The _God of War_ franchise is held by many as the pinnacle of the third person action-adventure genre, incorporating deep combat mechanics and an epic story based heavily on Greek mythology. _God of War III_ is the most recent addition to the franchise that continues the story of Kratos, a fallen Spartan general who wants nothing more than the death of the god Zeus. While every instalment of the franchise to date has been met with commercial and critical success, this is the first time I’ve had the pleasure of controlling the constantly angry and generally unlikable Kratos, and, although it’s easy to recognise all the things that this game does fantastically well, there’s an undoubtable staleness to it’s formula.
As with the previous instalments, you control Kratos from a pulled back, third person view as he cuts down hordes of enemies, with an array of different weaponry that expands as the game goes on. The combat revolves around creating combos with the equipped weapon, choosing the right weapon for the task at hand and using secondary items, such as a bow, when all else fails. With the inclusion of a magical attack, that changes depending on the weapon, and various dodge and counter moves, _God of War III_ does have a considerable amount of depth with regard to its gameplay mechanics. The problem is, when playing on the normal difficulty at least, there isn’t much of an incentive to make the most of what the game has to offer. Apart from a very few occasions, it’s possible to get through the game by simply using a handful of different attacks.
Enemies range from low level skeleton sort of things to all the major mythological creatures you can probably think of; there are minotaurs, trolls, Medusa-like snake beasts, centaurs and three-headed dogs that probably have some sort of special name I’m blissfully unaware of. While the low level enemies can be despatched by simply slicing them to bits, the tougher beasts have to be softened up and finished by way of a quick time event. Although quick time events were effectively created by the earlier instalments in the _God of War_ franchise, the formula has hardly changed; hitting the correct buttons at the correct time causes a pre-canned animation to occur, resulting in the death of whatever unfortunate creature is beneath Kratos’ blades. Granted I haven’t played the previous games but, when playing through _God of War III_, I couldn’t help but feel like I was playing a better looking version of a five-year-old game. Overall, there appears to be a general lack of innovation in the franchise’s mechanics, resulting in a somewhat dated experience for a 2010 release.
Luckily, this combat takes place on some truly epic battlefields and arenas, apparent from the outset. _God of War III_ starts with one of the best “abilitease” sections of any game, giving Kratos a fully upgraded weapon and some powerful magic as he attempts to kill Zeus atop of Mount Olympus. To get there, Kratos has enlisted the help of the Titans, gargantuan elemental beasts that are large enough to climb Zeus’ precious mountain. The battles found here, ranging from small encounters to fighting the unnecessarily massive Poseidon, take place on the back of the earth Titan, Gaia, with miles upon miles of scenery viewable in the background. The situation is truly epic and it’s this kind of scale that makes _God of War III_ unique. Unfortunately, while some later sections of the game match this scale found at the beginning, a lot of it takes place in corridors, caves and courtyards, resulting in a far more mundane experience.
After failing to defeat Zeus at the beginning of the game, Kratos falls into the River Styx and is stripped of all his abilities. From that point, Kratos must make his way back to Zeus, gaining all the necessary powers to defeat him along the way. If you made a list of all the Greek gods you could think of, the majority of them are probably in this game; most encounters with these gods result in Kratos gaining a new power that allows him to continue on his quest for revenge.
While most games have a lovable protagonist with motives pure of heart, _God of War III’s_ main character is so unnecessarily cruel and ruthless that you hardly want him to succeed. Due to the game’s structure, level progression is generally linear, with some backtracking, and there’s never any confusion over what needs to be done next.
Complimenting the entirety of the game, in particular the larger areas, is a fantastic graphical presentation. Every object is finely detailed, textures are extremely high-res and the landscapes and weather effects are unrivalled. However, what truly makes _God of War III_ one of the best looking games on the Playstation 3 is Kratos’ incredible character model. When in cutscenes and when the game occasionally zooms down to his level, it’s possible to see every tiny detail, be it in his clothes or the texture of his skin. Sound design is also top-notch with the voice work being of particular merit; while the voice of Kratos himself can be grating at times, it’s the voices that accompany the rest of cast that elevate _God of War III’s_ story to the point where it has some emotional depth.
Objectively, _God of War III_ is an extremely confident and well designed game that plays well and has no major underlying flaws. However, unless you generally enjoy the premise and characters, all the game boils down to is one combat arena after another with a few boss battles thrown in at regular intervals to reduce the mind numbing repetition of it all. The combat, although having the aforementioned depth, comes across as frustrating at points due to some cheap enemy attacks and the story feels somewhat generic, relying heavily on tales that have been told millions of times before. Of course, God of War III is no where near terrible and is regarded as the best of it’s genre. However, after reading numerous positive comments regarding the first two major instalments on the Playstation 2, I was expecting a mind-blowing, rollercoaster of a ride and that simply didn’t happen.
It all comes down to a matter of taste; while the _God of War_ franchise may not be the right thing for me, I’m sure a large majority of people enjoy it profusely. What reviewing this game has made me realise is that although a game might be a true technical marvel and have a fantastic metacritic score, it could also be the summation of everything that you, personally, despise about gaming. This is a lesson I should have learnt long ago and I therefore recommend renting, or at least trying, _God of War III_ before purchasing it; you may love it or you may hate it, just like Marmite.