Another great game? It's no myth
The final installment in an action-adventure trilogy that began in 2005 and has sold close to 6 million units worldwide, Sony's God of War III 93 is the best-reviewed PS3 game of 2010. That's no surprise; its predecessors are among the most acclaimed games ever released.
Whereas the first and second games were released for the Playstation 2, GOW3 is the first title in the series (which also spawned a mobile phone game and a PSP prequel, Chains of Olympus 91) designed for the newest-generation console. All GOW games are based on Greek mythology, and the action in GOW3 picks up where GOW2 left off, centering mainly around Mount Olympus.
How does the newest installment in the God of War trilogy compare with its predecessors? As it turns out, the three games match up almost identically in terms of critical reception, as you can see from the comparison below:
|God of War||God of War II||God of War III|
|Platform / Year||Playstation 2 (2005)||Playstation 2 (2007)||Playstation 3 (2010)|
|Units Sold||3.21 million||2.61 million||???|
|"Great" Reviews||69 (92%)||63 (90%)||54 (90%)|
|"Good" Reviews||5 (7%)||6 (9%)||6 (10%)|
|"Mixed" Reviews||1 (1%)||1 (1%)||0|
Here's how God of War III compares to other releases for the PS3 (through March 15th):
|1||God of War III||Sony||Action-Adventure||93||9.2|
|2||Battlefield: Bad Company 2||Electronic Arts||First-Person Shooter||89||9.0|
|3||BioShock 2||2K Games||First-Person Shooter||88||9.0|
|4||MLB 10: The Show||Sony||Sports||88||9.7|
|1||Uncharted 2: Among Thieves||Sony||2009||96||9.3|
|3||Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots||Konami||2008||94||8.8|
|4||God of War III||Sony||2010||93||9.2|
|6||Demon's Souls||Atlus USA||2009||89||8.9|
|7||Ratchet & Clank Future: Tools of Destruction||Sony||2007||89||8.8|
|8||Uncharted: Drake's Fortune||Sony||2007||88||8.8|
|9||Ninja Gaiden Sigma||Tecmo||2007||88||8.1|
|10||MLB 10: The Show||Sony||2010||88||9.7|
Let's take a closer look at what game reviewers are saying about God of War III, to see why it is scoring so highly with critics.
God of War III is not a drastic reinvention of the God of War formula -- in fact, it plays very similarly to its predecessors -- so any major newness comes in terms of setting and story.
Chances are, if you were bothered by things like the button-pressing minigames, the puzzles, the linearity, etc. in previous God of War games, God of War 3 isn't going to change your mind. And if you loved them before, get ready for an incredibly well made follow-up in that same template. --1Up
If you were expecting a revolution in terms of design, you'll be sorely disappointed. But, if you simply wanted more of what has made the series so great up to this point, you're going to be quite happy indeed. --IGN
God of War III sticks to the strengths already established by its predecessors, but what it lacks in innovation it more than makes up for in execution. --GameSpot
In general, the many new weapons and combat moves (especially the new "combat grapple" that allows you to grab baddies with your chains) were greatly appreciated by reviewers. And, as expected, the advanced capabilities of the PS3 means that the new title exceeds the heights established by the first two GOW games in some respects.
Everything's bigger, grander and more elaborate. --Eurogamer
God of War III surpasses the first two God of War games in almost all possible ways; it has higher production values, high-definition graphics with an outstanding attention to detail, more expansive environments, more characters and enemies than ever, and a deep plot. --Cheat Code Central
God of War III recaptures the one thing that God of War II was missing for me; it forced me to once again reconsider what I thought was possible for a video game to accomplish. --Game Informer
God of War III’s new weapons and powers are better – better-implemented, more useful and much more fun to use than those in previous games. --Games Radar
It's not quite as focused as GOW1, nor is it as lengthy and moment-packed as GOW2, but it's the most consistent and varied of the three, and when it's at its best the first two can't touch it. --1Up
Surprisingly (or not), not much. You won't find too many examples of a game critic talking about God of War III's failings in comparison to the previous installments -- and that's rare for a sequel. If there's one area where the new title doesn't quite match up to the prior games, it is in the story -- and we'll have more on that in just a moment.
Overall concept and story
GOW2 ended in a cliffhanger; GOW3 continues the story from the precise moment where that previous game left off. We won't get into many details about where the story goes -- that's for you to discover -- but if the new game has a weakness, it might be its lack of focus in the story department. Of course, with a game so combat-driven and visceral (that "v" word appears in many reviews, by the way), story isn't a major emphasis to begin with.
[GOW3 delivers] a weak and uneven narrative that's full of plot holes; it's a small vulnerability in an otherwise stellar game. ... There is an admirable attempt made to tie up all the loose ends and give some meaning to Kratos' struggle, but the narrative lacks the sense of momentum and drive that made the series so special. --GamePro
Despite how relatively simplistic the previous story entries were, they were told extremely well. Everything made sense and there was a clear purpose of what was happening and why. Here, the story (and therefore the game's progression) seems to buckle under its own weight at times. --IGN
The only area where God of War III didn’t blow away my expectations is the story. Previously, Kratos was driven by a thirst for vengeance against a single target – a concept that kept the narrative focused. In God of War III, that singular purpose is diluted by the number of characters, agendas, and objectives on the playing field at once. --Game Informer
The plot manages to derail itself into cheesy, mawkish sentimentality about “hope” more than once. --Games Radar
Remember the titans
A unique feature of God of War III is the size of some of the characters you'll face off against: colossal. Not only must you battle these titans, but they also serve as gameplay environments themselves -- making for some memorable locations that you won't find in other games.
The scope of some of these sequences is nothing short of astounding, with playable sequences that take place on creatures the size of a skyscraper. --IGN
1Up actually finds this part of the game a bit too successful:
That's the unfortunate thing about the titans on the whole, actually -- they make everything else seem less important. Whenever I was indoors solving a puzzle or fighting bosses only twice my height, I wanted to get back outside and see what was going on with the giants on the wall. And since there aren't very many titan levels/fights over the course of the game, I found myself wanting more.
When a beloved series concludes its ongoing story, there are bound to be a few complaints, and, indeed, the finale of GOW3 was its weakest part (relatively speaking), according to some critics.
It may not be quite the ending you were hoping for. ... Throw in a viciously cheap final boss and a too-long sequence that steals liberally from Max Payne’s overdose-fueled nightmares, and you’ve got an endgame that skirts awfully close to satisfying, but never quite gets there.--Games Radar
It falters, certainly, in closing things out as neatly as they began, but the more I thought about the implications of the ending and the series as a whole and what this game has brought to it, I honestly couldn't help but love the end result.--TotalPlayStation
GamePro is also bothered by the title's "anti-climactic" ending:
That God of War III fumbles the opportunity to leave a deep and lasting impression is especially unfortunate because it's been improved in just about every other way.As a fan who actually cares about Kratos and his plight, I found it to be a bit of a letdown. Even though I thoroughly enjoyed the journey, I can't help but feel disappointed by the way Kratos chose to say goodbye at the end of it
Not every publication disliked the ending. GameSpot, for one, is a fan, citing GOW3's closing portion as one of its highlights:
For much of the game, the story hits just this one note. But things open up late in the quest, giving the game the heart it so desperately needs. When Kratos reveals a side beyond violent retribution, it makes his character more empathetic and gives the story much more weight. Freed from its overreliance on cold-blooded vengeance, Kratos' story becomes powerful and moving in unexpected ways, peaking in a thrilling conclusion that successfully touches on many different emotions and provides closure for this epic tale.
The Telegraph also loved the conclusion:
The game’s denouement is one of the most exquisitely directed finales you’ll see, bringing the curtain down on a thrilling trilogy.
Gameplay is similar to the first two installments -- and, if anything, it's better than before, with a few enhancements and refinements. Virtually every critic loves the combat mechanics (and the combat itself is even more brutal and bloody than ever).
If you’ve played the previous games in the series, you’ll find everything you love about Kratos’ blade-slinging style intact, but even better than before thanks to the seamless integration of items.--Game Informer
The gameplay has evolved quite a lot when you really dig into it. It's readily apparent after playing through the God of War Collection and then jumping right into III. --Gaming Age
They've eliminated most of the clutter that plagued the past two titles. --GamePro
Whether you're peppering a harpy with arrows, deftly rolling away from a fire-breathing Cerberus, or countering a sword strike from an undead skeleton, every one of your actions is responsive and entertaining.--GameSpot
Even players new to the GOW series should be able to jump right in and play.
God of War 3 ... does a fantastic job of instructing you to use -- and swap between -- the various items/weapons/moves. It never feels like you're going through a training sequence, but you remain clearly aware of when it's best to use which of your toys.. --1Up
Although GOW3, like its two predecessors and many other games, utilizes "quick time events" Games Radar, for one, feels they are handled in an unobtrusive manner here, and writes that, overall, the new game is "mercifully short on 'press X to not die' moments." Other publications agree:
Combat is fluid and responsive, and the context-sensitive sequences are even better without the buttons overlaid on top of the action.--Games Informer
God of War III pulls off another damned-impressive stunt: Making the oft-reviled Button-Press/'Quick-Time Event' seem not only not lame, gimmicky and distracting, but also totally engaging and integrated with the experience.--Game Revolution
Like other God of War titles, III features an assortment of puzzles in addition to its numerous combat sequences. These were generally well-liked (although Game Daily calls some of them "cookie cutter"), and don't detract from the combat portion of the game.
[The puzzles] while certainly more taxing and better designed than what we saw in the recent Dante's Inferno, aren't brain benders by any stretch of the imagination, but they work well in the context of the game and generally make sense rather than seemingly randomly placed to give players something else to do. --VideoGamer.com
God of War III's puzzles aren't so convoluted that you're left frustrated by overly complex solutions, but also not so easy that the answer becomes painfully apparent as soon as you set foot in a puzzle room.--Total Video Games
Many reviewers feel that the game is incredibly well-paced overall (the game is, if anything, relentless), and Game Daily, for one, likes its quick start:
Unlike the competition, it doesn't take several hours to get going, or burden the player with laborious upgrades.
On average, the story has been taking reviewers about 10 hours to complete. More than one reviewer suggests that the game has some replay value, although others point out that the additional playtime might not be as compelling as the first play-through.
While there is the opportunity to pick up items throughout your first playthrough that can only be used in subsequent playthroughs (on a higher difficulty), there isn't quite as much depth to inspire a subsequent replay as you might find in Bayonetta, for example. Admittedly though, the traditional Challenge mode and an unlockable Combat Arena do add a few hours of supplementary entertainment. --Total Video Games
Well, there's no need to worry here: many critics are raving about GOW3's visuals, which appear to be in a class of their own. If you own a PS3, it appears that this is the game to put on to show the console off to your friends.
The most impressive visuals this console generation has seen. ... If you leave God of War 3 feeling let down by its visuals, you really need another hobby. --VideoGamer.com
The animation and camera angles make the cut-scenes better than you see in most movies ... the visuals almost make it worth playing on their own. --1Up
Best looking console game ever made? Stablemate Uncharted 2 may have a few words to say, but for sheer scale –where even the vast, scorched backdrops that stretch into the distance are ferociously alive- God of War III is peerless. --Telegraph [UK]
The graphics and camera work are among the very best gaming has to offer. --Game Informer
It's a dazzling visual feast comprised of epic set pieces designed to make you say only one word: wow. --Game Daily
The effects and production values are insane as expected, and the environments and set pieces are pretty much without equal - Uncharted 2 possibly being the exception.--Gaming Age
There are scenes that look like they were ripped straight out of WETA Digital's render farm with lighting so immaculate that your eyes will drop out of their sockets. --IGN
There are a few minor nitpicks, however. IGN adds:
There are a couple areas of the game that just don't match up to the most impressive stuff, creating an uneven feeling in the visual presentation.
You'd expect great sound to go with the stellar visuals, and you'd be right.
The audio [is] a dazzling mix of screams, torn flesh and smashed rocks, combined with a Hollywood caliber soundtrack that hits all the right notes, especially during the more dramatic moments.--Game Daily
The music is as dramatic and memorable as ever, and always a treat to listen to.--Gaming Age
The vocal cast, which includes Malcolm McDowell, Rip Torn, Linda Hunt, Kevin Sorbo, and Adrienne Barbeau, was also well-received.
If there's one overriding theme in most of these reviews, it's that God of War III is a truly special game.
Something awesome is constantly happening in God of War III. --Game Informer
God of War 3 is a brutal, blood-soaked experience. --VideoGamer.com
God of War III is like nothing you've ever seen or experienced in gaming. ... It truly redefines "epic" in shocking and unexpected ways you may not have thought were possible. --Destructoid
There are no branching paths, no complex decisions, and no multiplayer modes, but this particular game is all the better for it, since the results are rich and focused rather than drawn-out and a little ragged. Ultimately, if you want to revel in old-school pleasures decked out in the very brightest new armour, this is about as good as it gets. --Eurogamer
What do you think of God of War III? How does it compare to the first and second games? If you haven't done so already, feel free to cast your official vote for God of War III, and read the user reviews already posted on Metacritic's page for that game. Or continue the discussion in the comments section below.