Kratos is tough enough to take on the gods, but is he man enough to face the assembled video game critics in the God of War III Frankenreview?
The fifth and final chapter in the God of War story arc, Kratos takes his never-ending quest for revenge all the way to the top, teaming up with the Titans to take down the father of the gods himself, Zeus. In his own signature style, Kratos tears the heavens apart in his quest, stopping only when the chance to have sex arises. Perhaps that's why gamers identify with him so easily.
But do the game critics identify with him?
It's an overused adjective, isn't it, ‘epic'? Especially in video game critique or in those bullet-point lists that pop from the back of the box in a snazzy font. "EPIC STORYLINE" they scream, when their qualifier seems to be having the main character chatting for a bit during a cutscene, perhaps discussing their feelings or how much they hate terrorists. "HAS A STORYLINE" probably isn't as much of a sell. Nor is "THE BOSSES ARE QUITE BIG, I GUESS" when boasting of beasties to fight. God of War III is taking the word back for itself. You want to claim your game/film/novel is epic; you're going to have to go through Kratos, who will likely tear your arm off and beat you to death with the wet end, given that he's the angriest man in the history of everything. Nothing's more epic in this game than Kratos's grump.
...the story of God of War III couldn't be simpler: the game is basically about climbing a mountain to kill the man that lives at the top. The fact that the mountain is Olympus, the man at the top is Zeus, and things kick off with a boot in the face that drops you all the way back down to Hades only adds to the enjoyment. It's not BioShock, in other words, but such a loose framework has given the developer the chance to let rip with the detailing - and the detailing is beautiful stuff. True to the standards set by the previous instalments, this is a staggeringly good-looking game. Set-pieces are gigantic but artful, consumed with sweeping arcs of the camera and huge, intricate environments, while the sky overhead is latticed by flaming comets and boiling wreckage as heaven itself comes apart.
...the series' core puzzling and combat components have been meticulously refined and restructured, offering a impeccably-paced experience that pushes onward with unstoppable momentum. Sitting somewhere between the original God of War's action-heavy focus and its sequel's more cerebral adventure-heavy elements, God of War III's emphasis is very firmly on shuttling the player through the game with deliberate intensity. More than ever, the game plays out like a series of expertly-honed, rapid-fire set-pieces designed to challenge while never bringing the game to a complete, calamitous halt. While puzzling never takes a back seat to the action here, God of War II's elaborate conundrums make way for smaller, self-contained head-scratchers, smart enough to deliver a satisfying denouement but never so overwrought as to outstay their welcome.
Many games, God of War and God of War II included, had issues where the game became very difficult because your character would simply have to execute the full animation of their attack, often as you watched helplessly as an incoming attack shredded you to ribbons. There is nothing of that sort here. While the combat system has been rebuilt, the fluidity of the animation system in this game is beyond compare, making for one of the most smooth combat systems I've ever seen. In fact, when I first engaged the enemy it felt somewhat strange – gone were the little hitches in combat I had seen as I played through the two previous titles recently, replaced by silk-smooth transitions. Using other weapons in the game didn't break this fluidity. This doesn't mean the game is less difficult, just less frustrating. Again, God of War III raises the bar.
God of War III takes the biggest strides forward in its cinematic presentation, but the nuts and bolts of the combat are also more refined. If you've played the previous games in the series, you'll find everything you love about Kratos' blade-slinging style intact, but even better than before thanks to the seamless integration of items. This new equipment (usually ripped from the dead fingers of a fallen adversary) allows you to dash, stun enemies, and perform ranged attacks – and they all draw from a rapidly recharging power source. This gives you the freedom to use these versatile tools instead of conserving them, opening new combo possibilities. Used in conjunction with the sweet new weapons (I love the Cestus!) and manoeuvres (I love the ranged grab!), these additions make Kratos feel like an even more fluid and capable combatant.
This is a game that is so mighty in its expression, so loudly in your face, so boldly an advertisement of the power of the PlayStation 3, that it leaves its mark, punches its impression in your memory and seems too good to chuck. This game shows off and gets it right. It is an Olympic achievement, worthy of Kratos' burning drive.
Insert epic God of War III Frankenreview ending here.