Kratos is back for his 4th (he also starred in God of War: Chains of Olympus for the PSP, a prequel to the series) and supposedly final installment of the God of War series. While the game is really nothing new, they have added a few very cool gameplay features and have dramatically improved the visuals, to the point where this is probably the best looking game I have ever seen. It's the classic case of "if it ain't broke don't fix it".
The God of War franchise is best known for it's gratuitous amounts of violence and non-stop action, however that would all be meaningless if not for the epic story that drives the series. You play Kratos, a Spartan who essentially sold his soul to Ares, the God of War, in order to save him and his men from certain death...bad move. With Ares holding his leash, Kratos is sent into a bloodrage killing everyone in sight, including his own wife and daughter. This breaks Kratos free of his insanity and begins a hatred for the gods of Olympus, who conveniently require his aid in bringing down the rogue God of War. With the help of the rest of the gods, Kratos defeates Ares and becomes the God of War, but he is plagued by visions and dreams of his past deeds while under the control of Ares. This ignites a fire of hatred in Kratos and he swears to bring all of Olympus down, and see his father Zeus, dead at his feet. God of War 3 is the culmination of the story and starts with you leading the charge of the Titans towards the top of Mount Olympus to enact your revenge. Will you have what it takes to defeat the God of Gods, and bring Mount Olympus crashing down?
It's very hard to formulate into words the visual experience you get from playing God of War 3. The environments are simply breathtaking in both textures, lighting and scope. Character models are beautifully rendered and even though your a big hulk of a man, make proportional sense. There is one major blemish on an otherwise perfect record and it comes fairly early in the game as you are climbing the Chain of Balance, if you keep an eye out (trust me it's very hard to miss) you'll see it sticks out like a sore thumb. I'm not sure how they managed to miss it but the rest of the game runs at a smooth and gorgeous 60 fps no matter how much carnage is going on the screen at any given time. Speaking of carnage, you will be very hard pressed to find a game that actually makes you cringe as you play it (I couldn't help but say "ow" as Helios found himself without his head as I ripped it clean off with my bare hands). Kratos has an impressive arsenal of some very cool looking weapons that allow you to take on the hordes of Olympus with a style and brutality fitting of the franchise. All that aside, the crowning achievement by far is that the game does not run any cinematic cutscenes, only in-game cutscenes so you can see the amount of care and dedication that went into making this as immersive as an experience as one can get.
An epic story deserves an equal audio experience, and God of War 3 doesn't fail to deliver. With quite an impressive voice cast (Michael Clark Duncan and Rip Torn to name a few) to support the brilliant and life-like visuals. And with a musical score brought right from ancient times, you will truly feel like you are transported to a world long past.
"If it ain't broke don't fix it" must have been the mantra for development at Sony's Santa Monica studios. While you will find nothing new or groundbreaking in God of War 3, there is plenty to keep you from putting the controller down. God of War 3 does run a little short in the amount of time it will take you to complete (I clocked 9 hours on Hard) but it offers plenty of replay value in the form of running through the game again in a different skin (a different model for Kratos, however doing so also does add bonuses and negatives) or playing through the various challenge modes. This shouldn't scare you away, quite the opposite actually as the game does an incredible job of pulling you into the world of Greek mythology. Everything you do makes you feel epic and powerful, while at the same time the stunning environments and enemies you fight do a great job of putting you in your place, puny mortal.
If there is anything that could have used some tweaking, it's definitely in the controls. While they do allow for easy input of combo's, I found myself usually getting smacked around as I pulled out my bow instead of the head of Helios to blind enemies. I also found that the controls were a tad unresponsive when it came to using the right stick to dodge, I could move the stick in a direction and about half a second later Kratos would dive. That's a pretty big window to get impaled at the end of a centaur's spear, and trust me it doesn't tickle. Something as simple as allowing the user to swap control buttons for certain actions (ie. blocking, casting magic or weapon swapping) would make a world difference. All things considered though it doesn't break the game or make it unplayable, although it does add some frustrating moments but hey we are gamers right?
Loved: The story - GoW3 has possibly one of the most epic storylines I've ever played through. You can feel the rage and sorrow of Kratos as he continually trudges forward on his quest for vengeance. And the supporting cast isn't too shabby either, my favorite moments of the game were actually watching Kratos interact with the various gods, titans and divine beings throughout the game.
Scale - This game is huge, although linear in how you traverse them, the environments sprawl out as far as the eye can see. Whether your riding on the back of a Titan scaling mount Olympus, flying through the Icarus vents using your ill-gotten wings, or just walking through the beautifully rendered environments you feel very much like a mortal in a world of the gods.
Weapon arsenal - There are some really, really cool weapons and combo's in this game. Even the basic starting weapon (the Chains of Olympus) when fully powered up are capable of some brutal attacks. As the game progresses and you attain new weapons, accessories and spells as well as using the souls of the defeated to empower them, you can pull of some pretty crazy combo's that will leave your enemies in the dust.
Boss battles - It's been awhile since I've seen a proper boss battle in a game, and it's been worth the wait. GoW3's boss battles are truly epic and deserving of a battle with a god. The battles are extremely well scripted and quite unforgiving to those who just want to button mash their way to the final quick-time event that will lead to the bosses head on the floor. Speaking of the quick-time events, button usage wise they haven't changed from previous versions of the game however they possibly have gotten more brutal with the dramatically increased visuals GoW3 provides us with.
The controls - Maybe I'm being too critical but I felt that the controls were pretty stiff and unforgiving in certain situations. Not to mention that on more than one occasion (usually while jumping from cliff to cliff) the controls just simply refused to do what I told them. On the bright side the game is very lenient in checkpoints so if it happens to you fear not, at most you'll be set back about 5 minutes. I do feel that all these troubles could have been avoided if they had allowed for some user customization of the control scheme.
GoW3 is a must play for any PS3 owner. The unbelievably epic sense of scope and unrelenting brutality of the combat makes for an incredible experience that simply should not be missed.