Usually I’m pretty on the ball about getting reviews of games out when the game is still extremely fresh. God of War III is a huge title for the PS3 and has been out now for half a month or more, but no review from me yet. That’s because I wanted to actually play this one myself since I had a free game rental and I figured it wouldn’t take me that long to actually beat the game. I rented the game, headed over to Other Chris’ house, and spent nine and a half hours beating God of War III. You already know if you’re going to buy it, and other reviewers have already done their job of telling you how great it is. Now it’s my turn, and lucky for you, I didn’t love the game. In fact, I have a ton of gripes about it. Should be fun reading! So let’s get started, shall we?
Warnings and Disclaimers
There are really two games to review here: God of War III Beginning to End of Cronos Fight, and God of War III Post-Cronos Fight to Ending. The first two-thirds of the game are a solid A+, 5 star, 9/10 game filled with amazing battles, light puzzles, and above all Epic Everything. The last third of the game brings the whole package down to around a D. That’s how bad the resolution was and it all comes down to pacing, story, and the inability of the developers to know HOW to resolve something of this magnitude. I’m going to attempt not to ruin plot points, but I’ll have no choice, so here’s your warning of a spoiler:
BIG SPOILERS INCOMING!
Oh, and before I continue, let’s get something very straight right now: I don’t care what YOU thought about God of War III. This is what I think about God of War III and just because I believe one thing doesn’t mean your enjoyment of the game is being challenged. That said, any comments I do get about how I “Didn’t get the game” or “Am completely wrong,” will be approved but followed with an extremely vicious counter argument that will inevitably include the phrase, “Just shut up already.” Okay, done with disclaimers, let’s have some fun nitpicking!
Gaming Out With the God of War
As I mentioned, I beat the game in roughly nine and a half hours on the Normal difficulty setting. I’ve heard stories that people have been beating it in under six hours, so let that be an indicator for how long the game is. If you want an even bigger spoiler now, you have no reason to purchase this title unless you really, really loved it during the rental period and feel like you’ll want to play it again. There’s absolutely no problem with wanting to own the game, but I’m just telling you now, one playthrough is about all most people will ever want, so $60 is a steep price point.
In those nine and one half hours I died maybe two dozen times. I’m ballparking that figure because I didn’t keep perfect count, but I remember it asking me at least three times if I wanted to lower my difficulty level and that only happens when you die five times in a row. The reason for those deaths are as follows: Maybe six deaths against Poseidon in the beginning of the game due to learning the controls again, seven or eight deaths attempting to platform as fast as Hermes wanted me to, eight or more deaths trying to fly down the Chain of Balance with controls that didn’t work for a sudden flight simulator in my God of War game, one death against the final boss because I got bored, one death against Cronos due to me being stupid, and the rest coming as a result of me trying to make a simple jump across a small chasm but having my double-jump glide ability not work, meaning I unceremoniously fall to my death for no reason. If you look at those numbers, that means the majority of my deaths were a result of God of War III thinking it needed platforming elements but not knowing how to do those very well. Other times I’d happen to die because the jumping the game wanted me to do had a critical platform obscured by the camera, meaning I’m nervously leaping, hoping I don’t die and when I do die, hoping that the previous checkpoint is right at the ledge I jumped from, which turned out to be the case most of the time.
I wouldn’t say I’m bad at the game by any means. I wouldn’t say I’m a master, but I know what I’m doing. I learned the most effective move was usually a spam chain of grappling towards enemies with a shoulder thrust and upon slamming into them, repeating the grapple in a new direction until everything was dead. There were some incredibly fun boss fights, but most of the regular enemies just started to bug me and grow tiresome, particularly by the end of the game. It seemed that the best challenge the game could throw at me was just dumping more of the same enemies on my head rather than think of something new. Oh well, at least the bosses were fun.
Or at least, the bosses up through Cronos. You’ll hear me say that again and again because that is the absolute highlight of the game. In fact, you should just stop playing the game after you’re done with that segment because the game doesn’t come anywhere near being good after that. Glitches became far more frequent, such as save points getting very finicky and unresponsive, and one boss having a glitch where its weak point was exposed but it wasn’t taking damage anymore because the texture of the weak point hadn’t gone away but the weak point had, if that makes sense. That glitch caused me a few deaths. Even worse, textures stopped looking as nice, the game’s layout began to decline heavily, and nothing of interest happened after Cronos and I had words. Words spoken with my fists.
Probably the biggest and most obvious glitch happened during the obligatory God of War sex minigame. I had done it once already for the story to progress, but when I returned to do it again something was definitely odd since the camera usually shifts to two girls talking about the acts that Kratos is performing off camera. Except on the return visit, there was only one girl, yet the animations were still the same. Even weirder, the girl that wasn’t there was still talking, but when the girl that WAS there talked there was no sound. All that means is: Game’s Broken. It was a lot of instances like that where the final third of the game felt rushed. “Alright, and we’re done guys.” “Uh, you know there’s still a third of the game left to do, right?” “Oh yeah. Meh, whatever, just dump in some puzzles and more enemies from earlier in the game and call it a night.”
The biggest question I had going into God of War III was, “Was this necessary?” Reason being, I played the first God of War and loved it. It was a self-contained story where Kratos decides he’s going to kill a god and, by golly, by the end of the game he’s killed that god. Story over, no more to say. God of War II, however, did what I HATE in video games. The exact same plot is used from the first game, having Kratos retconned back to his basic levels and weapons again, with the goal being to kill Zeus and all the gods of Olympus. At the end of the game, you fight Zeus but accidentally kill Athena instead. The very last thing that happens in the game is Kratos hops on Gaia’s back and her and all the Titans climb toward the top of Mount Olympus to fight all the gods with Kratos looking rather ready to finish things. Then the credits roll and that’s it. He might as well have said, “See you on the PS3 folks!” So my question going in was, “Does God of War III justify its existence?” Or, “Could God of War III have been done on the PS2?”
To answer those, no, it doesn’t justify its existence, and yes, it could have been part of God of War II rather than a whole separate game. The reason is story. God of War II demands a sequel due to a story being unresolved, so when God of War III comes along and utterly fails in the story department I have a serious problem. God of War III’s story is riddled with plot holes, the biggest being one that drives Kratos through a solid half of the game. Kratos discovers that he’ll need to open Pandora’s Box in order to obtain the power to kill a God. You know, that thing he opened already in the first game? Yeah, he needs to open that again for some reason. In order to open it this time for yet another Some Reason you need Pandora herself to unlock it. There are two fundamental problems with this. First, Kratos already opened the box in the first game, meaning that there shouldn’t be a reason why it can’t be opened again. Secondly, Kratos already HAS the power to kill a god since he’s managed to kill EVERY OTHER GOD in the game by the time he reaches the point where he’d need to open the box again. He ripped Helios’ head off before the game was half way over, so why does he think he needs some secret weapon or power to beat Zeus?
I figured, “Okay, fine, I’ll play along. I have no choice since the game will only progress how it seems fit, so I’ll go through the long and tedious process of finding Pandora so I can open the box and get something to resolve the plot.” I go through all of that, having to endure Pandora being an extremely annoying character and Kratos’ character motivation shifting instantly when he hears that Pandora needs his help, and you know what happens? I beat up Zeus before I get to the box, have him in the perfect position for a kill strike, and instead Kratos decides, “Yeah, let’s open this box instead.” What does he find? The box, is…EMPTY! I’m told at the very end of the game that I ALREADY had what was in the box since I opened it in the first game. Which means that HALF of the game was POINTLESS. Bad storytelling. Bad game design.
On another note, the game did an awful job of keeping me guessing what would happen next. I knew enough about Greek mythology to be aware of which gods and goddesses I’d have to fight, with none of them being a particular surprise, so there weren’t any real surprises coming my way. I’d just check off the gods as I killed them and look for the next one I expected.
Oh, I have to mention this, but women are portrayed in the most awful fashion here that I’ve seen in a video game since Dead or Alive Extreme Beach Volleyball. The female characters fall into one of three categories. They are either purely there to be a sexual object (Aphrodite), laughably pitiful next to their male counterparts (Hera), or just an object in general (Pandora). The only other female character is Athena, and it became apparent in the end of the game that the developers didn’t know why she was there in the first place. Come to think of it, I probably couldn’t tell you either.
So beyond knowing which characters I had left to kill, I could see in my inventory which slots still needed to be filled. That meant I could judge how much longer I figured the game would be since I could think, “Okay, I have one more god to kill and two inventory slots to fill. That must mean I have roughly a third of the game left.” Giving me the ability to know what tricks you could possibly throw at me takes the fun out of the progression and just has me waiting for the game to wrap things up. Not good.
If you couldn’t tell, I was very disappointed with God of War III. I don’t want to belabor the point of the ending being just downright miserable because I don’t want to go on for another two pages. I’ll just say that when God of War makes the attempt to preach a moral or a message after it’s abundantly clear that the world is effed and every single character is either dead or evil, Kratos included, then I stop caring and get angry. God of War does NOT get to give me a heavy-handed message about hope just like a banana does not get to give me political advice. Shut up banana and do your job by providing me with potassium.
I’ll wrap things up by saying once again that God of War III isn’t a bad game for the first two-thirds of the game. In fact, those first two-thirds are some of the most amazing gameplay moments I’ve experienced in recent years. It’s the last third that brings the game into a train wreck. God of War III is like a sprinter going for a Gold medal in the Olympics and shooting past everyone, clearly on track to not only break but shatter the World Record, but with a third of the race left he trips and eats it hard, taking out several other sprinters with him. That’s God of War III. If I ever see a God of War IV I’m going to make it my mission to seek revenge upon Sony for betraying me so readily to make a few bucks.
And if you think I’m harsh here, wait until I give my review of Spirit Tracks within the next week.