The Eurogamer Expo version of the God of War III demo began as the E3 edition did, but was extended to 45 minutes of gameplay. The game still looks fantastic and really looks as if it is pushing the technical capabilities of the PS3, though it should be noted that along with Heavy Rain, the cameras are largely fixed. God of War 3 plods along the same old hack ‘n’ slash tropes, with combo-chaining or button-mashing action split up with sections of rudimentary gameplay borrowed from other genres and titles. These are where GOW is at its poorest, with on-rails Starfox-like dodging of obstructions in a flying portion of the demo and an awkward attempt at platforming using the aerial ability of hapless harpies by grotesquely sacrificing them to traverse large gaps. These feel tacked on, but do perform quite well in breaking up the action. The fighting itself is as fluid and intricate as it ever was, and the lighting has been improved to a spectacular standard. Harpies are not the only creature that can be superficially controlled, as the demo (like at E3) featured a lumbering Cyclops that could be used to destroy local enemies before slaying the beast in a graphic eye-removing climax akin to the one seen in the second God of War game.
It all seems a bit unnecessary however, as although introducing a mildly innovative idea (using dying enemies as a vehicle for personal progression) is interesting and potentially provides room for an increased level of tactical complexity, SCE never allows any divergence from what they want you to do. So if you decide you want to kill the harpies or the Cyclops instead of using them to complete the nearby task, you will be unable to progress to the next section. Similarly, these “vehicle” enemies are only available when they are needed, so you are never granted the opportunity to fanny about on a massive Cyclops or fly around on a harpy when you want to. Its application renders this whole “new” feature as a completely arbitrary and linear element.
Aside from this, there isn’t really a great deal that can be said about the demo that players will not already be familiar with. I guess that on a more positive side, there are more enemies on screen than everÃ¯Â¿Â½at one point numbers reached about 30. Additionally, Kratos has more weapons at his disposal, though I found myself using the classic chains most of the time. Furthermore, as I previously stated, the game does look lovely, depending on your interpretation of that term. Lovely in the sense that graphically SCE has achieved wonders, though certainly not lovely in the sense that they must have something seriously wrong with them. Barely a minute passes without a hugely gory and disgusting event occurring, and the increased graphical fidelity makes these moments more grotesque than ever. The violence has undoubtedly descended into the realm of gratuitousness, and the shameless and unavoidable mauling of civilians adds to a growing feeling of bad taste in the game.
The original God of War game was arguably my favorite PS2 game, and was a fresh and innovative title that justified its comparatively tame violence through a compelling story and setting, softened further through the relatively low-res visuals of the PS2. The game felt bound by the limits of the platform, and in my opinion certainly had room for evolution when the following platform provided more power to the Santa Monica-based developers. It is depressing to see then, that the gameplay is as directed as ever, still relying on QTEs and invisible walls to present its admittedly impressive cinematics. It seems like a waste of resources to simply ramp up the violence and the gritty details of the gore, especially when 5 years and a whole new console could have inspired something more progressive. Violence was never integral to the original and the game would have still been spectacular without it, but now it seems that if God of War III was cleaned up, it would have nothing to show for itself. This is not the route gaming should be taking in order to merit itself as a valid and mature medium, despite the inevitable “mature” rating and praise this game will receive from the industry.
Finally, it is important to clarify that this game will be just as epic and smooth as its predecessor, it’s just that it should really be something a little more developed by now.