clip_image001[4]

A fairly recent development in technology has enabled game developers to create grand and epic landscapes the likes of which were only implemented in films such as Lawrence of Arabia and Ben Hurr. The result of this was the paramount success of the video game example of a Greek tragedy: God of War. It made a character we could identify with whilst treating us to more blood and gore than is present in an abattoir slop bucket. The sequel followed a few years later with Kratos becoming more and more resentful towards the gods for betraying him. God of War III has Kratos now wishing pain and suffering on the gods of Mount Olympus and wishing to end his torment. But has the god of war fallen from grace?

The third part in this trilogy continues on literally where the last part ended; an army of titans and Kratos scaling the mountain of Olympus, hell-bent on the gods destruction. Soon after the battle, he is approached by the spirit of Athena in the realm of the underworld. She tells of her father’s fear of his own son seeking his destruction and that the way to save the world is to kill Zeus. Of course, with Kratos being the brooding little brat he is, he only cares about vengeance. It is only during the second act that things get interesting with the inclusion of Hephestus; the Smith god, and his daughter Pandora. This element attempts to steer the series back into the realms of Greek tragedy. Mind you, the first God of War was infinitely more convincing. Sure emotional bonds are formed between several characters, but nothing quite compares to the utter despair of a mortal man and his regrets never ceasing. This element does make a brief appearance later on, but there is a lack of impact. One particular scene attempts to reverse the polarities of Kratos’ persona. It just doesn’t seem feasible to have a mindless slayer of myths and legends suddenly learn the art of empathy.

God of War III is a bit of a roller-coaster from the absolute beginning. The assault on Mount Olympus begins its epic details by having you traverse the body of the titan Gaia, as enemies begin to try and invade. Things take a turn for the worse when Poseidon nosedives into the great lagoon, only returning to attack Gaia. But of course this wouldn’t be a God of War game without an epic opening battle, and Poseidon’s form is far grander in scale than the Hydra and slightly more complex than the Colossus. Essentially the whole tutorial acts like a particularly epic fight scene one would have expected from Clash of the Titans, but involving a far more convincing water effect than most digital water on a horses’ back and more modern Hollywood features. While I enjoy these sections a lot however, there were fairly mundane segments to the PS2 games. They are still present in the final part, but they are nowhere near as transparent. What originally starts as a quest for revenge, bloodlust and redemption does suddenly shift several gears and become more emotionally driven. This culminates into a segment involving wandering through the Great Labyrinth to find Pandora as we see a familiar set of challenges that resemble saving the scantily clad Oracle from the first venture into ancient Greece. One would be forgiven for thinking this was akin to a greatest hits edition as you are actively trying to save someone.

clip_image003[4]

God of War II in terms of actual combat wasn’t too different from the original, and this one doesn’t fare much better in terms of new ideas. You still chain attacks through button presses and press associated buttons when prompted by QTEs. Some things however make this game slightly fresher and a little more exciting. Secondary weapons are perhaps the most significant of the lot. Some are Staples such as the bow and arrow come back here in this form, while the head of Helios; don’t ask how he obtains this, provides light for dark places combined with a blinding a random minotaur. Grappling has also become a rather integral part of the experience and is a lot less situational in terms of usage. Then there are the new primary weapons, which include forks that can unleash the souls of your foes; Cestuses that can pummel the hardest metal known to the gods; and a whip that is imbued with the strongest power known to the gods. All of these are fairly obvious additions to the game, and I do feel as if Santa Monica studios are slowly running out of ideas.

Then I got to kill Poseidon and realised it wasn’t combat that was improved, but the sheer scale and brutality of the adventures presentation combined with the epic landscapes. Most notably, there are first person viewpoints from the victims. You get to see the pain in horrifying detail and that is powerful stuff. I would have prefered them to keep this style for all the gods though, though watching Helios having his head forcefully severed from his shoulders is probably in contention for most stomach churning demise of the century. Towards the end, things become even more caked in blood; and you also get the typical sexual encounter. Watching the QTE for this got me thinking that they thought about how to pleasure Aphrodite a little too much, as there are circular motions and waggles of the stick here. This is great for immersion, but one wonders if they took it a little too far.

One element I have always liked about the series is that the music is amongst the best around; put simply because it has made me hum the tunes in my own head. God of War III‘s score is probably their finest achievement because it is wonderfully paced and brilliantly orchestrated. Fights with the gods are epic as they are, but it is the music that really brought these to life. As already mentioned, it is also a pretty good looking game in terms of style, but it is starting to show its age. There are some rather rigid movements, and the fixed camera sometimes works against you in combat. But perhaps the biggest disappointment is that it seems to be missing a scene. The transition between the labyrinth and the final encounter is essentially a couple of short flights and a tiny bit of fighting. They could have extended this a fair bit to flesh it out.

clip_image005[4]

After completing the game, there are some challenges to be done which unlock some extra challenges. There is also trophy support and the conditions for some of these are inspired. One has you complete the entire labyrinth section without dying, while another might have you drop kicking the hounds into enemies 50 times. Scattered around the game are the typical health and magic upgrades, but also artefacts of the gods. Upon completing the game you will unlock new costumes and videos of production. Considering the time it took to create the final part of the trilogy, it is nice to see that they are willing to share their experiences during the creation process. It is also here that we can see the celebrity cameos and realise that they are the most emotionally driven of the bunch. Rip Torn is absolutely brilliant as Hephestus as he nails the completely delusional and compassionate banished god of forging. Then we have the complete contrasts of Malcolm McDowell as Daedalus and Kevin Sorbo as Hercules. Daedalus is often portrayed as a genius, but here we have a broken man whose only hope is that his son is still alive. Hercules on the other hand is normally seen as the heroic figure of Greek mythology. Here though we see that even he can be as fickle as the gods as he is but a spoilt brat who is never happy. He moans about his many trials and thinks Kratos got off easy in comparison. All these tweaks to mythology paint a very different Mount Olympus; a united and jealous society who want Kratos dead.

Whilst far from a complete tragedy, God of War III doesn’t seem to make the same impact as the PS2 prequels. One thing that is guaranteed is that the combat is as smooth and brutal is ever. While I still don’t like QTEs, the perspective changes are a welcome addition that make these a little more immersion in execution. Music is as always fantastic and the epic scale of the entire game is heads and tales above similar styles of game. Just don’t expect a great overall story or for the game to clock in over a certain timeframe. There are some elements of great plot; mostly involving bit characters famous within actual mythology, but the whole thing hinges on a desire for vengeance and brutally homing in that point. If you were as engrossed into this trilogy as I was, then seeing how it ends will be a must and chances are you won’t be disappointed with the ending too much. A fairly good rent, but paying full price for this game is a little too much, despite the sense of guilt in knowing that it took the developers 6 months to plan the first 20 minutes of the adventure.

Advertisements