It's epic and it looks amazing, yet sometimes it feels like God of War III is playing it safe with the series' formula

User Rating: 8 | God of War III PS3
The Good: Some of the best graphics you'll see on any console; incredible sense of scale creates some truly awesome moments; orchestrated music creates a very angry, malicious mood that makes ripping apart undead soldiers even more epic; new moves and powers are great for creating extensive, good looking combos; great dialogue spoken by very believable characters.

The Bad: Story starts throwing random knowledge at you as the journey nears its end; combat, despite some new weapons and abilities, is generally the same and a tad bit repetitive; not as much variety as the previous entries; story mode is too short; platforming can be clunky.

The God of War series has made quite a name for itself over the years. Known for its gruesome combat, impressive graphics, clever platforming scenarios and thought-provoking puzzles, the series must finally come to a close with God of War III. With such large expectations for the final entry in this popular series, does God of War III deliver, or does it crack under the hype?

God of War III picks up right where its predecessor left off, with the Titans scaling Mount Olympus to destroy Zeus. Kratos, who hitches a ride on Gaia, the Titan of Earth, is there to finally seek revenge on his father, Zeus, after being betrayed by him in the previous game. Of course, things don't go as planned. Zeus has amassed an army of gods to combat Kratos and the Titans before they reach him, making things a bit more complicated. It's when Kratos finally reaches Zeus that things get interesting. After striking both Gaia and Kratos off of Mount Olympus, Kratos discovers that he was being used by the Titans in order to reach Zeus. Betrayed once again, Kratos falls into hell…again…and is stripped of all of his equipment and powers.

Athena, who was accidentally killed by Kratos in the last game, returns to aid Kratos in his journey as a godly sprit, but her intentions are unclear. With no allies, Kratos decides to trust Athena, who bestows upon him the Blades of Exile. From then on, Kratos must find and defeat every god, so that he can gain their powers and finally kill Zeus.

The story, compared to the previous entries, is less complicated and fairly straightforward. You have a primary goal throughout the entire game, and that is to kill Zeus and anyone who stands in your way. There is a twist or two, but nothing substantial. It's when the game nears its end that things get a bit strange. Random knowledge is thrown at the player, and I, personally, found myself a bit overwhelmed and confused at the overflow of information.

The gameplay still consists of Kratos swinging around his weapons of choice: two blades attached to chains that are burnt into his arms. You're given a few new moves with the Blades of Exile, but combat is basically the same as previous entries. Mashing on the attack button will usually get the job done in most combat scenarios on the lower difficulties, especially once you get the lion-headed gauntlets known as Nimian's Cestus. The other two weapons that you receive are strikingly similar to the Blades of Exile, to the point where it seems as if the developers ran out of unique weapon ideas.

The game is all about combos. The longer your combos, the longer your enemies stay dazed in a state of pure confusion as they are hacked to death. Of course, not all enemies are the same. Some will require you to pull off the quick and easy directional dodge using the right analog stick, and you'll stumble upon a few enemies that are begging to be taken down by a quick time event or two, but most enemies have a pretty basic pattern that can be exploited if you look hard enough.

Kratos gains some new magic abilities as well, except some of them are pretty useless. Medusa's Head was a pretty underutilized ability in prior games, and here, Helios' Head is just plain ridiculous. The Playstation 3 allowed the developers to add some truly interesting lighting effects to God of War III, yet there are some areas where the screen is pitch black…unless you pull out Helios' Head to light your way. These moments are as fun as lighting candles in your house after a power outage. You see the darkness up ahead, and then have to dig through your inventory to get out that one item that you had totally forgotten about until this moment. Just because developers figure out they can add something as trivial as darkness to their games doesn't mean that they should if those moments are shrouded in boredom.

So, you basically know what you're getting from a gameplay perspective in God of War III in terms of combat. Puzzle-wise, God of War III makes use of a few really simple ones where you'll scratch your head for a moment or two before figuring out the solution, and one that's simply genius…but still pretty tame in terms of difficulty. Honestly, I wasn't too impressed with the majority of them, but they usually take a back seat to combat anyway, so I guess I can't really complain.

Platforming has also been somewhat of a staple in the series, and here…it's a bit clunky. You'll have plenty of really easy jumps, and plenty of really easy-looking jumps that end up being slightly frustrating. The fixed camera angles don't help either. You'll also participate in a sort of flight minigame where Kratos uses Icarus' wings to fly up and down the same area over and over again…which gets old after the first run- through…err…fly-through.

To be honest, the boss battles are pretty epic. Most of them will have you battling gods around two to fifteen times your size, and titans that make you feel like you're a flea on Shaquille O' Neal. Each fight is very engaging and brutally satisfying as most battles end with something being ripped or broken off from the body of Kratos' victim. With all of the brutal finishers and towering bosses, it's really too bad that the game only lasts around eight or nine hours. To be fair, when it ends, you'll feel like the game has pretty much exhausted all of its "epic" ammo, and while it struggles with pacing near the end of the game, it's a finely crafted journey of betrayal and revenge that you'll play through once…maybe twice if you're dedicated.

Though the first and second God of War games were definitely strong in the cutscene department, it always felt like more could have been done with the overall presentation. Not so in God of War III. It's obvious that the developers have squeezed out almost every drop of processing power that the Playstation 3 has to deliver a truly unparalleled cinematic experience. Animations look great, and the sense of scale is unbelievable…yet a bit underutilized. Kratos gets bathed in dark red blood, Helios' neck stretches and tears as its being ripped off, and intestines spill out of centaurs as Kratos cuts a hole through their stomachs. It's all incredibly gruesome…yet incredibly awesome. I honestly have nothing bad to say about the graphics…They look fantastic.

If you ever feel like you want to just beat something into submission, just listen to the music in God of War III…because once you've locked yourself in combat, the music won't let you stop fighting until you have completely annihilated whatever was stupid enough to enter your field of vision. Voices are also done incredibly well, with Kratos in particular sounding appropriately pissed off.

God of War III seems to be playing it a little safe when it comes to gameplay and variety. Honestly, besides some interesting boss fights and outstanding graphics, there's not a lot to marvel at here compared to previous entries in the series. Still, as a stand-alone game, it has a lot going for it. If you're looking for a brutal ride through hell and back…literally…then this is the game for you.