It is always difficult to keep a franchise fresh and exciting from sequel to sequel without drastically changing the formula. What were once game play innovations are now commonplace in a sea of lookalike titles that attempt to capture the magic of their competition. Yet, the risks may be too great in reinventing the formula, and the legion of fans that once fell in love with the first game may not take too kindly to an overhaul of their favorite series. The original God of War reinvented the action genre by having previously unseen production values and set piece moments paired with fluid combat and an unforgettable protagonist. The sequel only improved on the formula, maxing out the aging PS2 and standing out among a slew of more technically powerful games while still running on yesterday’s hardware. Now here we are, five years later and on a whole new console. Can Kratos recapture the throne and once again set an example for other action games to follow? In a short answer: Yes.
God of War III picks up directly where its predecessor left off. With the help of the Titans, Kratos is found ascending Mount Olympus with little on his mind but vengeance (Who would have guessed?). As he nears the top, each remaining god is shown looming over the mountain in anticipation for the encounter. Basically, the developers are lining up your future bosses and saying, “Okay, this is the order in which you will kill these dudes “. You are quickly thrown into one of the most cinematic opening battles that have ever graced a television screen. As you ride the massive flailing Gaia and fight for your life against aquatic stallions (a.k.a. Poseidon), the landscape consistently alters, throwing Kratos around like a drunken girl on a mechanical bull. There is no intermission to think or relax though, as you must continue your battle against the gods while mastering your terrain. With such an impressive beginning, it is difficult to imagine how one would keep the momentum up throughout the entirety of the experience. Yet, that is the beautiful part of this game: Not once will you be bored, not once will the experience slow down, and not once will you want to put your controller down and go outside. The first battle is only a taste of the delicious feast that is God of War III, and I sure hope you are hungry.
The combat is just as brutal and visceral as ever, with incremental differences but nothing that changes the overall feel of swinging the blades. Where the real improvement shows is in the variety of weapons Kratos has at his disposal. From gauntlets shaped like the heads of lions to a greatly improved bow that rains fiery arrows, God of War III continuously throws inventive weapon after weapon your way. You also have the ability to swap between these death-bringers mid attack, adding various combos and depth to the already exciting combat. What you really need to know is that for the first time in a God of War game you will actually use the new weapons you obtain for more than five minutes before switching back to your trusty Blades of Exile. Why? Because they are just that fun to use.
So how about the graphics? Kratos is finally attacking the power house that is the PS3, and in his usual fashion, he shows no mercy. From the minute the game kicks off all the way until the stunning conclusion, God of War III’s presentation never misses a beat. The animations are fluid, the characters are unbelievably detailed, and the frame rate is spot on. This is the best looking console game I have ever witnessed, taking the crown from last year’s beautiful Uncharted 2. Every few minutes I would have to stop and marvel at not only how epic the current scene was, but also how breathtaking it looked.
So is God of War III innovative? No. Nothing here will move the genre into a new direction or shake up the industry. It runs around the usual 7-10 hours and contains no real online component. What truly makes this game special though is that after three iterations, the formula still works and works wonderfully. It is a testament to how far ahead of its time the original God of War was. This is the pinnacle of action gaming, and will most likely not be touched for years to come. Your quest for vengeance is over Kratos, and what a quest it was.