maanantai 17. tammikuuta 2011

REVIEW - God of War III (2010)

Genre(s): Action
Released: 2010
Available on: PS3
Developer(s): SCE Santa Monica Studio
Publisher(s): Sony Computer Entertainment
Player(s): 1

A pre-determined end to a gamer's favourite is always a tough job to handle. Some people think every game should leave room for a sequel. Nowadays, it doesn't really matter if they don't. The Metal Gear series ended with Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots, but still, we got another prequel in Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker, and now we've got the spin-off Metal Gear Solid Rising coming up. God of War II made it very clear that the major part of the God of War series would be a trilogy. Not long after God of War III's release, the PSP title God of War: Ghost of Sparta was announced, but God of War III still remained the final game in all our hearts, just as Metal Gear Solid 4 before it - it doesn't matter how good the handheld games are in quality, it's the stories we've been following on the big consoles ever since these franchises were conceived that really matter. Metal Gear was epic, but with the release of God of War and God of War II, the meaning of the word changed completely. What happens when we shift gears to the PS3 and take on God of War III? We've got the gods of Olympus on this side, ancient titans on that side, and a deranged, vengeful mortal we most love to hate in the between. Make no mistake, this is one epic battle you won't soon be forgetting.

In the end, there will be only chaos

TC Carson : Kratos
Corey Burton : Zeus
Susan Blakeslee : Gaia
Erin Torpey : Athena
Natalie Lander : Pandora
Rip Torn : Hephaestus
April Stewart : Aphrodite
George Ball : Cronos
Malcolm McDowell : Daedalus
Clancy Brown : Hades

Kratos' vengeance against Zeus is nearing completion, as he leads the titans to tear down the sacred Mount Olympus. Always one step ahead, Zeus devises a counterattack, which prompts Gaia to abandon Kratos and allow him to die, on the behalf of her personal issues with the gods. Enraged but practically helpless, Kratos meets an old friend in the underworld, who surprisingly shares Kratos' burning desire to destroy Olympus. Armed with a new set of blades and a will strong enough to break through grey stone, Kratos once again cheats death to exact revenge on all those who have betrayed him, including the selfish titans - being fully aware that his actions have the potential of bringing upon the end of the world.

A video game has never been - and I must say I don't believe a video game will ever be - as poetically epic as God of War III. In 2005, we got this awesome, gruesomely violent video game called God of War, starring a suicidal maniac who was hired by the good gods of Olympus to kill their renegade brother Ares. Kratos was never a likeable being. He didn't save damsels in distress. If they got in his way, he let them out of their misery. If innocent blood had to be spilt in order for Kratos to make progress, he did it without any hesitation. Why? Because in his dark past as a servant of Ares, he had murdered his wife and child. The images of their corpses were forever burnt into his deranged mind. To rid HIMSELF (and I wrote that in caps with a purpose) of his visions and nightmares he had brought upon HIMSELF (again), he became a champion of the gods. To kill Ares was supposedly his final duty - after accomplishing this seemingly impossible task, Kratos was promised to be released of his nightmares. Gods have the power to do that, right? Wrong. The gods played with Kratos and dropped him a loophole bombshell: they promised to forgive him for his sins, not rid him of his nightmares. Wow. What a practical reward to a mortal for killing a god. This is exactly what Kratos thought when he decided to take his own life. The gods, however, could not even let a man commit suicide in peace. By the gods' decree, Kratos ascended to Mount Olympus as the successor of Ares, the new god of war.

The hand that rocks this cradle.
In God of War II, Kratos had become even worse than an arrogant, murderous mortal - he had become an arrogant, murderous god. His fellow gods on Olympus knew his weaknesses, most of all Zeus, who orchestrated a clever betrayal on Kratos. He drained him of all his godly powers and killed him. This time, there was no escaping death for Kratos. Zeus saw to that - but he wasn't able to foresee an intervention by the titans, the fathers and mothers of the gods, once betrayed by their kin and forever doomed as slaves. Gaia, the leader of the titans, offered Kratos another chance at life, if he would aid the titans in conquering Mount Olympus. What Kratos needed to do was travel back in time, first to overwrite his untimely death, and then get the army of titans from a time they still were able to fight. Kratos managed all of this, but could not kill Zeus. Just as he was getting ready to give Zeus one final blow, his only ally on Olympus - but also the daughter of Zeus - Athena, took the final cut for her father. During her dying speech, Athena told Kratos that Zeus is his father. Oooh, The Empire Strikes Back! Knowing this, Kratos became even more pissed. He went back in time as he promised to gather the army of titans, and led an attack against Olympus. And that, my friends, is exactly where God of War II ends and God of War III begins.

Kratos kind of redeems himself here. He's not quite the bad-ass we've grown accustomed to. He tones down a little as far as his arrogance is concerned, and he actually shows compassion in this game... as long as he's not provoked. Yeah, but really, Kratos actually thinks of some other LIVING people besides himself during the game - imagine that. Well, with Kratos' character in God of War II the developers pretty much reached the bottom in human nature, so it's only fitting for him to be a little more likeable than ever before. But that's a little, mind you. The stuff he does in this game... everything he did before with the purpose of shedding blood was child's play. I'm serious, even I felt nauseated by some of the violence. That's never happened before! Oh yeah, and if you're wondering if Kratos is still every bit as immoral as he was before despite an occasional step into his soft zone: how does rescuing a beautiful maiden, just to make her body a human wedge to jam a loose gate mechanism, sound? Or killing a man who has just lost his home and family in a fire, just because he's in your way? Or systematically destroying Greece just because YOU don't come along with the gods, ultimately because of a crime YOU committed? Yeah, this is God of War III, baby. It's Kratos vs. the gods vs. the titans in a triple threat match to the death.

On the surface, God of War III looks like an apple from the same tree as the God of War Collection on the PS3. There's not much real differences. However, even the cutscenes look perfect this time around. All aspects of the graphical display are not perfect - the facial modelling, for example, is not quite what is usually expected from the PS3 in this day and age. However, before you go judging the game any further, just look at it - FEEL it. Imagine how long it takes from any developer to create a dynamic playfield which is actually the body of a colossal titan scaling a mountain, and do it well. Also imagine creating a boss fight with a dozen different phases, in which your adversary's full form wouldn't fit a total of four or five TV screens. Believe me, God of War III looks magnificent. Screw the occasional dorky faces, and behold all this Greek beauty and the size of everything.

The music's the same as always, just a tad more haunting, diverse, and even more interesting than before, perhaps. The voiceover work is absolutely fabulous and in this sense, the first two games are completely outdone. However, almost everyone has a different voice actor than before, which is a little distracting - most of these people were part of the cast in the PSP handheld God of War: Chains of Olympus, which is referred to a lot during the game. A bit too much in fact, for people who've not played the game - for example, me. TC Carson and Corey Burton are here to represent as the central characters of the game, while Erin Torpey replaces Carole Ruggier as Athena, and Susan Blakeslee (the Oracle of Athens in the first game) replaces Linda Hunt as Gaia. Strangely enough, Hunt's still the narrator. Horror legend Adrienne Barbeau nails it as Hera, Rip Torn himself makes his presence very known as the ill-fated smith god Hephaestus, and Clancy Brown does his very best Kurgan schtick as the lord of the underworld, replacing Nolan North. Malcolm McDowell, who has clearly taken a liking to voiceover work, rocks as the inventor Daedalus. So it's a starry night on Olympus... you want more? Well, as the ultimate tribute of all time, Kevin motherfuckin' Sorbo makes a special voiceover appearance as the character he made famous years ago, Hercules, and everyone's least favourite hobbit Elijah Wood does an uncredited cameo, saying perhaps one or two lines during the game. Before, it was all about Kratos. This game is much more character-driven than any other God of War title. And it's a good ride... storywise, the best God of War (thus far, I guess). As a game, it's of the guaranteed God of War quality. Not better, or any worse than its predecessors.

No guts, no glory - right, General?
The game begins, just like any other title in the series, with a nearly hour-long intro sequence, during which all of Kratos' stats from God of War II are maintained. Not all of his abilities, though - for example, he can only use one sort of magic. The basic control scheme hasn't changed much, but the abilities themselves have, and as you will soon discover, mana use is very different this time around. It isn't your concern during the intro, though. You will have to face two bosses during the intro, the first one's a persistent little cuss that appears to disrupt your progress every now and then, before giving you way to the big cheese. This is where you will first discover a taste of just how violent this game is going to be. There are no identical boss fights in the game. The QTE scheme has changed so that with a little practice, you can actually keep up with what's happening - you just need to see which side of the screen the button appears, to be able to deduce which button you are supposed to hit. This is really cool, mostly due to the fact that you absolutely don't want to miss Kratos' violent ways. Whether it's using your bare hands to dig out someone's eyeballs or mauling a guy's face until there's no face left, or painfully provoking a titan by pulling out their acre-sized fingernail, or using all of your brute strength to rip a guy's head off his shoulders while he's still alive and screaming... there's nothing missing from Kratos' repertoire. As tradition goes, there's always time for little Kratos to do a job as well. The classic sex minigame in God of War III could almost be categorized as a boss fight! It's completely optional, yet rewarding... in many a sense. Believe you me, there will be blood. And boobs.

In the end, Kratos will have eight different weapons at his disposal, three of which are categorized as special items. There's a set of boots which allow you to run along certain walls, an item which is kind of a divine flashlight to light up dark areas as well as reveal secrets, and an otherwise typical bow, but equipped a charge attack that can light enemies on fire. These special items have their own yellow meter, which is maxed out with a new set of collectables dubbed the Minotaur Horns.

All the different magic attacks are connected to the weapons. The Blades of Exile are most certainly the choice weapons for God of War veterans. With these, Kratos may summon the wandering souls of the Spartan army to deliver a crushing counterattack to enemies. Claws of Hades are similar to the Blades, but harder to use for direct action. With these, Kratos can summon souls of different enemies to deliver single attacks against his adversaries. The Nemean Cestus is the shite - it's a set of two gigantic gauntlets which do devastating unarmed damage. As a magic attack, Kratos rams the gauntlets against the ground to push enemies back. The Nemesis Whip is the ultimate weapon in the game - although it's pretty much up to you which weapon you want to use. The Nemesis Whip is similar to the Blades and the Claws, but it's electric, and it has several small swords attached to its two ends, which you can constantly rotate to deliver some slicing good time to your enemies. Non-surprisingly, you can electrocute your enemies with a chain lightning while you have the Whip equipped. In God of War II, the existence of the secondary weapons was all but secondary - in this game, it really does matter. The Blade of Olympus is now all but a special relic, useable only during a Rage state, this time dubbed Rage of Sparta. It should be noted that this Rage state is the weakest from all of the games - you don't do a whole lot of extra damage under the influence, and its duration is pathetic. It's only good for preserving your health, since you don't take any damage during a fit of Rage.

Kratos' ability to swing enemies towards their comrades is gone, and replaced with the "battering ram", which has Kratos grab a small-timer and use him as a shield as well as a weapon against others. My favourite wall-climbing combat ability is also gone, the one which had Kratos grab a dude by the neck and smash his head against the wall. Instead, he can throw them upwards, at other enemies descending down on you. You can now rotate any moveable object, which makes the already tricky puzzles that much trickier. There are less puzzles than before, but they're extremely cool. One pays tribute to the rhythm game phenomenon which had the world in its tight grasp not so long ago, and one's a gigantic puzzle cube straight out from The Cube, filled with many rooms that each have their own riddle based on 180 degrees to solve.

You took a nasty fall there, Helios. Let me give
you a nice neck massage... Kratos-style.
In addition to the mentioned Minotaur Horns, the classic Gorgon Eyes and Phoenix Feathers are still present, but there's not much else besides but tons of red orbs, which you will certainly need if you're aiming for the Maxed Out Trophy. It's not as easy as it sounds, since even if you start a new game on the same difficulty, your equipment and stats will not be carried over. Of course, you can always use Godly Possessions, which replace Urns of Power in this game as the overpowering collectables. However, as the game clearly states, if you activate even one Possession during a playthrough, even if it isn't connected to your agenda in any way, Trophies will be disabled for the rest of the game. Which is pretty damn frustrating, and a bit of an unfair way to keep someone playing the game over again and again with the purpose of absorbing each and every red orb available. They should've come up with a little more interesting environments if they were going to force feed the game.

I can imagine the bosses and other famously colossal parts of the game take up a LOT of space. That's probably why there are not much "stages" in the game. You practically move between Hades and Olympus all the time and you'll find yourself returning to the same spots over and over again, while in the first two major titles you just kept on pushing forward, practically never looking back. The amazing boss fights do compensate for a lot of the occasionally setting boredom, though - trust me, you think you've seen it all, but you haven't. Not in any game. You thought the steel colossus in God of War II was pretty cool, huh? Or the giant Zeus? Wait 'til you get a load of what God of War III has in store. I sincerely never thought to see boss fights this visually gratifying, violent and epic in my lifetime.

The camera's still a bugger. The cinematic side's OK, but during gameplay, many different problems rear heads. Some enemies have the annoying tendency to trap Kratos in a corner in the far dimension of the screen, and on many occasions your vision is completely blurred by a horde of enemies - you simply can't see whether you're able to block attacks. You might be lying on the ground getting mauled, for all you know. The camera angle doesn't change even then. Sometimes if you get too close to the opposite ledge while jumping, Kratos refuses to execute the double jump/glide combination for some odd reason, and falls down to his death, which can be pretty damn frustrating. Oh well, at least every small bit of narrow walkways was eliminated - knowing Sony, they would've taken the dumb way out and utilize the Sixaxis controller's motion detector, learning nothing from all the criticism towards it and ruining a small part of a great game.

The flying sequences along the Chain of Balance, the gateway between Hades and Olympus, are truly challenging, but to some degree, they suffer from the camera angle as well. There are really narrow gaps for Kratos to fly through, and they are unnecessarily hard to see with all the debris falling down and Kratos himself lodged in the middle of the screen in more than a medium size. It's all too much trial and error for my taste.

Still unpleasant, still cool.
That's about it for the pros and cons of God of War III, though I have to mention one more time, that promoting God of War: Chains of Olympus and the PSP itself so blatantly was a lame move by Sony. There are many instances in the plotline that point to events I remember never happening in the series; of course I don't, since the events took place in Chains of Olympus. I've grown to loathe PSP exclusives because of their ultimately strong ties to major titles, such as this. Dear Sony Computer Entertainment, it's not our fault the PSP's sales don't match up to your flagship - why do you keep annoying us fans with exclusives that are crucial parts of the franchise's storyline? First, it was Metal Gear. Then Assassin's Creed. Then God of War. Then, as a bonus, Kingdom Hearts. When will it end? Oh, well. It's easy to catch up with the missing parts of the story - just not being able to play them pisses me off.

God of War III is a fairly difficult game. Not quite the buttered up butt madness that God of War II was at its very worst, but fairly difficult. I made the mistake of forgetting how hard the God of War games can be, and coldly started off on Titan Mode (Hard), without any sort of warm-ups besides the playable demo of the game. I made it to The Caverns, which is about four hours into the game, and took the raping of a lifetime before I realized I really should start over on Normal. I got past the bit already on Hard on my second playthrough, but I can pretty much point out the spot where my game will unceremoniously END. I'll just have to see how far I get! The boss fights aren't that hard, they're meant to be enjoyable. Once you learn the basic strategies, which are sometimes quite tricky to figure out, you'll have next to no problems, you can just let it rip and then enjoy the QTE show. I bet there is no boss fight which you wouldn't enjoy in this game! At least three of them are just one or two levels above all the rest. The game comes complete with a set of 36 Trophies, some of which border on impossible. The notoriously difficult challenges are harder than ever, and personally, I won't believe beating the game on the hardest difficulty setting is humanly possible before I see it.

Lesbian maids be gone. The goddess of love
has some personal business with Kratos.
Other rewards for beating the game besides Trophies and good spirit - soon to be utterly destroyed by the seven challenges - are astounding. There's a series of extremely interesting making-of films that could easily be compiled to a DVD - which they apparently have been, in the U.S.. Not only is it a series of director Stig Asmussen praising himself and completely disregarding exiled series creator David Jaffe's efforts, it shows what it's really like to make a game, all the way from visual design to recording the voiceovers. The down- AND upside to the voice acting bit was that I was really distracted by Natalie "Pandora" Lander's cleavage. I didn't hear a word she said. Maybe I'll watch it again... and again.

God of War III is one beautiful game that you simply must experience, double that if you enjoyed the first two major installments in this innovative series of extremely violent and epic action extravaganzas. It does have some flaws which I hoped and believed to be filtered out of the scheme after the brand's transition to the PS3, but its best moments fully compensate for any of its "petty grievances". Who cares if hitching a ride hanging from the talons of a Harpy is totally corny and far fetched, and doesn't play out very smoothly either, when we have moments that will literally take your breath away in both visuals and combat strategies? Not many games are capable of inflicting that sort of reaction - but this was exactly what was expected of God of War III. And it delivers.

Graphics : 9.5
Sound : 9.5
Playability : 9.1
Challenge : 9.0
Overall : 9.0


GameRankings: 92.04%

Art director Ken Feldman has stated that it would require two PlayStation 2 units just to load the new model of Kratos.

The website address attached to the Platinum Trophy King of the Hill ( is actually a link to the teaser site of God of War: Ghost of Sparta.

Harry Hamlin, who voiced Perseus in the previous game, played Perseus in the 1981 movie Clash of the Titans. In a similar fashion, b-actor Kevin Sorbo who voices Hercules, is most known for his role as Hercules in Hercules: The Legendary Journeys, a cult TV show which ran for six seasons from 1995 to 1999.

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