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One of the biggest franchises in gaming finally goes next-gen, but does it live up to the high standards that it predecessors set? God of War III continues the story of Kratos seeking revenge against Zeus and the other gods. Why is he so pissed off? Well, who remembers that, the important part is beating up Olympians is fun and it has never looked this good before.
The previous God of War installments pushed games forward graphically and cinematically and that pattern continues here. God of War III is easily the most cinematic and epic game of this generation. When you’re using one hundred feet tall titans as a level to battle on, all while you’re seeing some of the best graphics ever, it’s hard to think of a more epic or impressive game. This is greatly helped by the camera being so dynamic and cinematic. It zooms in and pans out to incorporate the impressive level design and environmental art.
While the graphics are vastly improved and different in this installment, gameplay is basically the same. The biggest enhancement is switching weapons instantaneously while in combat. Kratos’ arsenal is now much more varied and useful. There are actually melee weapons that are just as powerful and dangerous as Kratos’ iconic blades. Thanks to a regenerating magic bar and weapons such as Apollo’s bow, among other magical weaponry, melee combat has been supplemented with magic, which makes the entire combat system more versatile.
It would be nice if the defensive side of the combat system were beefed up too. After playing Bayonetta, which is a far more skillful game, it seems like any major action hack & slash game should have high levels of countering and the ability to break your own combos in order to block or dodge. The only frustrating thing about gameplay was the placement of certain checkpoints. For the most part the checkpoints were perfectly placed, but in a few tough boss fights, it seemed as if a checkpoint was missing. This turned a fun and challenging encounter into “I’m about the throw my controller at the TV”. Luckily those moments are rare and don’t tarnish the experience too harshly. For the people who enjoyed God of War’s combat system before, they will find it nearly flawless in this installment.
God of War III has a great combat system and is probably the most technologically impressive game ever… so why in the world is it not getting a much higher score? Sadly, the game drops the ball when it comes to its story and pacing. Normally story in video games isn’t a big deal to me since they’re rarely good. When it comes to the God of War series much more is expected because of its high pedigree when it comes to story. Obviously, the story in something that’s more gameplay driven, like Street Fighter or even Halo, is much less of a factor. While God of War has great gameplay, it is a story driven game. There are several major problems with the story. Since this begins right where God of War II ended, you would think that the titans would play a huge role. However, they do not, in fact after the first hour or two they’re almost nonexistent until the very end. It seems more as if they were a plot device to simply give God of War II an epic ending, rather than being relevant to the overall story.
This also brings up another problem, the pacing. The beginning of this game is great and the end is pretty good, but the middle feels quite dull. This is partially due to the game being so front-loaded. Of course being “dull” is a matter of perspective to what you were doing before. Kratos goes from killing several major gods to running around doing mundane puzzles and arena fights, which is a letdown. The gods being spread throughout the game more evenly probably could have avoided this. Things do pick back up at the end, but at that time, there is only about 20 minutes of actual gameplay left.
The biggest plotline that happens in the middle of the game is the quest for Pandora. She’s a girl who the gods have imprisoned because they fear her ability and power. Kratos seeks her to use as a weapon against the gods. Inexplicably Kratos starts to grow an attachment to her, which makes no sense and doesn’t fit him at all. The last 1/4th of the game does feel rushed, so maybe if there were character development between the two, then this would make sense. However, going with “I lost a kid and you remind of that kid” is a bad cliché and the complete opposite of Kratos.
In a gaming world filled with characters that are mute or just the generic stoic none emotional tough guy, Kratos stands out. He does show emotion, he does talk, and he doesn’t have a headset on with a woman’s voice telling him to do every single thing. Thos traits do carry over to this game, but sometime Kratos can come off as a drama queen. This problem is mainly caused by there being no villain. Really, everyone is morally gray in this game: Kratos, the titans, Zeus, and the other gods. Everybody has their own personal agenda and is willing to kill or use anybody to accomplish it. That is interesting since good versus evil is more simplistic and less interesting. However, for Kratos to be so enraged all the time there needs to be just cause for that, in order for him not to seem melodramatic… and Zeus is not it. Looking at things objectively, Kratos is more of the bad guy then Zeus. Zeus doesn’t seem to want to fight or hurt Kratos. If the game explored the perspective that we’re playing the bad guy going against the heroes then this would be really cool. However, we’re supposed to think Kratos is justified for his vengeance and actually root for him, which really isn’t the case.
It’s hard to name a game that plays or looks as good as God of War III. For those gamers who play solely for gameplay and/or technical benchmarks, then this is the perfect game for you. For those of you looking for those two things, along with the great story that was in the previous installments, then disappointment is going to ensue. It all comes down to what you’re looking for. God of War III is definitely worth playing, but the length, lack of replay value, and bad pacing doesn’t automatically warrant it a buy.