God of War III

A finely crafted action experience that fully showcases the PS3's immense capabilities!

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  • Expert Rating

    4.50 / 5

Pros

  • A great action experience, with plenty of thrills and memorable moments; improves upon the franchise formula in almost every tangible way.

Cons

  • It doesn't bring the story to a satisfying conclusion and the attempts to make sense of Kratos' journey ultimately fall flat.

Bottom Line

God of War 3 is more than an action game: it’s the conclusion to a commercially successful and critically acclaimed series that acts as the ‘face’ of Sony’s entire gaming brand; what Master Chief is to Microsoft and Mario is to Nintendo, Kratos is to Sony. As such, God of War III was burdened with a Herculean set of tasks. But while it lives up to the high bar set by the previous installments, it can’t quite bear the weight of bringing the epic story of Kratos to a meaningful end. It’s still a finely crafted action experience that fully showcases the PS3's immense capabilities but it isn't the satisfying conclusion that fans both want and need.

Would you buy this?

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. Taken just as an action game, God of War III is terrific, rivaling the best of what's available not only on the PS3 but all platforms.

It looks and feels like a generational step-up from the last title, with visuals that top games like Uncharted 2 and Killzone 2. There is a much needed refinement inherent in the gameplay as well: they've eliminated most of the clutter that plagued the past two titles and the teeth-gratingly difficult timing and block moving puzzles are a thing of the past.

New weapons and abilities like the Army of Sparta, a 300 inspired ability which summons shield-bearing Spartans around Kratos along with a hailstorm of arrows onto the battlefield, and the Cestus -- a pair of lion-faced gauntlets that pack an Incredible Hulk-like wallop -- are welcome additions to Kratos' arsenal, even if the sheer number of tools at your disposal makes inventory management a clumsy chore.

Certain moments also standout, like the clever use of the Icarus Wings as a mode of long-range travel, and the only thing missing from some of the memorable boss encounters is a booming voice shouting "Finish him!" as you deliver the gruesome final blow. The exquisitely rendered environments flow nicely into one another and though there is some backtracking involved, you never stay in one area long enough to grow tired of it; you'll travel from the heights of Mount Olympus all the way to the depths of Hades and back, and even if it doesn't always make sense from a narrative perspective, the actual journey itself is epic and grand.

It shouldn't come as a surprise that God of War III is a great action experience: although each game in the series was helmed by a different creative director -- Stig Asmussen, who worked on God of War III, took over for Cory Barlog, who, in turn, took over for David Jaffe -- they were promoted from within the development team, meaning there is a sense of consistency throughout the entire franchise. The formula never changed: it was just refined and tweaked to fit the unique visions of the individual director.

But the ever changing leadership hurt the games when it came to continuity, and God of War III's botched attempt to weave all the individual threads into a coherent ending leads me to believe the trilogy was conceived in parts rather than as a whole. Director Stig Asmussen had to incorporate the bits and pieces that Barlog and Jaffe left behind, and that makes God of War III feel like a Frankenstein construct of parts that don't seamlessly fit together. Because of this, there is a lot of plot filler of the "Hey, remember when you did this? Well, this is what happened as a result," variety.

My problem with God of War III's narrative basically boils down to this: Whenever I reach the end of a story that I've truly invested myself in, I always walk away feeling as though I've said farewell to a good friend with whom I went on a long and meaningful journey. It's a bittersweet moment, and I'm always left feeling equally thankful and sad that I've reached the end of the road. I didn't fully feel that with God of War III, and while this doesn't completely ruin the fun, it definitely affects my overall enjoyment of it.

It still earns high marks because it's a tremendously well crafted action experience and I recognize some fans simply won't care that the story is weak -- they'll be happy just to take part in the spectacle (and what a spectacle it is). I also can't discount what an important piece of the puzzle this is for Sony; God of War III, along with recent releases like Heavy Rain and the impending Final Fantasy XIII, should give the company a strong boost in the traditional post-holiday lull.

But 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

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