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God of War III

 

God of War III

ESRB: Mature - M
Platform: PS3
Category: 3rd Person: Action
 
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9.5
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Author:

Developer: Santa Monica Studios
Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment

Features

1 player
5MB Hard Drive space required
HD video output 480p/720p/1080i
DualShock 3
Dolby Digital/ DTS Digital Surround
Blu-Ray Disc

For fans of the long running God of War series the wait for a next-gen version has been almost unbearable. The often copied franchise is one of the Sony's premiere titles, and it comes with huge fanfare. After wetting gamers appetites earlier this year with the brilliant God of War collection, Sony has finally released the much anticipated God of War III on its PS3 console. The Santa Monica developers in charge of the franchise have been known as one of Sony’s best, so the question lies: can they deliver yet another classic?

Graphics

God of War III is one impressive looking game. From the opening moment to its' eventual climatic end, it never disappoints. The game is almost entirely rendered in-game, meaning there are no pre-rendered scenes or pieces added. Combine this with the sheer amount of detail and you can tell how hard the developers have worked on this game. The backgrounds have incredible depth with vivid colours and fantastic texturing throughout. I noticed almost zero hiccups in the framerate department with little to no screen tearing. The development crew have been known to squeeze every ounce of power out of the PS2 in the past and it looks as if they are quite adept at putting the PS3 through its computational paces.

God of War games have pretty much relied on a fixed camera, but for this newest iteration the camera lives and breathes like a character unto itself. The visual presentation is clearly designed to make you think of how games of this scale should look, which this title does in spades. The sheer size and volume of the things that take up space in God of War III may well be the talk of game techies, not only for their size, but because they are fantastically detailed and drawn on the fly. The camera that is attached swoops, dips, and dodges, all while Kratos is doing his thing, impressive indeed! I should note that you do not have control over the game’s camera, but it follows the action on screen perfectly.

Character models are unbelievably rendered and look fantastic, as do the landscapes and architecture. Kratos is looking the best he has ever looked as every facial feature is mapped perfectly, from his signature frown to the pores on his skin. It seems as if the development team made sure no detail has been left out. His modestly built frame, when compared to others in the game, flexes and pops muscles with such detail you can almost feel the strength in his body.

I would think one of the most underappreciated aspects of the graphic engine in God of War III would be the lighting, but it is also one of the most impressive areas. The dynamic lighting employed in the game is only feasible through the computing power provided by the PS3's Cell CPU architecture. For example, using the High Dynamic Range Lighting (HDRL) technology, the camera, when using Krato's sightline, will emulate the human retina, causing players to feel a sharp brightness when exiting a dark area and entering a brightly sunlit area, similar to how the human eye would need to adjust. The same technology is also used in creating other incredible light sourcing throughout the game. Every weapon creates its own light source, causing dynamic shadows which cascade off of every surface and person on screen. It is a typically understated and taken for granted polish for great games which we usually see but pay little attention to. It is incredibly difficult not to notice how much time and attention to detail was paid in creating the mood, atmosphere, and incredible effects through the lighting effects.

Sound

Santa Monica Studios has always made the God of War series sound fantastic. They have gone to great lengths to capture a real cinematic look and feel for the two prequels on the PS2; and for the PS3 version you can hear how this level of high quality continues. They have hired a huge orchestra to record every single note in the game and they final product is awesome. It spikes at just the right times while inducing calm through the story driven areas. The production values are incredible rivaling the any blockbuster musical score in movies or other big name titles.

The voice acting, as always with this franchise, is impeccable. T.C. Carson has spent the last decade bringing Kratos’ angry and bitter soul to life and he does so in high def audio codec style this time. His hatred is felt through his vicious personality and actions. Along with Kratos, the various enemies are all equally voiced, making you take the effort to listen to each and every word they speak.

Not only is the music and voice work well done, the game's sound effects are equally as incredible. I could hear, with clarity, everything that was going on, from the various weapons clanging and clashing to the sound of Kratos’ chains rattling in my ear. You will literally feel the rocks and boulders fly by your head or the arterial blood spray as you slice open foes, the whole game is filled with moments like these further pulling you into its story.

I should also note how the game employs a few audio codec’s for you to choose from; of course I chose the clean 7.1 Multi-channel mix. You can also toggle the audio to do Dolby Digital 5.1, Dolby Digital Pro Logic, and stereo among a few others. Once again the result is astounding. I had to turn the late night feature of my receiver on a few times to keep the bass from getting to crazy. Gamers with any set-up will be pleased, but those with a nice surround rig will be tickled pink.

Gameplay

God of War III puts you in the role of Kratos, an ex-spartan warrior, as he scales through the intimidating heights of Mt. Olympus and the dark depths of Hell to seek revenge on those who have betrayed him. Armed with some deadly weaponry and magic for this third iteration of the trilogy, Kratos must take on mythology’s darkest creatures while solving intricate puzzles throughout his merciless quest to destroy Olympus.

The God of War series has had a long development cycle, with games spanning from the PS2, the PSP, and now the PS3. Playing all versions I have concluded that that God of War III is one of the best controlling versions to date. The folks over at Sony’s Santa Monica Studios have had the gift of time to refine and hone the already easy to use controls over the past decade. Many of the previous combos and combat systems return, with subtle changes and improvements. There are also a ton of new weapons and magical items to play with to keep things fresh. I noticed right away that trying to hack and slash through the game may not work as well as it has in the past. There are new weapons that are specific to many battles, one may work in a particular battle but may not in another. It is up to you to choose the right one. God of War III does a fantastic job of instructing you to use and swap between the various items/weapons/moves. It never feels like you are going through a training sequence, but yet you remain clearly aware of when it is best to use specific toys in your collection.

Thankfully Kratos still has his signature blades that all fans of the series have come to love. Along the way he comes into possession of extremely powerful gauntlets, and two new chained weapons. One change of note this time around is the spell system. Instead of getting magic from various gods, spells are learned and then gained from individual weapons. For example, Kratos’ standard blades summon the Spartan army in line, while the equipped gauntlets produce a massive resounding sonic wave when utilized that sends close by enemies flying through the air. Later still, you will even be able to get your hands on some special weapons like the very cool decapitated head of Helios among others.

I have to say I had a tough time reacquainting myself with the PS3 controller. It is smaller and lighter than the Xbox 360 one and it took some time to get used to it again. After this initial speed bump I found the control scheme as smooth as butter. So that being noted, my issues are more personal than a fault of the PS3 controller itself. The game flows and moves fantastically, but if you miss a button press be prepared to do it again. God of War games have always moved with a high rate of speed, and God of War III is no different as the franchise’s signature quick-time events return, but with some improvements. The button prompts now appear on screen in relation to where the buttons are on the controller. This may not be a huge change to some, but to those new to the franchise, or to casual gamers as a whole, this feature makes the lay-out of these sequences much easier to follow.

One of the new features I enjoyed is the ability to use pretty much anything in your way as a weapon. If you are surrounded or overwhelmed by enemies, Kratos can grab one of them and can use him as a battering ram to clear the way. It is fun to watch and hear enemies cry out in pain as you bash through them with one of their own. Listen closely and you will even hear the enemy you are using as a battering ram scream in pain as you bash his head in as you hit those you are trying to clear. Over the course of the game you will find many other moves and unlockables to use and plunder with.

Of course, there are a few key changes in the games setting. Because most of the game takes place around Mount Olympus, the level design feels more vertically-oriented than it has in the past. This time around it has features like the Icarus Ascent, where you use the Icarus Wings to catch wind tunnels and fly straight up, and Titan boss battles, where you fight them on the side of the mountain. These types of things give the game an amazing sense of scale and a different feel from the more horizontally-oriented prequels. The effect can be a bit wonky at times, but it is extremely effective nonetheless. I caught myself a few times thinking that it is a long way down if this boss knocks me off or if I over shot an attack. The scope and scale of the game is clearly one of the best I have encountered and it plays a big part in the overall gameplay experience.

The God of War series has always had puzzles to work through. From some easy ones to some mind bending ones that can stump the smartest of gamers, this has been another staple of the series. God of War III is more of the same here as it has many brain-busters scattered throughout, but they are never too complicated. I found myself working through most of them with relative ease. Even though they don’t test your brainpower too much, the various puzzles do provide a nice change of pace from the sometimes over the top action.

The main story can be finished in about 12 to 15 hours. I know some say that this is not too bad for single player action experience, but after waiting so long for this final chapter of the series, you really want it to last longer and it can seem short. For completionists out there, if you look for everything the game offers you may extend its life up to around a respectable 30-35 hours. While the game's trophies are incentive enough for extended play, there really is no reason to go back and play again after you have finished it once. There is also no online play, but given the story and focus on Krato's story, this is understandable. There is the promise of downloadable content, some of which is already available, such as skins or weapons, but anything else remains to be seen.


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