The current renaissance of Greek Mythology themes in gaming continues with the third installment of the immensely popular “God of War” series. The story picks up right where the last left off, with the Spartan son of Zeus, Kratos, climbing Mount Olympus on the back of the Titan Gaia in a coup against the gods. Players not familiar with the series will be completely lost as the game just assumes you’re up to date. To summarize for those few, unfortunate souls who are unaware of the game’s history: Kratos is a Spartan warrior who overthrew Ares, the god of war and subsequently was dethroned himself by the very gods who were on his side.
Now, armed with the Blades of Exile (two huge blades swung on chains), Kratos seeks revenge against the gods for conspiring against him. The story has been one of the series’ strong suits and one of the best in video gaming, but it comes off as much simpler this time around.
The game takes full advantage of the Playstation 3’s capabilities, as it never misses out on a chance to demonstrate its graphical supremacy. As “X-play”’s Adam Sessler noted, I’ve had to occasionally pause to ask myself: “Oh my god, how am I actually playing this game?” The graphics could be used to show an alien race how advanced we are as a species. They’re that good. The opening fight with Poseidon’s watery beast could have come straight out of a CG film. The way water actually takes the forms of various creatures is a true example of the Playstation 3’s colossal power.
The combat works identical to the previous installments with some notable exceptions. For one, you can now use the Blades of Exile to pull yourself toward an enemy and crash into them. Even more interesting is the ability to grab an enemy and use him as a battering ram, charging through several creatures and killing many of them in one, convenient swoop. Then there’s the most publicized new aspect of combat: the ability to “ride” creatures and control them by inflicting pain. You can make them use either a heavy attack or a light attack just as you could normally, and they’re incredibly fun to use. One of the most painful parts of the game is the reemergence of the button mashing minigames. You can’t just open the doors with a simple button press like in every other game in the world; instead you have to abuse the poor circle button by rapidly pressing upon it, which borders on unacceptable because it forces you to wear out the button, decreasing the value of the controller by dulling the natural “clicking” sensation. Also making an unwelcome comeback are the chests that require you to mundanely hold on to the L1 bumper and wait through a pointless few seconds of wasted gameplay as Kratos demonstrates his famous grunt.
The other minigames, however, just test your reflexes, which help diversify the gaming experience and is a much-appreciated aspect of the series’ famous combat mechanics, particularly regarding boss battles. Some of the familiar monsters have been completely redone, such as the Gorgons, who break away from their cheesy, green-coated skin they donned in the previous games and instead sport a more unique mixture of yellow and white. The blood has been reworked as well, improving significantly from the sloppy, smoky effect in the PS2 versions to a much more credible liquid-resembling substance. This upgrade is a lot more important than it may seem, as the series features lots of blood, and as Gametrailers.com noted: “When we say ‘lots’ of blood, we mean lots and lots and lots of blood.” If you’re the squeamish type, you might be better off playing something tamer, because this game aims to shock.
The character of Kratos is made to an especially unique kind of anti-hero. Rather than simply being nasty and brutish, the Spartan warrior is actually a real d*ck. He is overtly sociopathic and will betray absolutely anyone, only using them as far as he absolutely needs to. This personality model, though unique, comes off as gimmicky and a cheap try at shock value. Sociopaths can sometimes work as main characters, such as the phenomenally successful “Dexter,” but Kratos, unlike the Showtime series’ similarly murderous hero, is so disconnected from everyone that he can barely even be considered a “good guy.” There’s just no room for emotional investment in a character so ridiculously evil. It even comes off as just plain silly.
Despite its flaws, “God of War 3” lives up to the hype. The cutscenes for the most part are so stunning in their real-time renders that they replace cinematics. But for those who appreciate artistic effort, the game does feature revamped cinematics in quasi-Asian paintings that move and dazzle with their aesthetic simplicity. Most notable perhaps are the absolutely epic boss battles. Where else can you repeatedly smash the god of the underworld against the ceiling of his own lair or slice off Hermes’ legs to steal his flying shoes? “God of War 3” is a rush of power and playing it truly makes you feel like a slayer of gods. If you have a PS3, buy this game. If you don’t have a PS3, buy one, then buy this game. Oh and yes, the sex minigame makes a comeback too; this is, of course, a God of War game.