Feb 02 2012
A long time ago, there was a game that was almost going to be the singular reason I bought a PS3. I loved the first two God of Wars, engrossed by not only the addictive combat and sheer brutality, but also bywhat I found to be an especially compelling story. The creation of a modern Greek myth could have been laughable, but Kratos was the singular most badass video game character created in the last ten years, and had an epic tale to match.
Knowing God of War III was on the horizon for the PS3, it was enough to tempt me to make the purchase. But for years I stuck with my Xbox, and never got to experience the final chapter in the saga until now. It’s my last major exclusive title I’ve put off playing on the PS3, outside of the Shadow/Ico HD pack. Does it live up to my anticipation? Read on.
I often complain with a good number of series that even if something was good once, by the third or fourth or seventh time you come around, it’s just not all that great anymore. It’s been true for games like Gears of War, Call of Duty and even Uncharted to a certain extent. God of War is somehow different, though. Even if little has changed across three console titles and two handheld games, the formula is SO good and SO fun in the moment, there’s rarely a time you can actually say the repetitiveness has made it boring.
“Another day, another centaur I have to disembowel.”
Boring, these games are not. Every battle is filled with buckets of blood, and even the slower puzzle sections will murder you if you miss a button press much of the time. You’re almost always on the edge of your seat (even if it is mostly not to miss any sporadic quick time events), and the final chapter(?) of Kratos’s story is fantastic to behold.
Not content with killing every mythological creature in existence, Kratos has turned to those thought to be immortal, the gods themselves. Kratos killed Ares in the first game, to get revenge on him for whipping him into a bloodlust where he killed his own family by mistake. But after taking his place as the God of War after using Pandora’s Box to defeat him, he was betrayed by Zeus and had to crawl his way out of the underworld to seek even MORE revenge. The last game left off with him leading a charge of recently freed titans up Mount Olympus, and that’s exactly where we pick up here.
The intro sequence says everything you need to know about what makes God of War great. You fight an entire battle on the back of Gaia, the earth titan, against Poseidon, god of the sea, who has fashioned some very deadly spider-horses out of water. It’s actually one of the most intense battles in the game, and shows they’re not afraid to heave you into the fray headfirst. It’s a fantastic intro that doesn’t hesitate to show you the full range of what’s possible when Kratos comes to the PS3.
This entire sequence had me squirming.
Yes, there’s the typical sequel-ish plot device where Kratos is cast into the River of Souls and stripped of all his godly lifebars and weapons. He does, however, get to keep his Icarus Wings and Golden Fleece, two items he worked very hard for in the last game.
The plot from here gets a little bit sketchier than past installments. The idea is to murder ALL the gods and even ALL the Titans, as Kratos’s alliance breaks down with them for unclear reasons. Ultimately, the idea is to find a mystical power that will allow Kratos to defeat the gods for good, which is locked away in Pandora’s Box once again, but Kratos now needs Pandora herself to open it, and she’s stuck in the famed Labyrinth. It turns out to be less of a maze and more of the cube from “Cube” with equal amounts of death inside. I found this quest for god-killing abilities, because long before finding this power, Kratos was ripping the heads off gods left and right, and by the time I did acquire it, Helios, Hera, Hades, Hermes and Poseidon were all dismembered at his hand. And you’re telling me I need something ELSE to help me kill gods?
Combat in the game is relatively unchanged from past installments, and it’s actually been simplified even further. There are barely any combos past holding down L1 and another button, when I seem to remember there being a good deal more before. Yes, you acquire new weapons as you go in this game, as you do in most others, but two of them are also pointy things on chains, and feel almost exactly like Kratos’s signature Blades of Chaos. And as you’ll want to upgrade his main weapon over those, you’ll almost never use them as they’ll constantly be underpowered unless you level everything evenly. The Gauntlets are back however, torn from Hercules’s hulking corpse, and they’re the most fun to use by far, if you don’t care about missing the range. Clicking both sticks when your rage meter is filled will let you have access to the magical blue sword that you and Zeus killed each other with in the last game, and you’ll be invincible for as long as you’re swinging it.
Kratos was banned from all but the most illicit boxing leagues.
There are some new enemy types, but the game has long since run out of mythological creatures and is now forced to make ones up. Sure, there are your Medusas, centaurs and Cerebruses (Cerebri?) returning, but now there are burrowing underground things that throw blades at you, and shades only visible when you flash a light at them. I must have missed those myths. The quick time event dismemberments are as gory as ever, and now with the graphics of the PS3, we actually get to see the intestines spilling out of a centaur as we gut it.
Where God of War has always shined however, has been the boss battles, and the same is true here. Fighting each god is a lot of fun, and the encounters are varied enough where no two really feel the same. They range from a mere series of quick time events (Helios), to more typical arena battles (Hades, Hercules) to taking place on top of colossal titans (Poseidon, and Kronos, who you actually have to kill despite being smaller than one of his nose hairs). They’re simply epic, and though that word gets thrown around a lot these days, it absolutely fits here.
In the end, (spoilers for a rather old game I guess), Kratos literally kills EVERYONE. Every god, every Titan, every citizen of earth, which is now under siege by plague, darkness and floods with the gods now dead who were keeping each of those things in check. Even sub character allies like Hephaestus and Pandora end up dead because of him. I think out of everyone only Aphrodite survives, as Kratos’s quick time event with her is a boots knocking sequence rather than a stabbing spree.
There is no screenshot of her where she is not fully topless, so this will have to do. Flap attack!
In the end, even Kratos himself meets his end. He acquires the power to kill Zeus after forgiving himself for the innocents he’s murdered (his family and Athena) in a bizarre dream sequence that goes on for a bit too long. He emerges on the other side with the power of “Hope” which was kept in Pandora’s box alongside all the evil craziness that made the gods go insane and want to murder him. His final act of self sacrifice distributes the hope or love or whatever it is out into the earth (in orb form of course), where presumably it will allow humans to rebuild their wrecked world. If you stay through the credits, despite being able to see daylight streaming through Kratos’s midsection, it’s implied he still lives as a blood trail leads off screen. He’s already been to hell and back twice, not to mention he’s now killed the judges of the underworld and Hades himself. I’m pretty sure he couldn’t die if he wanted to at this point.
Is this the final game for Kratos? If so, it’s the first time that a series has ended because the main character literally killed EVERYONE HE COULD POSSIBLY KILL. If there was another game, as Kratos has killed every character to ever appear in a Greek myth, god, titan or otherwise, it would probably just be him sitting at home swatting flies with his Blades of Chaos. Unless he wants to start fighting Shiva, Mohammad and Jesus Christ. Now THAT I would pay to see.
Though the story may have wobbled off path a bit, and the gameplay has actually gotten less complex over the years, it’s still impossible to deny this game is anything but pure fun like every single one of the others. Rest in peace Kratos, even if you are forever immortal.
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