Developer: Sony Santa Monica Studios
MSRP: $59.99 (on sale for $47)
by: Sam Tyler
When the first God of War graced the Playstation 2 in 2005, I was enamoured with the game. The mix of well balanced gameplay, fantastic graphics and epic scale made it an instant classic. There was almost as much time and effort spent on the puzzles as the fighting element, making it more intelligent than its gruff exterior would have you believe. However, I did have misgivings with the game; the graphic violence was perhaps darker than any other game that had gone before.
It has been five years since the first game and God of War 3 is the franchise debut on the Playstation 3. In terms of visual splendour it is magnificent and proves once more that if a game is designed solely for the Playstation 3 architecture it can blow the 360 out of the water. The sense of scale is also larger than in the previous two games as the PS3’s grunt is used to show Kratos’ epic climb up Mount Olympus in his attempt to kill the Gods themselves. The use of camera angles to highlight moments of action are brilliant, only bettered by Uncharted 2. The voice acting and music was also of the very highest order as they are pitched perfectly to evoke a world of dark Greek Mythology.
In terms of gameplay God of War 3 shows once more that the franchise is one of the leaders in the hack ‘n’ slash genre. For pure visceral entertainment it is probably the best action game out there. However, since the series inception other games have come and stolen some of the former genre leader’s glory. The combat in God of War 3 is entertaining, but it lacks the subtlety or nuance that games like Bayonetta or Ninja Gaiden 2 possess. Against these later action titles, the combat can feel a little clunky.
The same also has to be said of the puzzle elements of the game. Assassin’s Creed 2 showed what an open world can bring to puzzles and platforming. God of War 3 feels like Sony has tried to recreate the magic of the first two games but in high definition. There is no open feel to the world and at times you are well aware that you are being forced down an extremely linear path. More work was needed on the level structure and puzzle content for the game to feel like a 2010 title in anything other than graphics.
Perhaps the biggest bugbear I have with the game is a reflection of my own tastes, and dare I say maturity (at last). I have played games for over two decades and have spilled more gallons of virtual blood than could fill ten swimming pools. However, even I felt uneasy with the levels of violence in God of War 3. In part, this is due to the excellent graphics which show hideous acts in crystal clarity, but it is also down to developer choice. I have no problem slicing a Hydra in two, but stamping on a man’s head repetitively only for the camera to shift to the point of view of the victim? For me this scene, and several others like it, was taking violence one step too far, and this is coming from a fan of horror films. Heavy Rain is a mature game that deals with adult themes in an intelligent manner. God of War 3 use the old fashioned term for ‘mature’ games, of the content being for over 18s, but seemingly aimed at 14 year olds.
Overall, God of War 3 is still an excellent game. Only Uncharted 2 can boast better graphics on consoles so far this generation, and no other game has quite captured the epic feel of this title. In terms of graphics, sound and camera work; the vast amounts of money that Sony spent on the game are clear to see. However, beneath the beautiful façade lies a franchise that is starting to feel its age. In terms of level design and combat intensity it lacks the intelligence and subtlety that more modern games have brought to the genre. Throw in my misgivings over the levels of violence and I feel that the God of War franchise is still a good series, just no longer excellent.