If this isn’t your first exposure to the God of War series, then I can save you five minutes by saying this: if you liked the first two PS2 iterations you will enjoy God of War III. Nothing here is going to feel foreign or surprising to fans of the series. Santa Monica has managed to bring Kratos’ murderous rage into the next-gen with some truly stunning level design and graphical detail. God of War III is a technical marvel, but still manages to feel a bit dated in its systems. You’re going to pick up orbs, dump them into a weapon on the pause screen, and open up chests to restore health and magic. That fact will mean absolutely nothing to fans of this violent saga, who will receive exactly what they are paying for: breathtaking set pieces, amazing boss fights, and plenty of bloody quick time events.
For those new to the series, you’re treated to stylish recap of the events leading to Kratos hitching a ride on the titan Gaia as she climbs Mount Olympus. There are many references to the previous games, but nothing that will detract from the experience for newcomers. Of course, you could always pick up the God of War Collection on PS3, but the basic formula set by the last two games isn’t deviated from at all. Kratos will once again lose all the powers he acquired in his previous adventure, crawl out of Hades, and seek some legendary artifact that will allow him to kill a god. A major difference in this third installment is how often Kratos revisits the same areas. While God of War games have always been strictly linear experiences with the occasional loop to an important crossroads, this time you’ll be seeing many locations three or even four times. Every inch of scenery looks great, and you’ll always have a good reason to be where you are. It’s just a bit unnerving how easily Kratos can scale a mountain with a pair of fake wings and some convenient portals.
As far as our anti-hero’s personal motivations go, this is the hardest it’s ever been to connect to the angry Spartan on any level other than “vessel of carnage”. It’s rather hard to understand exactly why Kratos needs to rid the world of every god, but with that scowl on his face there is no doubt he’s going to do it. Thankfully, this game plays the best out of the series. The combat manages to feel just as fluid and satisfying as always, while looking immensely better. There is no end to the gore as Kratos actually gets covered in the blood of his foes, a small but welcome detail. The best improvement to the combat is the balance of the four weapons Kratos will acquire. Two of them are basically tweaks of his signature chain blades, as well as a pair of fist weapons that can also be swung around on chains. Despite the seeming lack of imagination, each manages to feel unique and has special attacks, such as electrifying foes or summoning the souls of fallen beasts to fight for you. Kratos will also acquire some great gadgets like the classic bow and a pair of sandals that add wall-running to the list of platforming mechanics. They are all tied to a new Item meter that acts the same as magic, but fills up automatically. And of course, you can upgrade everything to earn new moves and abilities.
The puzzles in God of War III are much more imaginative than in the past, making the old block-pushing seem like child’s play. And of course the quick-time events are here in spades, with plenty of ways to dismember and disembowel almost every creature you come across. But instead of just putting the button prompts in the middle of the screen, they now appear along the edges corresponding to their position on the controller. This was probably done to try to keep the player focused on the action and pressing buttons using their peripheral vision, but in reality you’ll be scanning the edges of the screen at all times. It was a nice thought, but the other QTE-heavy PS3 exclusive, Heavy Rain, showed us exactly how to keep the prompts right with the action. Thankfully, God of War is much more than just a string of QTEs, and you’re only thought will be eviscerating the next deity or monster you come across.
In short, God of War III is the game everybody was expecting it to be, and there is nothing wrong with that at all. The ending may not be the most satisfying conclusion to a trilogy, but the journey there is pure action-adventure bliss. There hasn’t a game with such scale since Shadow of the Colossus, and the visuals are stunning. This is the reason you bought a PS3.