Wednesday, 27 October 2010

God of War III

Kratos is a very angry man, let’s get that out of the way now. He has been very angry with Zeus and the other gods of Greek mythology, not to mention having quite a thing against anything living or dead. So it is rather fitting that his games have been largely about pounding the proverbial out of anything and everything, with as much violence as possible.
    After two fantastic (and obviously violent) games on the PlayStation 2, Sony’s Santa Monica Studios finally set its sights on the latest behemoth: the PlayStation 3. The previous games were epic in every sense of the word, with stunning vistas, complex puzzles and some absolutely massive boss battles, all the while butchering everyone and everything from the tomes of Greek mythology.
    This third games picks up directly from the end of God of War II, with the promise of an epic battle alongside the colossal Titans as Kratos takes his quest for vengeance to the very peak of Mount Olympus, hell bent on killing Zeus and any other god that may stand in his way.
    Sounds exciting, does it not? It is at first, too. A sweeping battle with Poseidon kicks off the action, a massive water horse (complete with giant crab legs) pounds its way across the face of Mount Olympus, crushing both your enemies and titanic allies as your fight rages on. After a few moments, the action switches to another familiar staple of the series: the QTE scene. It’s a much-maligned facet of the gaming industry today, but one that is used fairly well throughout Santa Monica’s series and is no different here - other than turning the violence up to eleven.

    The violence has always been present in Kratos’ adventures: tearing wings from harpies, hacking off the heads of Hydras, pulling out the eyes of Cyclops and so on, but never has it been so vivid as it is here. Tearing out the eyes of a Cyclops, seeing the juices and the gore dripping and spurting from the socket, or tearing heads off beasts and seeing individual tendons rip away as more gore pours forth - this is a game that really deserves its 18 certificate.
    At heart though, this game plays no different to its predecessors. The control scheme is identical, with only a couple of minor additions as you unlock new items during the game. Make no mistake, this is not a game for newcomers, do not be fooled by the ‘catch-up’ sequence during the intro. We visit old areas from previous games, fight familiar enemies and hear the same music alongside Kratos’ usual angry growling and shouting.
    This familiarity is what makes the game such a disappointment. The potential shown at the end of God of War II (and the beginning of III) is never lived up to as the player is treated to almost exactly the same formula seen in both previous games, having to earn Kratos’ powers once again and work your way back through familiar block-pushing puzzles and time-limit arenas - all the while throwing in whatever Greek mythology figures that Kratos hasn’t already killed. Though they all find themselves dead enough within a short time.

    The two prequels (three, if you count the PSP’s Chains of Olympus) all flowed nicely with functional stories that made it possible to visit the expansive environments within the source material. God of War III does not continue this pattern, instead being a mishmash of seemingly random environs as you follow the flimsiest of plots that only seems to serve the purpose of bringing in names like Hercules, Hades, Hera and Pandora with no real reason other than to demonstrate that Santa Monica knows who these people were.

    With gameplay that keeps the player engaged and some nice visuals, the game plods along at a decent speed at least, running up around 5-6 hours of game time and also offering plenty of challenges for those who finish the game. It is just a shame that, after being a milestone in the hack ‘n’ slash genre for so long, God of War III shows just how far the rest of that genre has come, leaving Kratos to stew in his anger instead of unleashing it on a new generation.


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