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An ending fit for a god

Mar 18, 2010

By Daniel Barron - G4 Canada

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God of War IIIThat ash-covered, tattooed, blade-wielding killing machine known as Kratos is back for one last adventure in God of War 3, and fans can rest assured knowing that this is a video game of mammoth proportions. It exceeds every expectation, and does what it's supposed to do perfectly. Jaws will drop and exclamations will be gasped as the ghost of Sparta takes on the most famous of characters from Greek mythology in his quest for revenge.

God of War 3 begins exactly where the second game left off, with several titans climbing Mount Olympus to get at Zeus and kill him. Kratos is literally on top of the titans' leader, Gaia, as he's on his own quest for revenge against the king of the gods.

One hallmark of this series has always been a visually mind-blowing opening sequence full of action that sets the stage for the rest of the game. In the first 'God of War' it was the three-headed hydra, in the followup, it was the Colossus of Rhodes, and in God of War 3, it's Kratos taking on the god of the sea himself, Poseidon.

Going one-on-one with one of the most powerful gods right off the bat is cool enough on its own, but the majority of the opening battle takes place on Gaia herself. This is visually far beyond what was done when Kratos traversed the titan Cronos in God of War 2. While taking on waves of enemies, players will watch the very ground Kratos walks on shifting as Gaia climbs Mount Olympus. Other titans will pass by as she struggles to fight off Poseidon, who takes the shape of a giant crab with a horse's head, and Kratos will have to climb and hang from her depending on where Kratos is in relation to her body at any given time.

God of War IIIIt's important to keep in mind that during this perfectly-executed opening sequence, there is virtually no drop in framerate whatsoever. Even with dozens of enemies on screen at once, every lash of Kratos' blades, every roll he performs, every combo he completes, is done with lightning-quick precision. The only time the action does slow down is when the developers want just that to happen, like when the camera zooms in as Kratos pulls a skeleton in half, or when Poseidon first leaps right through a section of Gaia. You'll see branches snap and water gush from the hole made in the titan.

Now, it would be all too easy to gush about just about every scene in God of War 3 and it would only be a slight exaggeration to call it one giant setpiece after another. One of the game's many strengths, though, is its story, though it would be a disservice to the series' many fans to give too much away here.

The blueprint for the God of War games isn't changed much in this third entry either. Kratos starts off with a ton of weapons, magic powers and other special abilities, but quickly loses them all. But just like past games, he'll earn plenty of powers back, all in the name of giving the player new ways of eviscerating increasingly tougher enemies.

One of the key differences in this game game is that the new weapons aren't just useless throwaways that aren't even considered as replacements for Kratos' default blades. The Nemean Cestus that Kratos earns later in the game act as a pair of god-like brass knuckles and are absolutely devastating and never lose their appeal. The Nemesis Whips that Kratos acquires closer to the end of the game are a ton of fun to use and string together combos with, and actually make a strong case as the best secondary weapon in the entire series.

God of War IIIAnother highlight of God of War 3 is the lineup of boss battles. The opening clash with Poseidon would likely be enough to sate most gamers, but there are at least three more boss fights that quite simply stand as some of the greatest to ever grace a video game. Outsiders sometimes think of the God of War games as mindless hack-and-slashers, but if there's one title in the series that can prove that idea wrong, it's this one. These fights are tough, they're scary, and they usually take place in stages. These are gods and titans, after all - why should they be easy to take down?

The areas that Kratos traverses leading up to these epic fights are extremely well thought out. A lot of the game takes place throughout Mount Olympus, and even with some slight backtracking here and there, the environments are varied enough that nothing feels like a chore. We can only imagine what a nightmare it would be putting together a level that takes place on a massive titan, but the folks at the Santa Monica studio should be commended for the level design that's so spectacular. There are no hiccups or annoying issues and as such, gamers are never taken out of this spectacular story that's unfolding.

One could argue that the few puzzles thrown in to the game do more harm than good to the pacing of the story, but that's not the case. Just as the titans only show up occasionally - and therefore are all the more amazing when they do appear - the puzzles are a way to keep players from becoming desensitized to the action happening onscreen. They're tricky but never unfair, and many actually don't need to be finished in their entirety - doing so is only for those completionists who want to earn every last powerup item and red orb.

God of War IIIAs great as the graphics and musical score are, the voice acting is just as solid the third time around. Rip Torn does a fantastic job playing a tortured soul stuck in Hades, while Kevin Sorbo does amazing work voicing a particular memorable character. Fans of the series will be plenty happy when they hear him.

It's well-known that this is the final game in a trilogy and with such a storied history, the ending has to live up to the hype, and though it's sure to polarize fans, the team that worked on the game hit another home run here. After another memorable final battle (one that's better than 'God of War 2', in fact), Kratos finally gets a chance to show a different side of himself ... on that will directly affect the world around him forever.

When the game is finished, there are of course the many unlockables to sift through, from tougher difficulties, to new costumes, to videos and challenge rooms - plenty to keep gamers busy.

With the precedence that the first two 'God of War' games set, the third and final act had to be nothing short of spectacular, but that's exactly what it is. The most minor of gripes can't even pretend to overshadow any of the countless positives the game presents.

This is a must-have for any gamer.

 

God of War III
Format: PlayStation 3
Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment
Developer: SCE Santa Monica Studios
ESRB Rating: M for Mature 17+
Official Site: http://www.godofwar.com

Rating: 10 / 10

 
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