God of War III
Developer: Santa Monica Studios
Publisher: SCEE
Release Date: Out Now
Players: One
Words By:

A couple of hours into God of War III, something rather unexpected happens.

Kratos, the anti-hero of the title, son of Zeus and all-round psychopath, finds a mortal blocking his progress through the dark caverns of Hades. The mortal is clearly in distress and in need of rescuing from the ledge he is clinging desperately to, hoping not to fall foul of the fiery pit below.

As you edge Kratos closer, an icon appears above the head of the mortal, asking you to perform some kind of action. Conventional wisdom and a lifetime of playing video games suggests this action will help rescue the poor chap from his fate and allow you to progress. Itís a moment that makes you pause, mainly because you didnít realise Kratos was capable of showing compassion.

He isnít.

The act you perform on pressing the circle button is one of pure violence and hatred. Kratos deals with the problem in the only way he know, by smashing the poor soulís head repeatedly against the wall, casting him into the pit and continuing his journey.

This one act sums up God of War III perfectly. Itís a sumptuous tale of one demi-godís violent and epic journey down Mount Olympus and back up again. Itís a game that knows what its audience wants, and it doesnít intend to disappoint.

God of War III is the third instalment of a trilogy that started its life late in the PlayStation 2 era. The first two instalments were epic titles charting the adventures of Kratos as he battled hordes of the undead, mythical creatures and Gods. They were critically acclaimed and really pushed the limits of the ageing PS2 hardware. It was a cast-iron certainty that the quest would continue on the PS3.

With such a successful formula, it was always going to be interesting to see which way Santa Monica Studios developed the title for the next-gen audience. Would they stick with the tried and tested gameplay but give the game a graphical upgrade, or take the series in an entirely new direction?

Within minutes of starting the game, itís apparent that this is largely more of the same but with staggeringly good graphics, amazing animation and an epic scope. The game opens with a set-piece that left this reviewer open-mouthed in terms of its sheer scale and beauty.

Combining shades of Bayonetta, Devil May Cry and Shadow of the Colossus, the opening level sees you climbing the summit of Mount Olympus with the aid of the giant Gaia. The game engine throws around enormous characters, impressive lighting effects and dozens of enemies with barely a flicker of slowdown. The level spins and zooms around causing Kratos to cling on for his life. Itís as if the guys at Santa Monica Studios have finally found the technology to meet their vision for God of War and want to show everything they can do in the first five minutes. Itís incredibly impressive and an impossibly high standard for them to follow.

Once the novelty of the graphics starts to wear off, you quickly realise that from a gameplay perspective this is almost a carbon-copy of the first two titles. You once again control Kratos who is on a pre-determined path to the top of Mount Olympus using his blades of destruction at first, and eventually a variety of earned weapons to slay all in front of him. As before, you have no control of the camera, so you view every level and set-piece in the way the designers envisaged. Thereís no doubt that this lends a cinematic quality to proceedings, but in this era of sandbox gaming, it is starting to feel a little restrictive. Some of the levels are wondrous in terms of their artistic style, and on many occasions I was desperate to scroll the camera to get a better look.

However, one of the benefits of the fixed camera angle is that it gives Kratos the ability to evade enemy attacks with blistering agility and speed. Fans of the series have often cited this as the key reason for fixing the camera in place, after all, how else could you chain attacks and evasive moves while wrestling with the perspective?

Speed and balance of the weaponry has always been a trademark of the series and it continues here allowing you switch your weapons with ease mid-combat. Seasoned gamers will take great pleasure in learning the most effective combos for each type of enemy and upgrading their abilities through the collection of red orbs.

The key to success as always is to use combination attacks to take down the variety of mythical creatures before dispatching them with a QTE finishing move. Yes, the QTEs are back, and love them or loathe them they are as integral to the gameplay as ever. What has changed is the sheer brutality of some of the finishing moves on show, which sees Kratos ripping off limbs in gruesome detail for the audienceís Ďpleasureí.

Iím not sure if the power of the PS3 is making these moves look much more graphic than ever before, but I started to feel a little uneasy at just how liberal the violence is spread around in the game, especially the boss battles.

Partly this is due to gameís exceptional animation. You can literally see every muscle on Kratosí body straining as he tears his way through each of the Gods he encounters. But even small tasks like opening chests and pulling levers have a gravitas you rarely see in other games. All of the creatures are a delight to see in action and recall some of the finest moments of the classic Ray Harryhausen movies. Gorgons, skeleton soldiers, minotaurs et-al are all rendered beautifully with a fluidity of movement that gives them credibility. Itís amazing that this level of detail remains even when on odd occasions the camera pans right out to reveal a wider area.

To compliment their cast of characters, Santa Monica Studios have also lavished the same love and attention on the setting. Whether itís the dark and oppressive caverns of Hades or the lavish grandeur of Poseidonís House, every level is at once unique but also the perfect setting to the ballet of violence that ensues. The artistic vision should absolutely be applauded because in parts this is the best looking title to grace the PS3.

While the levels are totally linear, the action is often punctuated by a basic puzzle or platform section. These are nowhere near as complex or interesting as those found in Tomb Raider or Uncharted, but seem designed to give the player a much-needed respite from the action. The puzzles do at least have a logic to them that is consistent with your progress through the game. Relying mainly on pulling levers or pushing blocks in the correct order, there are also a few new additions that seem to have taken inspiration from Guitar Hero and Portal.

The platforming sections are perhaps a less welcome element, which are fine in principle but let down by a lack of finesse in the controls. Too often I found Kratos plummeting to his death even though I was certain I had pressed the right button. Similarly flying and climbing sections are a nice addition to the gameplay and beautifully realised, but prove frustrating due to the poor collision detection.

Where the game ultimately succeeds though is when itís you versus scores of the undead, killing everything on screen. Chaining moves together is immensely satisfying, as is feeling the ground shake as you unleash the final string of a combination. Through nearly 10 hours of gameplay you simply never tire of the action, and the addition of a new weapon or upgrade at least every half an hour keeps your interest firmly intact. You could argue that many of the best ideas and visual flair is displayed in the first act, which much of what follows struggling to keep up. Thankfully the game gradually builds to a stunning conclusion that leaves you fully satisfied with the overall experience.

Letís be honest, thereís nothing innovative here. This is not a game that will convert anyone to the series that was left cold by the first two instalments. But what Santa Monica Studios has created is the most polished and visually impressive God of War title to date.

Taking full advantage of the PS3 hardware, it regularly delights with its artistic style, epic scope, set pieces and enormous boss battles. Above all (and if we forget the iffy platform sections) itís fun from beginning to end, even if you'll feel slightly ashamed for taking such enjoyment from ripping heads from shoulders.


Best Bits

- Graphically immense
- Huge boss battles
- Wall-to-wall action
- Gruesome kill animations
Worst Bits

- The violence might be too much for some
- Platform, flying and climbing sections a bit ropey
- No significant gameplay enhancements since the PS2 era


by: Blakey

God of War III -
The Bradygames Signature Series Guide
Publisher: Bradygames
RRP: £12.99
Words By:

God of War 3 is a great game just to play through by yourself but it also has many hidden features which can be difficult to find, that's where this guide comes in. It shows you all the hidden features and how to complete each section.

This beautifully produced guide is packed with all the things a gamer will need to 100% complete this game. If you want to play through the story mode yourself without any spoilers then you can as this guide contains beautifully detailed maps at the beginning of each chapter showing you where all the goodies are located, but if you find yourself a bit stuck then it also contains a complete walkthrough of each story level, with step by step instructions to help you complete them, all illustrated with lots of glossy pictures to help you see what you should be doing, where and how.

   

As well as a guide for the story mode, there's a detailed section with an overview of each type of enemy you will encounter, a section telling you about all the weapons and attacks and combos you can do with them. For those completionists there's also a trophy guide with hints on how to obtain each and every one.

This guide caters for everyones needs and is hard to fault in terms of detailed information. This makes it a must buy for completionists, serious fans and just normal gamers alike.

click to visit Bradygames website

by: coolalien

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