When we look back at God of War III, we will remember it for containing Kratos’ low point. In his gaming career, he has slaughtered demons, monsters, mythological beings, his own family, and creatures too large to comprehend. There is one thing though he had never before conquered, even though most of the 10-year olds across the country have with their eyes closed: Guitar Hero.
Yes, God of War III pits Kratos against one of the most inept, ridiculously absurd, and wanting challenges of his life, an ancient Greece version of the popular rhythm game. It sticks out mostly because at that point the game is still suffering from a pacing lull after an opening battle that dwarfs every confrontation from the previous games. Thankfully, after a brief bout of Guitar Hero 300 B.C., Kratos battles Hercules.
Here is where is where God of War III is able to find its legs. This is a struggle worthy of Kratos’ raw anger, a fantastic rumble that involves complete mutilation in order to achieve victory. Hercules is massive, and while not as intimidating as the Titans from the opening, his raw strength has him tipping an entire concrete floor in an attempt to drop Kratos from a ledge.
As for the aforementioned opening sequence, it pits the miniscule Kratos against the towering Poseidon. Multiple Titans are climbing a mountainside, rocks are falling from above, and all the while Poseidon is sending monstrous water horses through the frame.
Even though the player is not in control of the hero at this point, they will find themselves watching breathlessly as Kratos whips his chains with the dynamic camera tracking his movement. It is a masterpiece of gaming cinema. As the virtual camera pans out revealing the ridiculous scale of it all, it accentuates the player’s power, delivering unsurpassed satisfaction as the battle continues to progress.
Combat in the game is expanded, not necessarily improved. Any adjustments comes from the additional hardware specs, giving the famous chains an additional flow and smoothness. Enemies carry better reactionary animations, and while they do still stand there while incomprehensible amounts of blood pour from their bodies, once in a while they show their weakness and flinch. Richer, fuller animation is something this series needed, even if we never knew it before.
God of War III likes to toy with its combat, adding a first-person viewpoint of a Kratos’ victim. The difference? In a previous console generation, Kratos would carry a single facial expression, here you can see the ferocity, that anger that has been building for three games. It is unimaginably violent as you see him strain and hear him grunt as he uses everything he has left to smash your face into the ground.
This is undoubtedly an angrier protagonist than we have seen before, as if that was believed to be remotely possible. Kratos does not even use two hands to open a chest anymore. He does not have time, which makes his intense story arc seem misguided until the pacing is allowed to breathe in the second act. Much of the early level design is a basic block pushing/lever pulling mundane experience, peppered with closed arena battles that GoW III tends to fall back on too often.
While much of GoW III will seem familiar, the series has existed, from the beginning, to send your jaw not just to the floor, but through it to the basement. There is no question this entry has that capability, whether in the sheer shock value that Kratos is playing Guitar Hero, or that he is fighting a Titan inside and out.
The latter is a staggering, unforgettable level wide brawl. Kratos begins on the Titan’s arms, disgustingly popping various skin problems, before being swallowed in spectacular fashion. Being who he is, Kratos does not stand for being eaten, working his way out of potential digestion as only he could. It is a moment you will not forget, even though you may want the insanely gory imagery out of your mind soon after.
God of War III is rated M (Mature) by the ESRB for Blood and Gore, Intense Violence, Nudity, Strong Language, Strong Sexual Content.