“My vengeance ends now,” are the words spoken by Kratos as the curtain opens on the third and final act of the God of War series. It is an incredibly powerful way to open the scenes about to unfold as it picks up right where God of War II left off. To recap, Kratos’ thirst for the destruction of Olympus is unquenched as he rides on the back of the titan Gaia more pissed off than ever. Kratos is determined to bring down Zeus no matter who crosses his path or what the toll will be this time around. From the beginning moments of GoW III (GoW III), it takes only a glimpse to know for certain that the developers at Sony’s Santa Monica studios delivered the most brutal, vengeful, scenic and compelling games in the God of War series and this generation of games so far.
Immediately, there is a sense of scale like no other game before. The levels are all hand crafted and convey a strong setting. Most impressively, those highly detailed levels are filled with giant moving pieces and mechanical parts the likes of which the videogame industry has not yet seen. These mammoth moments never relent and keep thrusting GoW III’s pacing into overdrive. It is a guarantee that some of the most pivotal moments in the game will make jaws drop at the sheer scale and magnitude of the task Kratos has on hand. It is a fusion of artistry and technical achievement that makes GoW III look so outstanding. Poseidon in his sea creature form is a fantastic sight to behold with the water pulsing through him as if the very drop of water in the world was raging against the Ghost of Sparta. Each set piece tops the last in terms of sheer spectacle and, from those moments, are sure to create moments where gamers will talk for years to come about the memorable scenes. What underscores the unimaginable scope is how tiny looks when the in-game fixed camera zoom out to display the on-going chaos unfolding. Still, there is an invisible force that fills the gorgeous environments to the seams. It is the rage and hatred Kratos exudes from his ashen body.
If there was ever on game to nail an emotion and take it to the absolute extreme, it has to be GoW III. Anger flows freely from Kratos as each swing of his blades gets him closer to his ultimate goal of defeating Zeus. There is heavy use of chains in the game design that are symbolic of just how Kratos is bound to his rage. It was a necessity to show overt signals of his anger with forceful, labored animations since the camera will often zoom way out to show the large battles and still convey the same meaning and emotion throughout the game. When the camera goes in for close-up shots, the face of Kratos will show signs of him being pissed off with simple frowns to face disfiguring, guttural yells. The brutality is amped up for GoW III to a point that is excessive. However, the carnal first person finishing move camera moments that highlight how Kratos is bent on revenge do the best job at showing just how much of an anti-hero he is and how he shows zero compassion or mercy. Each stab, punch and kick is felt from the screen and will make the most stoic gamer wince in pain at the punishment being delivered. It is impossible to argue Kratos can be stopped no matter if Heaven and Hell try to intervene.
GoW III features much of the same gameplay as the previous titles in the series. It is safe to expect lots of carnage and lots of puzzles. The puzzle moments are some of the more inspired moments of GoW III because they take shape in unique ways that flex Kratos’ brain muscle as much as his biceps. One particular puzzle was so fresh since it took on the concept of shifting perspectives like an M.C. Escher work of art that it was one of the shining moments that weren’t giant boss battles. The combat felt the same as it ever has in a God of War game. The problems don’t stem from any mechanics being broken because this is a highly focused game with incredible levels of polish, but they stem from the combat that is aging. Every other area of GoW III has been pushed to extremes and yet the fighting stays comfortably in place with only a few bones to slightly improve the overall experience. The major improvement comes from the additional useful weapons and items Kratos picks up on his trail of destruction. Items that are used as tools don’t drain away the magic meter anymore. That opens up more range of combos and attacks, which actually improves the combat towards the end of the game when all the items are collected and powered up. The controls are a sticky issue to address since on one hand, something that works and is enjoyable shouldn’t be changed but when all the other aspects of GoW III are being pushed to the limit, the controls feel too familiar.
If there were a game that is hard to put down, it would be GoW III. Can fighting Greek gods on the back of titans not be any more compelling? It successfully blends brutal combat and an epic story that is well told. While it is sad to see the story get put to bed, it is better to leave at the top than to dim into obscurity. GoW III wraps things up on a high note and leaves the players wanting more.
GoW III is the final act in the saga of Kratos. No loose ends are left and the entire game is epic in scope. It is a good thing that the series will be put to bed for awhile since it is impossible to fathom how GoW III could be topped. All the elements come together and form a kinetic ball that never stops until the credits roll, which makes this a compelling game without any boring moments. The combat feels the same as the rest of the games in the series even if a few upgrades were made along the way. Overall, this is a top notch production that will not disappoint in the slightest.