It’s no surprise that God of War III should end up representing PlayStation at its very finest. The previous entries in the mythological series achieved things seemingly impossible on the PlayStation 2, and God of War III extends on that prowess. From the rip-roaring spectacle of the opening 60 minutes right through to the ultra-stylish conclusion, Kratos’s last hurrah is a marriage of refined combat mechanics, perfectly prepared puzzles and the kind of technical showcase that sees you ripping the head from a water horse while riding a Titan to the summit of Mount Olympus.
Picking up directly after the conclusion of the previous game, God of War III once again puts you in the shoes of the antagonistic anti-hero, Kratos. Having been subject to an arc of betrayal and abject wrongdoing, the Ghost of Sparta seeks compensation for the corruption of the Gods of Olympus and their wrongdoings against him. So, as per the end of God of War II, Kratos takes to the back of the Titan Gaia — Mother Earth – in pursuit of vengeance from his father, Zeus, and the other Olympians.
What follows is a spectacular adventure planted firmly in the traditions that have made the God of War franchise a success. The combat’s familiar yet refined, the puzzles are rewarding and the entire spectacle goes above and beyond anything seen on the PlayStation 3 to date. It’s a showpiece.
God of War III sets out its stall within the opening 60 minutes. In that time, you’ll be privy to developer Sony Santa Monica’s unrivalled technical genius: on Gaia's back you’ll experience a multitude of jaw-dropping set-pieces, all expertly framed. The developer is unafraid to move the camera in and out, giving the sensation of unrivalled scale while you maintain full control over the action.
While we’ve picked out the opening hour, the reality is that God of War III never stops impressing. Short of a slow section leading up to the conclusion, the game’s constantly amazing with new visual spectacles. It essentially makes all other games look tame, purely because the scale of God of War III’s ambition is legitimately unmatched.
But it’s not just the spectacle of God of War III’s gameplay that impresses: it manages to set an entirely new benchmark for visual fidelity in the process. The character model of Kratos is perhaps the most staggering of its achievements, showing every facet of the character’s ugly detail when the camera pulls in close.
The art direction is stellar throughout, with God of War’s mythological realm rendered in stunning detail. There’s tangibility to the world that’s a testament to the strength of Sony Santa Monica’s art department, and it’s reflected across the entirety of the campaign. It’s also one of the more stylish entries in the series, championing some of the hard work achieved by God of War: Chains of Olympus developer Ready At Dawn, as the trilogy lurks towards a satisfying, brutally unexpected conclusion.
Strip away the presentation and it’s easy to criticise it for being “just another God of War game”. But while you’ll still be using Kratos’s chained blades to hammer out combos and reap the reward of any ensuing red orbs, developer Sony Santa Monica has attempted to shake things up by including a fresh roster of complimentary weapons. And for the first time in the series, switching makes sense.
Giant melee fists provide a slow and powerful approach, whilst chained claws allow you to summon spirits to aid you in battle. Unsurprisingly the franchise’s chained blades remain the most satisfying method of punishment, but you'll find yourself switching between attacks with more regularity than in previous releases. And it’s not just the new weapons that add a marked improvement to combat, but also new items such as Helios’ Head, which allows you to stun foes and search for secrets in the game’s environments.
While the pacing never quite reaches the subtleties of its predecessor, it still includes some wonderfully creative puzzle scenarios to mix up the action. Labyrinths and garden mazes provide the backdrop to a slew of testing challenges, where you’ll need to consider perspective and resources to succeed. There are fewer small puzzles than in previous games, leading to bigger, more creative conundrums when they arrive.
The scope of these puzzles can be off-putting at times as you wrangle with the camera and Kratos’s restricted move set hoping to happen upon a solution, but the satisfaction attached to your eventual progression is worthwhile; there's almost always something spectacular waiting around the corner to feed your perseverance.
It’s in longevity that God of War III is most open to criticism. Boasting little more than ten hours of gameplay, and with little replay value, the game can seem a difficult investment for those with limited budgets. But what it lacks in length it really does make up for in spectacle. Quality rather than quantity is an appropriate statement, and while it perhaps teeters on the short side, the game never outstays its welcome.
As with previous titles there's a Challenge mode, which demands you to explore the combat system to an even deeper degree than in the main campaign, and a helping of behind the scenes videos which make for enjoyable viewing once you’ve beaten the game. Let's not forget the new costumes to discover and unlock, each of which has unique properties to alter the game in intriguing ways.
God of War III doesn’t venture too far away from the franchise’s blueprints, but it elevates what’s already been established to a new level. The game brings Kratos’s story arc to a satisfying – if abrupt – conclusion, and it does so with unparalleled artistic flare and technical vigour. While the combat system remains largely unchanged, the introduction of new weapons extends upon the offensive possibilities, and the inclusion of new foes ensures that the familiar mechanics remain fresh. But it’s in the presentation department that the game truly astounds, crafting a campaign that’s visually on an entirely different level to everything else available on the PlayStation 3.