Sunday, 25 April 2010

Paperboy's God of War 3 Review

THE God of War series has always successfully set up its blood-spattered tent in the mindless fun camp. Rounding off the trilogy on the sleek black powerhouse that is the PS3, Sony Santa Monica could churn out a divine and equally mindless third offering for its congregation, safe in the knowledge that the spittle-flecked zealots would hoover it up in its droves. But this time round, the quality that has been a positive for so long has finally become a negative; when GOW3 is mindless, it runs the risk of being forgettable.

Unlike its main protagonist, however, there is a lot to like about this latest adventure. Kratos's single-handed quest to introduce atheism to Greece on a pile of holy bones has never looked better, and has never played more tightly. The trademark of the series has always been its gallons and gallons of mythical beastie blood, but in truth the secret to GOW is how it keeps such a relentless combo system interesting – a fact that the third series showcases. Yes, there are horrific and winceworthy deaths at the touch of a button for anyone who felt a bit funny watching Hostel, but getting to those deaths is much better than before. The new weapons are infinitely more satisfying than previous gimmick items, and each individual encounter confidently proves GOW's combat has always been a puzzle game at heart. Minotaurs may be stronger than Gorgons, for instance, but if both are on screen you better take the Gorgon out, pronto, or the big bull's launch attack will see you hit the floor in stone-scattered shards.

To even begin to harp on about the graphics would be pointless, as any still shot or moving image proves the game is making the PS3 sing. Special mention should be given to some highly stylised cutscenes and flashbacks, that really add an epic feel to this new retelling of the Greek myths.

Sadly, just as the gods wilt before ol'sour puss Kratos, the skillful weaving of lore long past is hurt by the iconic character of the Ghost of Sparta. As a man who knows my Hermes from my Hercules, the criticisms that have been aimed at the ending by the big sites don't feel justified. But the game is infinitely poorer for turning Kratos into a one-note harbinger of revenge. Of course the point is that he is the “bowling ball with knives” when it comes to solving diplomatic squabbles, and the point is that his methods are gloriously over the top for the player to whoop and cheer. But his complete lack of humanity means there is no connect for the player, no anchor to invest any of our emotions – so why should we feel the emotion of revenge, and of bloody satisfaction? Only 14-year-olds get off on gore for gore's sake – and the 18 certificate proves the game wasn't made to satisfy said squealing man-children, right?

GOW 3 tries to rescue the situation and capture the emotional punch of the first game's quest to avenge your family near the end, but the title has made such an effort to portray Kratos as a stone-cold bastard, his sudden moments of compassion would have made me laugh if I hadn't been so disappointed with their implementation.

Looking back after 12 hours of god-slaying and block shifting, the biggest crime I can levy against the game is that I feel nothing. I made a demi-god's skull resemble a Tetris piece, had unorthodox sex with a goddess while two of her maidens got frisky, and took out more deities than Richard Dawkins looking for another book deal. But unlike God of War and its sequel, I feel no need to breathlessly tell my compatriots about its awesome bits, or even play it again. The core game is as entertaining as ever, but a killer app for your machine shouldn't just be an entertaining diversion to gather dust a weekend later. No matter how skillful the glue holding the wings on, or how thrilling the ride, after three goes this Pegasus has finally failed to escape the fact it's a one trick pony underneath.


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