Monday, 29 March 2010

Click both sticks to gouge out eyes - God of War III review

Nerd confession time; I am relatively new to Sony's ultra violent God of War series, in fact 3 was the first game that I actually completed in the 5 year old franchise. I managed to miss the previous two games thanks to a broken PS2 when the original was released and being blinkered by next-gen gaming when the second came out. Had I actually experienced the games first hand I would have discovered that the lowly PS2 was pushing boundaries that even the next gen consoles weren't. Luckily for HD obsessive types like myself the original two games have had some make-up slapped on and have been shoved onto the PS3. Having finally played the games I can't help but feel I missed out the first time around. The scale of the battles and the creatures fought are impressive, even more so when the limitations of the hardware at the time are taken into account, the graphics (even before the next gen upscaling) must have pushed the Playstation 2 to it's absolute limits and the quality of the audio is fantastic, especially the music. All of these elements are what made the games completely epic, and i can see now why the second game is considered one of the best games to be released on the PS2 period.

As I said previously GOWIII was my introduction to the series, and at times I felt like I was being punished for not being loyal from the beginning, for example the plots of the previous two games are told in the form of a stunning James Bon-esque silhouette opening sequence mimicking classic Greek art. While this introduction looks amazing and is really enjoyable, unless you know what happened in the previous two games it will be hard to decipher what is actually happening. Luckily the characters have no problem in declaring their intentions as well as reminding Kratos of their roles in his previous adventures, so the experience does soften up to newcomers. Something that doesn't soften up so quickly is the combat, the learning curve is fairly steep for a first timer, although the game does give a run down of the buttons it doesn't give much insight into the vital combos that you'll be needing, and any difficulty above Easy will require more than just blind button mashing. Despite my complete lack of skill when handling muscular Greek men I found the game a joy to play, and while it's true that during my repeated failures in certain boss battles I was muttering 'worst game ever' once I'd cleared the hurdle all my frustration completely washed away.

It turns out a good cure for frustration is slicing through swathes of minions in a strangely beautiful bloody rampage. God Of War III is an insanely good looking game, raising the visual bar for consoles even higher than Metal Gear Solid 4, Uncharted 2 and Heavy Rain had previously. The opening sequence of the titans climbing mount Olympus is quite simply out of this world, the mountainous level that you start out in is revealed to be the back of a completely massive titan, the developers are clearly proud of the awe inspiring scale they have achieved and use a constantly shifting dynamic camera to really show off. Although the concept of a fixed camera may sound completely old fashioned in practice there is nothing remotely 'old school' about the way it is implemented here, the angles used are cinematic and dramatic, at times Kratos is only a dot on the screen while titans clash with the armies of Zeus, these moments are never canned and in many player control is retained. Having now played a game with such a cinematic camera it feels really unnatural to play a game with a fixed over the shoulder view, only changing for cut scenes.

Despite being part of a pretty niche genre I think God Of War III is a game that is impossible to hate. There are elements that all gamers can appreciate, the cinematography, the music, the gameplay, the graphics, the story, there truly is something for everyone in  this game. In all honesty I went into GOWIII feeling skeptical as I'm not a particularly big fan of  hack and slash games, and I felt that the series was famous only for the 'brutality' and gore it presented. Having played this game I can say that while it is true that this is a very violent end to a bloody trilogy, to discount it as shallow mindless game without first experiencing it would be a big mistake.

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