God of War III Impressions

God of War III

I recently had a chance to sit down and play God of War III, the third entry in the franchise from Sony’s Santa Monica Studio. After playing through the first 25 minutes or so, I only had one thought: Where the hell can this game possibly go from here?

Spoilers to follow.

God of War III starts where the second game left off. Kratos, the brutal Spartan warrior turned God of War, has been betrayed by the other Greek deities and stripped of his godly powers. Hell-bent on revenge, Kratos has allied himself with the mighty Titans, with their help he begins his assault on Mount Olympus the stronghold of the Gods.

Epic does not even begin to describe the opening of God of War III. The player is immediately thrust into the fray, riding on the back of Gaia, a massive 100-story tall Titan, as she scales Mount Olympus. As Gaia and the other Titans ascend the peak they face the full fury of the Olympian Gods defending their home. After dispatching several dozen minor minions, Kratos is confronted by none other than the god of the sea, Poseidon. The ensuing fight against Poseidon is a lengthy, multi-stage boss battle that constantly changes its orientation. The whole battle takes place on the aforementioned skyscraper-sized Titan as it lumbers up the mountain.

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Part of what makes the visuals in God of War III especially impressive is the fact that 98% of the action is being rendered in real-time by the game engine. And as for the 2% of the game that isn’t in engine, the pre-rendered bits are seamlessly integrated with the rest of the game; you won’t even realize these moments are not being rendered in-engine. While battling smaller foes, you’ll observe the other battles going on in the background. You may become distracted while fighting skeletal warriors when you see Helios in his flaming chariot take down a Titan in the distance. Graphically, the game has come a long way from the 2009 E3 demo that became available in February. God of War III is easily one of the best looking games on the Playstation 3, and that’s saying something when you consider the cababilities of the hardware.

God of War III is pure hack-and-slash action at its best. If you’ve played any of the previous entries in the God of War franchise, then you know what to expect in terms of game play; the controls and moves are nearly identical to the earlier God of War games, with some noticeable tweaks and additions. My favourite new move has to be The Battering Ram, where Kratos grabs an enemy and uses it as a shield to plow through other enemies. Overall the controls feel tight and responsive, I never once felt confused or that I was button mashing. One major, but subtle improvement involves the quick time events that the God of War games have become famous for. When the buttons appear on screen, they don’t just appear in the centre of the screen like in the previous games; instead they appear in the same position the button is on the controller. For example, when the game needs you to press the square and triangle buttons in a sequence, the square button will appear on the left side of the screen and the triangle button will appear on the top of the screen. It’s really a simple change, but it makes the quick time events much easier to execute, since the game is clueing you in as to which side of the controller the button is on.

I guess I’d forgotten how violent the God of War games were, and God of War III certainly lives up to its predecessors in that respect. After defeating Poseidon, the player enters a quick time event from the perspective of the god of the sea. Kratos pummels Poseidon mercilessly, with the scene culminating in the player gouging out the god’s eyes and pushing his body off the mountain — pressing down L3 and R3 with my thumbs really added to the immersion. If you’ve ever wanted to see someone beat a god to death with their bare hands, then this game is probably right up your alley. Then again, if you’ve played the previous games you’ve already seen multiple gods take a beating at the hands of Kratos.

Honestly, I’ve never been a fan of the God of War franchise. I’d tried the first two games, but for whatever reason I just couldn’t get into them. It was a little odd, since I’m a huge fan of other hack-and-slash games like Devil May Cry and Ninja Gaiden. It’s the snooty indie gamer in me; maybe I just couldn’t stomach Kratos’ perma-sneer, hyper-machismo and his cookie-cutter anti-heroism. And while he still looks and behaves like he belongs in the WWE, that sentiment behind me now. Thirty minutes with God of War III totally converted me. In fact, I’m playing through the first God of War now and will probably pick up the second game at some point soon. I never thought I’d say this, but I’m really looking forward to God of War III. I just hope the rest of the game is as good as what I’ve already seen.

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Be sure to stay tuned for our interview with Edmonton’s own John Palamarchuk, Lead Cinematic Designer on God of War III.

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