Monday, March 8, 2010

Player's Club: God of War III review

Posted By on Mon, Mar 8, 2010 at 5:00 PM

God of War III

Rated M for Mature

Released March 16 2010

PlayStation 3

Published by Sony


WHAT IT IS: God of War III presents the continuing adventures of the world’s most unlikable video game character. There’s no question that Kratos, the “Ghost of Sparta”, is one of the hugest, shiniest dickheads in the history of fake history. At least he stars in one of the best action games you’ll find on any system.

The PS3 debut for Sony’s flagship series is almost exactly what you’d expect: a souped-up, prettified blitz through the standard God of War tropes. It’s still a three-dimensional action-adventure concerned primarily with slaughtering as many enemies as possible. The occasional puzzles and light platforming return, as do the controversial Quick-Time Events. These aren’t complaints, but statements of fact. Another fact: God of War III is not what we in the biz call a “bad game”.

Review and trailer after the jump.

WHAT’S GOOD: Superb presentation has always been God of War's main hallmark, and with the power of the PlayStation 3 the series looks and feels better than ever. The typical God of War visual set-pieces are now so beautiful they’d pop every single one of Argus’s eyes. The massive size of various gods and Titans is more overwhelming with the clarity of hi-def. Monsters swarm around you in intimidatingly large numbers. The combat can be slightly mindless but it never gets boring thanks to a variety of enemies, weapons, and attack types. There’s so much gore that it comes close to comedy, but it looks good and it’s in keeping with the violence of the myths the game builds from. God of War III amplifies everything memorable about the series.

The familiar story sees Kratos searching for revenge against an epic mythological backdrop that takes you from the depths of the Underworld to the seat of Zeus’s power. You’ll storm Mt. Olympus with an army of Titans, graphically dismember various deities, and even rip the head off the Sungod himself (uh, spoiler alert?) The story’s nothing more than an excuse to travel through some gorgeous scenery and kill everything you see; as such, it’s not just a throwback to the first two God of Wars, but to basically every video game made before, say, 1995.

WHAT’S NOT SO GOOD: I don’t think it’s possible for a game to have a less likable main character. If nihilistic antiheroes were SUVs, Kratos would be a Hummer; he’s an easily screwed up idea taken to a garish extreme. He’s so over-the-top in his clichéd badassitude, with a goatee, tribal tats, and guttural croaks, that you almost hope he’s a parody. It's hard to sympathize with a protagonist who wantonly massacres innocents and whose actions wreak havoc on all on Greece. Also, the game sometimes spits out too many enemies at once, slowing the action down into a boring slog. It can also be difficult hitting a double jump off a cliff, for some reason. That leads to the occasional cheap and infuriating death.

WHAT YOU SHOULD DO: God of War III is a no-brainer for fans of the series or action games in general. It also requires almost no brains to enjoy, as it’s about as thoughtful as a Frank Frazetta pin-up. If you can’t enjoy big dumb angry action, at least when it’s as well-done as God of War III, you probably don’t play video games, anyway.

Also, I just want to thank Chris Dahlen for taking a bit of pressure off me. I had never played the first two God of War games before poking around the PS3 collection as prep-work for God of War III. How could I be upfront about that fact without immediately ruining my credibility with whatever random people read Culture Surfing’s video game reviews? As I was finishing this review, though, Dahlen’s piece about being a thirtysomething video game critic and journalist who had never played Super Mario Bros. appeared over at the AV Club. That’s like a music critic who’s never heard the Beatles. I’m now free to write about God of War III without shame. Thanks, Chris!

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