God of War III is probably the most brutal game we’ve ever played. Tearing off heads, crushing skulls, ripping out hearts, popping out eyes and disembowelling mythical creatures are what the game is about- in all its revolting awesomeness.
Game developers, Sony Santa Monica Studios, excel in bringing interactive savagery and brutality to your console, and their latest release is without a doubt their master work. But, GoWIII is more than unrestrained bloodlust. It’s balanced in a way the first and second games weren’t. It mixes exploration, puzzle solving and combat extremely well. Rarely do you leave the action, with cut scenes part of each level.
The first thing that grabs you in the game is its scale. You’ll feel as if Kratos jumped out the screen and ripped your jaw off your face, it’s so unbelievable. Scaling the Titan Gaia in the opening sequence of the game, as she in turn scales a cliff to Mount Olympus, you feel ridiculously small as Kratos. Gaia could literally be an entire level in any other game, but she is just one small part of one small part of the game; setting you up for some mammoth scenes later on.
The game isn’t presented in any novel way; you still can’t control your camera view and it still relies on cut scenes to let you know what you need to do next, but the context and perspective offered has been revved up from previous versions. The cut scenes are more dramatic and are integrated extremely well. The use of camera angles also adds to the scale, zooming out to wow you with the size of levels and moving in tight for combat, highlighting some amazing attention to detail.
The overall look of the game is as impressive as its scale. Kratos’ character model is incredibly detailed and just dominates your screen. Things like lightening and falling rubble also look fantastic, adding greatly to the feel of the game. It really is one of the best looking adventure games we’ve ever seen.
GoW III might be epic in scale, but the game’s theme is rather one-dimensional. Vengeance is Kratos’ sole focus. Like part two, he’s out to kill his father Zeus- because Zeus killed him first. Almost all interactions you have with characters in the game are about whether they’re helping or hindering you in your quest.
The Greek mythology back-story to the game is also excellent, as it captures all the intrigue and passion we're used to in Greek epics; albeit a bastardisation that will probably upsets classicists.
Like the storyline, the gameplay formula is unchanged. You run about various environments figuring out how to get to the next one, ripping the heads off mythical creatures who oppose you, all with an unchanging scowl on Kratos' face.
Combat has been tweaked to make it a little tougher to pull off crazy combos, but the new weapons on offer more than compensate. You can now collect up to four primary weapons, which can be changed on the fly, and a few secondary weapons like bows and magical heads - which can all be levelled up during the game. Importantly, your magic has now been tied to your weapons, so your powers change according to which weapons you are using, which make far more sense that the system used in GoW II.
Puzzles and exploration are equally polished. Never so tough as to turn you off, the puzzles you need to solve to get to your next objective can be intricate and often involve objects collected from multiple environments. Cut scenes make it fairly obvious what you need to do though and the fact that you get attacked by a horde of Minotaurs or Harpies whenever you’re on the right track helps.
The game creators have also made a slight change to the presentation of quick time sequences. The button prompts for the sequences are now displayed on screen, proximate to where they are positioned on the controller. For example, triangle appears top-centre, L1 and R1 appear top-left and –right respectively and X appears bottom-centre of the display. While a small change, this means that you’re always focused on the action, but need to be aware of what’s happening on all areas of the screen to successfully execute a quick time sequence.
GoW III is just more of the same; and that’s exactly what we’ve spent the last three years waiting for. This time round it’s just better looking, more brutal and more enjoyable- which is really saying something. We loved the combat, even though it gets a little repetitive at times, and the exploration elements were thoroughly enjoyable. The visual elements of the game left us simply flabbergasted. While we were thoroughly impressed by Uncharted 2 in the action/adventure genre last year, GoWIII raises the action/ adventure bar once again, leaving us wanting more from a series that looks to be at an end.