God of War 3 - Review
Now on its third home console appearance, most gamers have a well established opinion of the God of War series. Fans will point to impressive set pieces, bloody combat and a surprisingly immersive narrative, whereas detractors are turned off by the non-stop QTEs and will cry style over substance. Whatever your opinion of the series, God of War 3 is unlikely to convince you otherwise. It's more of the same, albeit with a current-gen lick of paint, and serves as an unapologetic and fitting finale to the trilogy.
Right from the get-go, GOW3 is extremely impressive and graphically it's everything you would expect from Kratos on the PS3. Just as the first two games pushed the PS2 to its limits, part 3 sets the bar high for any pretenders to the throne. Its boasts an impressive sense of scale, with foes that tower over our ever unfazed, wan protagonist. The playing field remains linear, though there is more emphasis on vertical exploration, and the camera remains out of the player's control, further emphasising the linearity of the level design. Santa Monica studios have decided what you will see and when and how you will view it, taking away the freedom that we have become accustomed to in other genre titles, yet contributing to a more cinematic experience.
The story follows on directly from part 2, with Kratos scaling the side of Mt. Olympus riding the wave of a Titan invasion. We experience a touching relationship between a young girl, Pandora, and Kratos, who sees in her a chance for redemption. Although this sudden turn for the sentimental is somewhat out of keeping with what we have come to expect from our Spartan sociopath, it doesn't seem forced and is quite understandable within the trappings of the narrative. However I can't say I feel the same about the ending, which I will avoid spoiling here.
As for the cast, you would be forgiven for thinking that you have already slaughtered the vast majority of Mt. Olympus, but there are still many powerful foes blocking your way to Zeus. One of the advantages of borrowing from a source as rich as Greek mythology is that you would struggle to run out of interesting characters to send to the Kratos abattoir. And the blood runs as freely as ever, with Kratos remaining vicious and determined to get the revenge he has wanted for so long. Between caving-in the head of a demi-god and ripping through neck sinew with his bare hands, he still finds the time to use a damsel in distress as a bloody door wedge. For those yet to play, I'll leave that one for you to experience for yourself.
The voice acting, though featuring some actors of note (Malcolm McDowell, Rip Torn) isn't up to the high standard set by the visuals. Much like the gameplay, it's severely lacking in subtlety and is extremely generic. Kratos and Zeus are gruff, Hades is deep and evil, most women are high pitched screamers or sensual moaners, and Hermes is just plain annoying.
The combat, the most remarkable aspect of the series, is still up to the task. It's as addictive as ever, the combos are achievable and satisfying and there is a good range of weapons at your disposal. However, you can overcome most foes by spamming the same combos, most likely using the blades or gauntlets. There is variety on offer, but the game rarely provides the impetus to make use of it. The boss fights are memorable, presenting a balanced challenge and literally dwarfing other parts of the game. The mid-way fight with the titan Cronos provides the standout moment, featuring scale and ambition rarely seen in other games of its ilk.
The QTEs remain the most divisive aspect of the series and they are again at the forefront of Kratos' butchery. More than in previous games, I felt they took away far too much from the impressive visuals. You are unable to sit back and enjoy the lengths Kratos will go to fell a minotaur because you are so immersed in looking for the QTE prompts, which can appear in any of four places. The colour scheme and on screen action do at times make it difficult to spot the button prompts, and there were a number of occasions where I failed, oblivious to the fact that the QTE had even started. By this point there is little point in complaining about QTEs, though I do feel that they have overstayed their welcome, becoming more of a hindrance than a merit.
I realise that, despite thoroughly enjoying God of War 3, I have highlighted as many negatives as I have positives. I think it all boils down to the repetition on which GOW so tightly holds onto, which after three games has started to wear a little thin. Non-stop QTEs aside, traversing between the underworld and the heights of Mt. Olympus provides an apt example. The freefalling segments and flying upwards through tight shafts is great fun at first and provides an excellent set piece, but did we really need to go through it 4 or 5 times? God of War 3 excels at what it does, but it does seem perversely reluctant to innovate. I waited until the final few scenes before I saw something I felt I hadn't seen elsewhere in the trilogy, with a bloody first person battering.
God of War 3 is undoubtedly an excellent edition to a well-loved series. If you enjoyed the previous titles and are looking for more of the same then you will not be disappointed. I enjoyed it for what it was, but I feel I will lose interest if future instalments continue to ape their predecessors so closely.