God of War III: When Does an Epic Become Too Epic

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Game Title: God of War III

Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment

Platform(s): Playstation 3


When Does an Epic Become Too Epic?

Itís been a couple of weeks since Iíve had a chance to play through God of War III and think about my feelings towards this obviously well-crafted game. Itís taken me some time to articulate what the overall experience was in terms of how it met my expectations, how it wrapped up the story of its lead, Kratos, and what this game means for epic event games moving forward. Ultimately I came away feeling impressed with the construction of the game as a thrill ride but a little bummed out by the lack of real evolution since God of War II on the PS2.

The Story of a Godkiller

GOWIII takes place almost immediately after the last game, with Kratos mounted on the back of Gaea as she leads the other Titans in an assault on Olympus. Kratos is looking to straight-up murder Zeus and doesnít mind cutting his way through any of the remaining gods (and demigods) that get in his way. The story will have players scaling Mount Olympus, laying siege to Hades, and negotiating a labyrinth in the search for the lead characterís revenge.

The game looks great Ė but of course looking like a few million bucks is kind of the trademark of the series. The most standout piece of animation is the character of Hephaestus (voiced by Rip Torn) whose eyes roll crazily in his over-large head and whose body language conveys volumes of pathos in his prison in Hades. Heís one of the few emotionally engaging aspects of the entire experience.

If you were looking for a complex ending to the story, then modify your expectations now: itís all about Kratos being the same angry, kinda-dickish character heís been in the last two games (and the PSP sequel) with the only difference being the settings. That was actually a bit of a virtue in the previous games Ė everything about the character read rage and violence, from his design to his move set, to the voice work by Terrence Carson. His single-mindedness was in a dark way sort of appealing in the previous installments, given how rare it is to play a downright son of a bitch in a game.

Here though, the shtick wears thin by about the midway point. Itís supposed to be the end of the characters journey Ė his thematic arc and all you really get is the same sort of hyperaggression and no real story beats Ė just setpieces. Thereís a couple of really unearned turns at the end that maybe attempt to do something different with the character emotionally but it comes too little, too late. The most apt comparison Iíve heard so far is from the crew over at Giantbomb during a recent podcast where someone Kratosís story to a bunch of Slipknot lyrics in video game form: ďIím mad at you, dad, and Iím gonna do a bunch of violent stuff! Rawwr!Ē

But the game is called God of War, not God of Emotional Actualization so howís the actual warfare shake out?

Cutting Your Way Through Olympus

If youíve just put down your copy of GOWII then youíll slip right into its sequel which pretty much brings back the mechanics from the previous game with some minor tweaks to Kratosís attack speed and a couple of new weapons. Other than that, expect the same fixed camera, the same climbing sequences, more double jumps and glides, and more chests filled with white, green, or red orbs. Thereís of course the large-scale boss battles for which the game is famous, the numerous QTEís allowing you to ride the back of a Cyclops, the occasional puzzle, and quite a bit of backtracking.

In short, itís God of War, folks.

Working from the ďif it ainít broke, donít fix itĒ play book, Sony Santa Monica has pretty much kept the gameplay and structure intact from previous installments. This isnít a bad thing per se when you evaluate the game in a vacuum.

But since the release of the first installment back in 2005, the game has created a cottage industry of imitators in the realm of 3rd person hack-n-slash games. Still, itís disappointing that no new ideas have been added across the console generations, and while it never comes across as stale thereís nothing here thatís going to wow you, either.

That actually sums up the game play experience in its entirety Ė while the cinematic aspects are very cool and add to the experience, the actual 8-10 hours you spend playing the game will never really wow you or make you feel especially powerful. Couple that with the odd decision to add several new weapons that are essentially variations on your default Blades of Chaos and the grand experience of playing a new God of War title starts to feel a little small.

The Continuing Adventures of Kratos

Itís not really a spoiler to say that the ending of the game leaves room for a sequel in the future. Hereís hoping that Sony takes the opportunity with a future installment to give players something new and return to innovating 3rd person action as they did 5 years ago.

Hereís a trailer for the game:

If you liked this review, be sure to check out more of the authorís work at our sister site Manga Life.

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