Santa Monica hasn't really that changed much since the God of War II. Everything has been polished and sanded, but do not count on any radical changes. That which wasn't broken hasn't been fixed, luckily, and if you've played the previous games you will find yourself right at home in God of War III.
Over the course of the game you, of course, unlock new attacks, abilities and weapons. Blades of Exile is the basic weapon, and works basically like the Chaos and Athena blades of the previous game. Death in the form of chains. There is a total of four melee weapons, a bow and a few other special items that can help Kratos on the path to vengeance.
My favorite weapons are the huge iron gloves Nemean Cestus. With these lion's head shaped boxing gloves you can floor any beast that gets in your way. The gloves emits a muffled growl when Kratos takes a swing at his enemies, and when they hit you feel a thump in the chest. Turn up the base and feel for yourself. In addition to all kinds of combinations there's also powerful magic attacks and the possibility to go into a berserk with a size XL broadsword.
Basically, God of War III is a Japanese action game in a Western shape, and because of this it can feel a little too tightly directed. It is a very linear and focused experience. As in the previous games the camera views are predetermined, so you can never rotate the camera to see something from another angle. Which is a pity considering the beautiful graphics. On the other hand, it is seldom I resent the developers' choice of camera placement this time around, and I have nothing against that the game practically is on rails since the quality is sky-high. Also, it leaves both joysticks free to control Kratos, something that worked well then and works even better now.
In his days as commander, god of war and generally brutal man's man Kratos has learned some more or less ungodly and nasty methods of execution. Like ripping off heads or tearing out a cyclop's eye with his bear hands. This is done, as usual, by pressing the right button at the right time in the frequent Quick Time Events. Santa Monica has made it easier for us by placing the button symbols on their corresponding screen edges instead of in the middle of the frame. That way you can let your peripheral vision work while you can concentrate what is actually happening on the screen. A simple approach that makes these scenes more enjoyable than they used to be.
Even the platform elements consist of a fair share of QTE sequences. I have previously complained about both QTE and seeing Kratos bounce around, but thankfully God of War III beats its predecessors on both accounts. Climbing, which has always been the part I like the least in God of War, does not take up much space this time. But when it does happen, it feels both smoother and more enjoyable, thanks to better level design, tighter controls and great animations.
All of this is broken up by some environmental puzzles where you most of the time my pull or push something in the right direction. Nothing brain wrecking, although I think that one particular puzzle where appearances are literally deceiving is quite clever designed. If nothing else, it works as a good tempo breaker; most of the time Kratos is going forward in 120mph, so it's nice to get a little quiet time now and again.
As you have probably gathered by now, God of War III is a proper sequel that doesn't revolutionize the original concept very much. And I am happy about that, as I didn't want anything else. This is everything Santa Monica's action madness always stood for taken to the extreme. Larger scale, better, prettier, more brutal. It should also be mentioned that the game truly deserves it high age rating; not only because of the graphical violence but also because of a...well, let's just call it "rhythmic" encounter with a certain goddess of beauty.
And so the circle is closed. The last, decisive blow is dealt. When the adventure is over after about ten hours I feel a wave of bittersweet satisfaction. One of the most important games for Sony this year did turn out to be incredible. If you are of the right age, have a Playstation 3 and hunger for action there is no doubt that this is the game that you should have in your library.
Bayonetta already put the female touch on this year's third person action games. Kratos is her masculine counterpart, and together they constitute two of this year's heaviest experiences in digital entertainment.s