God of War 3 Review

Genre: Action/Adventure

Platform: PlayStation 3

Developer: Santa Monica Studios

Price: $59.99 (USD)

The final installment to Sony Santa Monica’s dark Greek epic has been 3 years in the making, and as a long time fan of the God of War series, my own personal anticipation for the title was at an all time high. So much so that I decided to do something a bit unorthodox and wait a few months before writing this review. I wanted to make sure that my hype and excitement for God of War 3 didn’t cloud my judgment of the game. I feel that a lot of reviews are driven by hype (whether positive or negative hype), and not a true evaluation of the game itself. While I may not wait nearly as long before posting a review as I did for this one, do expect this to be more of a regular occurrence from here on out. Without further ado, here is my take on God of War 3.

The game quite literally picks up right where God of War 2 ends; with Kratos, now allied with the sworn enemies of the Gods, the Titans, scaling Mount Olympus with the express purpose of bringing Zeus and the Pantheon of Gods to their knees. Players naturally assume the role of Kratos, former God of War, who has a serious bone to pick with his father Zeus, whom he has promised to destroy.

Initially, the game feels very much like God of War. Kratos has the same moveset he had at the end of God of War 2, and he controls just as fluidly. Usually, I try and refrain from discussing the visuals until the end of the review, but God of War 3 hits you so hard with, undoubtedly, one of the most stunning visual presentations this generation in gaming. Scale is the name of the game, and while I could go on about how incredibly jawdropping this opening sequence is, I’ll try and keep it concise: Kratos is riding on top of the Titan Gaia, and while she is scaling Mount Olympus, the player, as Kratos, is battling the minions of Olympus. This sequence is so beautiful that it really is hard to believe that you are playing a video game. The screenshots simply don’t do it justice. Kratos’ character model in particular is fantastic, and his animations are both fluid and menacing, even when just sauntering forward with murderous determination.

It isn’t until after this sequence, and the game begins proper, that you begin to get a sense of the many improvements that Santa Monica Studios, under the guidance of new game director Stig Assmussen (who took over the reigns from GoW2 director Cory Barlog, and GoW1 director and series creator, David Jaffe), injected into the series.

Kratos receives a new version of the Blades of Chaos/Athena, the Blades of Exile, and with them comes a new, and rather useful ability: the combat grapple. By pressing L1 and O, Kratos can throw out his blades, snag an enemy, and pull himself into the enemy for a devastating ram. This small change in combat is just one of the things that opens up the combat in GoW3, and makes it a lot deeper than in previous entries to the series.

Further improvements is the tweaked game design, that encourages players to utilize the different weapons and abilities Kratos earns through this final journey. In previous GoWs, I tended to rely solely on the Blades of Chaos/Athena, and very rarely experimented with the other items. In GoW3, however, I found myself mixing things up more often. This was more than likely due to the new quick time weapon switching that can be performed on the fly, and even mid combo, by pressing L1 + X.

Tying magicial abilities to the weapons also encourages experimentation, as you will learn that some magic is more effective against enemies than others.

Being that combat is the most important aspect of a game like God of War, I can’t stress enough how genuinely fun it is to engage in combat with the many different enemies in the game, all of which require different tactics in order to defeat successfully. You find yourself really looking forward to each combat scenario, just so you can play around with the various ways in which you can get creative and dispatch enemies.

Speaking of combat scenarios, the boss battles in God of War 3 are particularly spectacular, which is to be expected since Kratos is taking down the Gods in this outing. Each boss encounter feels unique, with a rather old school approach of “learning the pattern,” of the enemy in order to defeat them, and in an almost Metroid style way, Kratos will earn something to aid him in his quest with each boss downed. The puzzles are minimal this time around, but the few that are in the game are solid, with one notable standout being a rather brilliant implementation of an idea that we’ve certainly seen before, but not quite executed in the way we have here.

I won’t go into to much story details, with this capping off the trilogy, but I have to say that the team at Santa Monica took some risky chances with both the narrative, and the overall development of Kratos’ character that I thought were really wonderful. The series is brought to a satisfying conclusion, and Kratos’ story arc felt complete. While I was certainly sad to see the series wrap up, I didn’t feel cheated or short changed in any way. The plot, while  simple (Kratos is still after revenge), manages to inject some humanity into Kratos that was missing in God of War 2, and I also enjoyed how the narrative included many plot points from God of War 1, which gives the trilogy a lot more cohesion.

The audio, voice acting, and music were also top notch, so no complaints there. As a whole package, God of War 3 is one of the most impressive games released this generation, or ever, I imagine. There are truly a few moments in the game that will have you slack jawed and gaping in wonder at how Santa Monica Studios managed to pull some of this off on the PlayStation 3.

VERDICT: Buy – The visuals alone make this title worth a purchase, as it is truly a showpiece for the PlayStation 3, and this generation of hardware as a whole. The fact that the game play manages to keep what made the God of War games so fun to play in the first place, and improve upon it, adding a layer of depth to the combat that really lets the player customize a play style that works to them, is simply icing on an already delicious cake. The story is solid enough, with some great characters and genuine pathos on the part of Kratos sometimes, and an ending that is both satisfying and surprisingly poignant for an action title. It is a defining game of this generation, and one that no action game loving PlayStation 3 owner should miss.

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