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Critical Reception: Sony's  God of War III

Critical Reception: Sony's God of War III

March 17, 2010 | By Danny Cowan

March 17, 2010 | By Danny Cowan
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More: Console/PC, Columns



This week's edition of Critical Reception examines online reaction to Sony's PlayStation 3 action title God of War III, which reviews describe as "a brilliantly paced, meticulously detailed adventure." God of War III currently earns a score of 93 out of 100 at Metacritic.com.

1UP.com's Matt Leone gives God of War III an A grade. "This is the same God of War formula you're used to, spiced up with tons of variety and a new setting," he writes. "Once again the series blends combat, platforming, and puzzles to make a grand, story-focused adventure, wrapped in high quality production values, giant set pieces, and over-the-top cut-scenes."

Leone finds that God of War III sticks close to the gameplay formula of its predecessor titles. "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," he warns. "And if you loved them before, get ready for an incredibly well made follow-up in that same template."

The level design is more varied this time around, however. "The level design feels more vertically-oriented than it has in the past," Leone says, and features like the Icarus Ascent (where you use the Icarus Wings obtained in God of War 2 to catch wind tunnels and fly straight up) and Titan boss battles (where you fight them on the side of the mountain) give the game an amazing sense of scale and a different feel from the more horizontally-oriented previous two games."

"Another change comes from the addition of several new, smaller features," Leone continues. "The variety comes in different forms: items that let you run up walls and dash in midair, shine a flashlight, and light things on fire; weapons that are each fun to use and have different strengths against different enemies; creatures you can ride on and attack with for a limited amount of time."

"You can undoubtedly find little details to complain about in God of War 3 (you can't skip cut-scenes even on a second playthrough, for instance, presumably to mask load times)," Leone admits. "But given how well everything fits together, how all of the items and weapons feel useful, how the Titan fights are some of the most impressive battles ever seen in games, how the animation and camera angles make the cut-scenes better than you see in most movies, how the combat grapple works incredibly well, and how the visuals almost make it worth playing on their own, I'm not really sure how much that kind of thing matters."

Tae Kim at GamePro rates God of War III at 4.5 out of 5 stars. "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," he notes. "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."

Kim finds that God of War III instead delivers "a weak and uneven narrative that's full of plot holes."

"Because God of War III is the culmination of one of the most iconic action game franchises, there's a lot hanging in the balance," Kim explains. "Kratos isn't some meathead mindlessly pounding his way to the end credits: there's a lot of history and subtext to his one-man war against Mount Olympus, and there was a tremendous amount of pressure to bring everything to a showstopping conclusion."

Kim continues: "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."

"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," Kim concludes. "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."

GameSpot's Tom Mc Shea scores God of War III at 9 out of 10. "The visceral combat and overwhelming sense of scale that have become the hallmarks of this brutal franchise have been pushed further than ever before in God of War III," he praises, "creating an experience so focused and explosively fun that it's hard to put down, and even harder to forget."

Mc Shea notes that the over-the-top violence does become tiring, however. "The majority of the cutscenes are centered on angry exchanges between Kratos and someone who dares oppose him, and end with an irreversible resolution," he explains. "The motivation that pushes Kratos forward is easy to understand, but the repetition of his uncanny fury dulls the impact after a while. It's hard to relate to his actions after he gruesomely disposes of yet another mythical opponent with the same wicked scowl plastered on his face. 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," Mc Shea continues. "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."

Mc Shea also praises God of War III's gameplay variety. "God of War III embraces violence like few other games, but the brutal combat never feels overwhelming," he says. "There is a delicate balance between the grotesque combat and the more cerebral, slower-paced sections. This restraint adds a lot to the experience, making the brutality more affecting and the quiet stretches a welcome respite from the bloodshed. The ease with which the game shifts between these moods is impressive, seamlessly flowing from deicide to puzzle solving to peaceful exploration without stumbling."

"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," Mc Shea concludes. "God of War III is a brilliantly paced, meticulously detailed adventure that thrills and satisfies until the very end."


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