God of War 3 is a revenge tale, and not the kind with the happy ending that leaves you feeling fuzzy about everything that happened. This is dirty, nasty payback, fueled by the kind of single-minded rage that can take even the noblest of heroes to a dark place.
Sony Computer Entertainment’s latest (and presumably last) installment of its famed franchise is also its most ambitious, exploring the powers of the PS3 as much as the mental and physical odyssey of its hero, Kratos.
It accomplishes both tasks in impressive fashion, giving players an grand action-fest with bloody fun, guilty pleasures and even some brains — as in smarts, not what ends up smeared on the wall.
The game’s story picks up with Kratos in the middle of the renewed war between the Titans and the gods of Olympus.
Zeus is the object of Kratos’ vengeance, symbolizing the end of a quest that started with a dead family and has left a grisly, two-game trail over a pantheon of Greek mythology — Aries, the Sisters of Fate and the Colossus of Rhodes, to name a few.
Kratos’ path now cuts through the rest of Olympus, and the game’s visuals represent the gravity of that undertaking.
Everything about the game’s looks ties to concepts of scale and power. The camera deftly zooms in and out to reveal how small Kratos is compared to the environment around him, such as when he’s climbing the enormous Chain of Balance or standing in the middle of the massive Labyrinth level.
Both concepts come alive when Kratos deals with the Titans, who are the size of skyscrapers. The game starts with Kratos doing battle on the Titan named Gaia, first fighting off sea serpents and eventually facing Poseidon, god of the sea. It’s a confrontation that features a constantly changing, living battlefield, as Kratos has to do everything from hang off the ceiling to jumping onto Gaia’s moving fist. An encounter with another Titan, Cronos, is even more spectacular.
The game’s combat system remains simple, as players can essentially mash their way through enemies using weapons ranging from Kratos’ signature chained blades to a pair of lionhead-shaped gauntlets.
The weapon options in this installment seem to lend themselves better to fluid combos, and the control scheme allowed me to switch between them more easily. This made me not want to only keep pressing two buttons to survive. There are also more puzzles in this chapter, my favorite being a niffy optical-illusion task in the Olympic Gardens.
Boss battles remain my favorite part of the game, as you get to tangle with everyone from Hades to Hercules and watch Kratos deal with them in his own blissfully violent way. Some get their eyes gouged out, others get their heads torn off. In between, you might yank out the eye of a giant cyclops.
I was able to also enjoy the game’s storytelling, which allows us to get to know Kratos more through his mannerisms and more diverse conversations with everyone he faces.
He comes across as a hero that can make you nervous about liking him, as he is ultimately consumed by his desire to destroy Zeus and everyone around him – nothing else matters. If this means a half-naked princess needs to hold open a heavy door that eventually crushes her, fine. If killing Poseidon means the city below gets flooded, hope you have an ark, because you’re screwed.
Among the issues I had with the game included occasionally repetitive narrative, where almost every major character on Olympus tells Kratos that he’s the reason their life is full of torment, or that Zeus is afraid of him. The camera aided in a few silly falls to my death as well.
Those minor issues aside, I full enjoyed being the most vengeful person on Mount Olympus. God of War 3 is a fitting end to what has been an outstanding action series — even if the end didn’t wrap everything up with a nice bow.
God of War 3
Sony Computer Entertainment / Santa Monica Studio
Rated M for Mature