Republished on Wednesday 29th August 2018: We're bringing this review back from the archives following the announcement of September's PlayStation Plus lineup. The original text follows.
God of War has, over the course of six entries, got itself into a bit of a rut. Make no mistake, each instalment has
been consistently excellent – even the maligned PlayStation 3 prequel God of War: Ascension delivered a deity destroying escapade worth experiencing – but Sony Santa Monica's distinct brand of character action has started to get tired, and the angry antihero at heart of the series just a teensy bit irritating. But the success of the PlayStation 4 appears to have caught everyone by surprise, with Xbox 360 owners – previously oblivious to Kratos' irate exploits – switching allegiance in their droves. God of War III Remastered – a spruced up edition of 2010's iconic PS3 exclusive – is a re-release very much designed with said budding idol busters in mind. But is this game still fit for the Gods some five years on?
It doesn't feel like it's half a decade old, that's for sure. The occasional muddy texture may let it down, but its spectacle can stand up to practically every native PS4 title that's launched thus far. There's almost an arrogance in the manner with which the developer flits from one set-piece to the next – many of which meander between multiple jaw-dropping moments in the very same scene. Take the introduction, which sees you battling aquatic boss Poseidon while riding atop Mother Earth Gaia, who just so happens to be scaling Mount Olympus at the time. The game's implementation of fixed cameras means that it's able to frame both personal and grand shots with ease – and when it goes big, it reaches a scale that you've likely never seen before.
The story's all over the place, with frequent franchise personnel changes meaning that the trilogy lacks the consistency of a series stemming from a single creative mind. However, there's just enough here to justify the protagonist's murderous antics, and thus the plot serves as little more than a vehicle for Kratos' vengeance. Subsequently, this is a game that's all about the journey that you take; from the pits of Hades to the scorched plains of Tartarus, it's very much a masterclass in level design, as the environments criss-cross in a way that adds density to the world, without ever making you feel like you're being forced to retread old ground. Only one latter segment, which sees you solving the world's largest Rubik's cube, tends to drag.
And that's quite an achievement, considering that this is a game that involves tapping square, square, triangle a seemingly infinite number of times. The combat in God of War has never attempted to take on the kings of the character action genre, opting for slightly more accessible combos than you'll find in Bayonetta and Devil May Cry – but it's definitely got its own flavour. Armed with the Blades of Chaos – or Blades of Exile as they're unnecessarily renamed here – you'll find yourself swinging your chained swords at a menagerie of different mythical monsters. The game keeps things feeling fresh by constantly ensuring that you're on your toes; enemies that attack from above require different tactics to those that burrow underground, and so by mixing and matching different types it's able to create a heady array of unique scenarios.
That said, you will have tired of the formula by the time that the credits roll – especially if you're familiar with the franchise in the first place. Three other weapons are introduced across the course of the campaign to add interest, but outside of the Cestus – boxing gloves branded with the face of a lion – they all function a little too similarly to the main blades. Puzzles and platforming add a different kind of pace to the experience, and aside from the aforementioned Caverns chapter, are generally successful at slowing things down. However, it's all too easy on occasion to lose sight of where you're supposed to go or what the game wants you to interact with – and the fixed camera angles can make this especially frustrating as you run around in circles trying to suss out what to do next.
But these moments are generally few and far between, and at least give you ample opportunity to soak up the outstanding artwork on display. This is a pretty rudimentary remaster, but the conversion's lack of exuberance can perhaps be attributed to the quality of the original version. Running in 1080p, this would pass for a native PS4 release in places, and the silky smooth framerate – now locked at a blistering 60 frames-per-second – gives the action an added layer of smoothness. The problem, then, is that there's little else to justify the transition; you'll find no bonus material, costumes, or content to keep you entertained here. Even the Trophies are identical.
And with the asking price on par with some much more ambitious compilations, it's hard not to feel a little short-changed. There are multiple difficulties for you to attempt – the most challenging of which is, irritatingly, not unlocked from the start – as well as a handful of behind-the-scenes videos, but these were all present in the PS3 release. A dozen or so challenge missions attempt to draw additional life out of the core combat mechanics, but won't keep you occupied for more than a couple of hours once you've beaten the main campaign. And that's more or less that, apart from a very straightforward Photo Mode which offers very little control.
God of War III Remastered delivers a masterful conclusion to Kratos' chaotic story arc – but this much was true when the original release brute forced its way onto the PS3 over five years ago. The bumped up resolution and significantly steadier framerate does improve the experience overall, but not to the point where it's worth paying almost full-price again. As such, while this remains an exceptional example of Sony Santa Monica's slick character action series, you should only really consider ripping open your wallet for this re-release if you've never experienced it before.