Review: God of War III

New console, same game
By MITCH KRPATA  |  April 1, 2010
2.5 2.5 Stars

 

God of War III | For PlayStation 3 | Rated M for Mature | Developed by Santa Monica Studio | Published by Sony Computer Entertainment America
What is Kratos so angry about — again? There used to be a good reason for his non-stop temper tantrums. In the first God of War, the Spartan sought revenge against Ares for tricking him into murdering his own family. Understandable. We’d all do the same. In the second game, Kratos lashed out after some kind of Mean Girls–like diss from Zeus. Now, in God of War III, it’s hard to tell what’s got him so pissed off. Zeus is still the target of his ire, but so are the Titans, and the remaining gods — and, really, every single living being on Earth.

God of War has always been a little silly, but in this third game, the series descends into pure camp. Kratos hacks and slashes his way through thousands of enemies, each bigger and more gruesome than the last. Besides the cannon fodder that he slices through like so much softened butter, he topples an encyclopedic array of legendary beasts. To list his atrocities is to understate their brutality — not to mention their frequency. He rips the eyes from multiple Cyclopses, decapitates Gorgons, leaves Centaurs writhing with their entrails spilled across the floor. Graphic violence is a hallmark of this franchise, but it always seemed to mean something. Here it serves the same purpose as a geek show.

For all the gore on display, the game blushes and slinks away when it comes to sex. As soon as Kratos falls into bed with Aphrodite, the camera pans away to show two of the goddess’s pages watching the proceedings with interest. What ensues could well be the silliest quick-time event ever: you follow on-screen button prompts to direct the unseen Kratos in (presumably) divine feats of carnal prowess — all of which sounds a lot like clanging swords and thumping timpani. Not that I expect a soft-focus sex scene in a God of War game, but this is the point at which the designers all but admit that they’re making a game for children.

Of course, God of War has always been a power fantasy, and when it comes to the pure spectacle of one pale warrior opening up a can of mythological whoop-ass, no game does it better. The technical bona fides are plain to see. Play control is generally tight, though it would be nice if Kratos could cancel attacks in order to dodge or evade. God of War III strikes a nice balance between combat and puzzles, and unlike its immediate predecessor, it doesn’t pad its slim running time by locking Kratos in rooms full of endlessly spawning enemies.

And the visuals! For presentation, this is the best God of War yet, and I don’t just say that in hopes of being quoted on the Greatest Hits package a year from now. From a return trip to Hades to a journey through the Cretan Labyrinth, Kratos travels through — and destroys — one gorgeous backdrop after another. Massive boss fights are a series staple, and the PlayStation 3 hardware renders them with an impressive level of scale and detail. One epic scrum against the Titan Cronos hints at what might be possible in the hands of a more subtle developer (like Sony’s own Team Ico, who made the PlayStation 2 classic Shadow of the Colossus).

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