The measure of a man is what he does with his power. Plato is credited with this quote, and in the current climate of political scandal it’s quite poignant. It would be very interesting, perhaps, to see what would happen if Kratos’s idea of justice were applied to Whitehall – maybe they’d even buck up their ideas. However, that’s not why you’re here and it’s not what Kratos is interested in, so let us delve into the world of God of War III.
There are four levels of difficulty available as a new game is started: Spartan, God, Titan and Chaos. The latter of these is locked until the first play-though of the game has been completed. Those who’ve waded through the previous titles should have little problem with the default normal settings, it might even be worth upping the ante a little if you found things relatively easy before.
The introduction to the game gives some insight into just what horrors of bosses might have to be fought throughout the adventure. Giants of stone and rock look like pretty hard adversaries – conquering the mountains of Olympus is going to be no small feat; the battles are going to be epic and the journey is going to be thwart with dangers – it’s going to be fun!
God of War III follows a very distinct pattern, one that will be familiar to anyone who has played this series before. The game skips from fighting action, to exploration, to puzzle solving, to boss fights. Much time will be spent slaying the various and varied creatures throughout the ancient world, but all of this is made extraordinarily compelling by making the combat so open and easy to understand. The various different combos are simple to perform, but even button mashing will see Kratos decimate his foes in to submission. Time can be spent learning the intricacies of the moves available, but at the same time, newbies can delve straight in and still feel like a God slaughtering hero, even if they’re missing out on the highly destructive special attacks. This is the beauty of the GoW series – you don’t have to be a completely hardcore player to enjoy things, it’s accessible to all.
The exploration aspect occasionally slows down the more hectic pace of beating down adversaries. It allows the player to catch their breath whilst Kratos navigates the narrow corridors and shimmy across daunting precipices. It’s a welcome relief at times because the pace of the game can be otherwise frantic. Things are never so easy for Kratos though, and after initially trying to battle his way to Zeus, things take a turn for the worse. Cast from the mountains, our anti-hero finds himself battling through Hades in a bid to once again, seek his revenge on the Gods.
Whilst the general combat is titillating, boss battles are particularly impressive and the like not seen since those classics on Shadows of the Colossus ( or maybe God of War II ) [don’t forget Dante’s Inferno – Ed]. The chief entities faced are massive in size, and battles can take some very unexpected turns. Kratos will often find himself tossed upside down or left to right in a bid to disorient the player. The first boss battle is typical of what is to come, consisting of a number of different stages, with Kratos sometimes hanging on for dear life, whilst at the same time trying to pummel the life force of these epic deities away.
Once our intrepid warrior has managed to get the boss teetering on the edge, the game launches in to quick time events. Cleverly, Santa Monica Studios have made these QTEs fun and lacking in irritation. The sequence of button presses are indicated on the four edges of the TV screen corresponding to the buttons on the joypad. By doing so it makes thing far more fluid than having to remember if the triangle is the top key or not, it is brilliant design that encourages the player to adventure ever forward.
Along this long and varied path are chests scattered about the place containing orbs; green is for health, blue is for magic and red is for experience. The orbs received can be used at any time to improve the moves Kratos has available to him, allowing for even greater damage from those awesome and bloody blades as well as other weapons uncovered as the game progresses.
One of the big deals made with this game is the lack of transitional loading, and it’s certainly true. The only real loading times are experienced when the game first boots up, or when death occurs and there’s the need to jump back to a previous check point. It’s not the first of titles to go down this path, but it certainly feels very free of load times.
Perhaps the most impressive aspect of God of War III is the sheer scale of the game, not so much the length of time the gamer will spend playing it, more the environments Kratos finds himself in and the creatures he ends up fighting against. At times the camera pulls right out, showing the vistas being travelled through and still have the player fighting. The great thing is, at least in High-Def, it still easy to see what’s going on and perform those combos, just as you would when the camera is closer to the mayhem.
The camera does its best to give you the most appropriate view of the action, though it doesn’t always feel this way. There’s occasionally the want to use the left analogue stick to move the camera, which of course doesn’t work. It can get annoying for some of the platform action where it’s not totally obvious where to head (though the game does its best to show you by panning around a new environment). That doesn’t prevent unwanted deaths due to mistimed jumps, and it’s easy for Kratos to plummet to his death on those double-jumps, the double-tap has a very tiny window for it to work properly, and there’s no mercy for those that time it incorrectly.
Death isn’t a complete pain as there are numerous check points, even if you can only save your game fairly irregularly. This does go against the whole seamless loading idea though, as it pulls the player totally out of the action, and seems particularly odd when Kratos is cast into Hades. It would have been cool if some hitherto resurrection could place the player back at the appropriate location without the need to tell the PS3 what to do – it’s a minor niggle, but due to the nature of the game is a menu choice that will pop-up at numerous times.
There are lots of things to like about God of War III, the seamless loading, the epic battles, the massive bosses, the sterling visuals and sheer scale of the adventure. This is offset by some very minor niggles, namely down to the odd dodgy camera angle and the fact that there’s really not a lot different here from the older titles. However, the game delivers in action oriented hack-and-slash that others try to emulate but never completely succeed in copying – this really is at the top of the pile in terms of action and enjoyment.
God of War III is an epic game and a splendid conclusion to the series; its battles are fun, its bosses are huge and the task is entertaining. It is a title that all PlayStation 3 owners should own and is one of a number of impressive games recently released on the system. Now is a very good time to love Sony.