It's one of the most thrilling openings in all of video games. As warrior-turned-deity-killer Kratos, you climb the Titan Gaia, who functions as a colossal, moving level upon which you battle Poseidon, the god of the sea. Gaia herself is one of Kratos' few remaining allies; her cries of pain pierce the air as you swing your chained blades, launching ghoulish soldiers into the air and slicing away at Poseidon and his many-legged steed. It is all sound and fury, almost unparalleled in its sense of scale and its translation of a protagonist's anger into bloody, brutal interactions. When Kratos strikes his final blow, you see it not from his perspective, but from his victim's point of view, in the first person. It's a striking and vicious design choice that sets the tone for the game to follow. You are no longer conquering the Greek gods as an enraged antihero, but as a full-on villain.
The question, then, is this: How could God of War III hope to top this sensational introduction? It doesn't, though it certainly tries, and allows God of War II to retain its position at the peak of this beloved series in the process. That's not to say that the game isn't terrific fun, only that its unimaginative final encounter has nothing on the phenomenal opener. Gaia casts a long shadow over the hours that follow, and even a similar battle upon Cronos' massive body can't escape it, though it, too, remains a technical marvel in this remastered edition.
60 frames per second and 1080p resolution aren't game-changers for Kratos' adventure, though they are certainly nice attributes to have; God of War III Remastered is simply another chance to admire a game that we admired five years ago. At a $40 retail price, however, it doesn't make a strong enough argument for buying a game you've already bought, particularly when the lower-resolution pre-rendered cutscenes stand out all the more next to the in-game visuals. Character skins and arenas released as downloadable content make appearances, as does a new photo mode that allows you to capture sumptuous moments and share them with friends, enemies, and mythical beasts, but where remasters are concerned, this one belongs in the "barebones" column.
Taken on its own merits, however, God of War III maintains the high bar its predecessors set for combat. Kratos is responsive to every input, swinging the blades of Olympus and the claws of Hades with a slickness and strength befitting a protagonist whose muscles have muscles. Using light and heavy attacks, you hack away at a gorgon before flinging her into the air; once she is close to death, a prompt appears, and you perform a series of button presses while Kratos yanks her body towards him with his blades, pulls her head back, and decapitates her. Quick-time finishers cap each violent dance with a gruesome climax, and you then return to the mythical slaughter, all while the game finds new, gorgeous backdrops that remind you how enormous this world is, and how puny you are within it.
God of War III's greatness relies not just on its combat, however, but on the way it strings battles, puzzles, and traversal into an ever-varied chain of enjoyment. Sequences that might have felt like filler in a lesser game (see: Dante's Inferno) retain their sense of fun because you aren't just faced with another onslaught of warriors, minotaurs, and scorpions, but because clever level design, smart camera angles, and visual centerpieces hold monotony at bay. Pressing a stick forward to climb a lengthy chain is not, in and of itself, reason for celebration. But when the camera pulls back and a miniscule Kratos patiently scales upwards as you watch through an opening in the nearby cliffs, you feel awe. Each thrust upwards fills the cavern with metallic echoes; you both see and hear the chasm's enormity.
Even the seemingly straightforward combat benefits from playful presentation and mechanical diversity. Cauldrons filled with flammable bramble explode when you fire flaming arrows at them, much to the dismay of nearby foes. Snarling dogs attack as an elevator rises, making it hard--but not impossible--to appreciate the beauty of the temple in which you fight. Then there are the puzzles, best represented by an extensive one in which shifting perspectives enables you to climb staircases and cross walkways that would not seem connected. It's the most thoughtful section of a game that requires more intuition than it does intellect, notable not just in its wit, but in the way it requires you to use the limp body of Kratos' high-profile victim as a weight.
This isn't the first time you use a corpse in such a way in the God of War series, but it's more striking in God of War III because Kratos has no shred of mercy remaining within him--not at this stage. Previous games allowed Kratos his humanity, Chains of Olympus' Elysium Fields sequence being an excellent example. While Kratos has never been a hero in the usual sense of the term, we have seen the source of his torment, and watched Athena refuse to set him free from his nightmares. Here, Kratos is a one-note killing machine, and we are left only with what we know from previous games to provide context. The smidgen of mercy Kratos shows towards a daughter figure in the final hours, and the accompanying message of hope, is not earned given how little development the character shows in God of War III up to that point--and reminds us that for Kratos, women are whores, wives, daughters, or paperweights. Full-on cruelty was always in the cards, but it makes Kratos difficult to root for, particularly if this is your first God of War experience.
Then again, this is not a series known for its sophisticated storytelling. Kratos is the vessel for an instinctive kind of gameplay that is rarely this successful. Your rewards for following God of War III's linear trail are genre-defining combat, excellent pacing, and the innate joy of watching enemies spew forth clusters of glowing red orbs when they fall. It's the ever-compelling quest for shinies, accomplished by slamming your cestus into the ground, then gutting a centaur and watching its viscera spill onto the floor. Your reward is more power, which you use to earn more shinies and to see more entrails. That the game finds so many ways to stay consistently fresh within this traditional structure is a feat worthy of the gods.
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God of War III: Remastered has finally been released, giving a chance to those who never had a PlayStation console to get a taste of the adventures of Kratos, but is it worth a purchase for those that already played it on PS3?
The story is… Well… It’s God of War, and if you know the series, you pretty much know what I mean, and the third chapter of the series comes with arguably the simplest and least satisfying plot of them all. You can pretty much summarize it as “Kratos is mad. He wants to kill Zeus, so he sets out on a journey to kill him, and everyone else.”
Of course there are a few more details here and there, but let’s be honest, God of War III really isn’t a narrative masterpiece. I know there are many who like to see more depth and more meaning in Kratos’ path of destruction, and maybe that depth and meaning were even intended by the writers, but they still ended up as rather irrelevant.
Kratos is insufferable as ever. He’s close to having only three emotions: angry, more angry, and furious. The rest of the cast is somewhat more enjoyable, even if they pretty much fall into the usual stereotypes, and at times they end up looking and sounding more like caricatures than characters of an epic saga. The one with a bit more depth is Hephaestus, but even the giant blacksmith really isn’t that enthusing.
Ultimately, when the most compelling feature of the cast is Aphrodite’s boobs, we really need to look at something else to enjoy in the game.
Luckily, God of War III: Remastered comes with a ton of that “something else,” starting with the graphics, that are obviously the biggest change from the original.
The visuals are now displayed in full 1080p resolution, and the textures are much more detailed. Lighting and shaders also appear to have received minor improvements here and there. The original looked astonishing for a PS3 game to begin with, and the result is that God of War III: Remastered is gorgeous.
It’s very close to what I’d expect from a native PS4 game, with very high quality models and a lovely level of detail across the board. Especially, many environments are absolutely spectacular, even thanks to the massive scale, that often dwarfs Kratos to a point that is very seldom seen in other action games.
Dynamic levels, where the stage actually moves around like the titan Gaia, contribute to making God of War III: Remastered a real joy for the eyes.
The graphics have definitely been polished until they shine, and very few flaws can be detected. Seldom you’ll notice monsters that didn’t receive the attention dedicated to the rest, and while they’re still far from bad looking, they tend to stand out a bit due to the lower levels of detail on manes, fur and armor plates.
Another little problem is that a few cutscenes are still pre-rendered. While the quality is pretty high, compression artifacts are visible here and there, resulting in a paradox with pre-rendered cutscenes that actually look slightly worse than gameplay and then their in-engine counterparts.
The best improvement is surely the frame rate. While it doesn’t seem to be locked at 60 FPS, it’s up there most of the time. I personally never noticed big dips, and the game really feels silky smooth, which is a blessing for this kind of action-packed title.
Gameplay did not change radically from what we saw in the original God of War III for PS3, which means that it’s fantastic. The only real difference (besides the additional fluidity due to the frame rate) the is that now we can play with the DualShock 4, which is radically superior to the DualShock 3, and definitely makes the whole game more enjoyable.
The game’s action is still definitely one of the best in the genre, with a sensation of power and impact that makes every encounter really satisfying. Kratos slices, dices, rips, kicks, punches, strangles and ultimately annihilates everything he sees, and does so in an extremely stylish way.
Level design displays a large amount of especially inspired moments, contributing to the grandiosity of almost every set piece. Even the puzzle-like areas are very fun to unravel and play. They’re at times pretty complex, with elements like trigger blockers that are often tucked out somewhere out of the way, but I never found them frustrating. With the way the game is paced, they’re actually a refreshing break from all the slaughering and maiming.
There is, though, a subjective red flag. If you dislike quick time events, you may want to steer clear, because there is a metric ton of them, scattered pretty much everywhere in the game. Expect every monster even slightly tougher than rank and file to involve quite a few.
Another little issue is the way the game progresses, which is a bit of a rollercoaster. To reach and kill your first god you’ll have to complete a grandiose ride on the titan Gaia. Your second godly victim will fall after a great sequence of levels mixing action and puzzles masterfully. The third… well… let’s just say that Kratos spits in his direction (figuratively speaking) and he dies gruesomely.
Unfortunately, since this is basically just a visual remaster, the single change that could have revolutionized the game has not been done, and I’m talking about unlocking the camera. Mind you, that’s quite understandable, as most likely many props that are not within the locked camera angles aren’t even modeled. Unlocking the camera would have required rebuilding a large percentage of the game’s environments from scratch.
This reflects on the one relevant new feature coming with the remaster, which is photo mode. Here too the camera is semi-locked. You can only pan left, right, up and down, and zoom in and out. There’s no way to rotate the camera, because that would probably expose areas of the levels that aren’t meant to be seen.
During in-engine cutscenes and quicktime sequences the camera is even more restricted, with panning absent or extremely limited.
The photo mode suite comes with a large amount of frames and filters, and with a bloom option to fine tune brightness. While the inability to choose the camera angle makes the feature much less enjoyable than in other games that include it, it’s still a nice way to shoot some nice screenshots to share with your friends and on social media, or to immortalize the meanest finishers.
If you want to see what the photo mode can do, you can find plenty of screenshots here.
So, is God of War III: Remastered worth its forty bucks price-tag? Unless a good story is absolutely necessary for you to enjoy a game, the answer is inevitably and overwhelmingly “yes” if you don’t own the PS3 version.
If you do, it depends on whether graphics and frame rate are important for you, and on how much you love the franchise. While God of War III: Remaster doesn’t bring new relevant features, nor it fixes some of the (few) flaws of the original, it looks gorgeous, and it’s a real pleasure to play.