Hands on – God of War III

October 31, 2009
After playing an entire generation worth of clunky brawlers and button mashing slice-n-dices nicknamed “god of war” clones, it’s easy to forget why they inherited that cheeky moniker in the first place.

But it only takes a few seconds of God of War III, with its brutal blood shedding evisceration and the way it amps simple button presses into glorious lacerating manoeuvres, to remember why Kratos is king. The way the screen shudders erratically when you unleash giant swipes and the floors of ancient Greek palaces become awash with blood. The way you switch between close combat fists, mid range swords and distancing arrows in split second decisions of tactics and violence.

Sony Santa Monica does have a tricky decision though; what secondary pace-changing and palette-cleansing game play can be inserted between fights, but live up to the gargantuan violence and runaway freight-train pace of its brutal combat? Light Tomb-Raidering and harpy-grabbing platforming are admirable attempts, but don’t really fit the bill. Ridiculously fast flights up burning chambers are on the right lines though.

As are the demo’s multiple boss encounters that make a change from the popcorn enemies littered between them; giant mythological beasts that mix combination fighting with quick QTEs, and even make you forget that QTEs suck for a few seconds as you wrench off a lion-monster’s horn and shove it through its skull.

God of War III is bloody beautiful. The opener of the demo features a giant render of Kratos’ snarling chops; press start and the camera swings out to the play area – no loading screen, no jarring cutscene beat – all in game. The world toys with shadows and contrast to make scenery that would be prerendered backdrops in previous generations, Kratos is constructed from more polygons than some games put together and blood is that gooey, crimson gel that games love so much.

And it sounds bloody amazing too. The epic score, the clinking blades and the thumping bass of each skull crushing punch. If this game doesn’t make you buy an HDTV and a good speaker set up or some quality headphones, nothing will.

And it’s also bloody brutal and borderline sickening. I’ve now pulled out a Cyclops’ eye and ripped off Helios’ head, and I’m not sure my dinner is going to stay down. Every fight ends in some gut wrenching (sometimes literally) manner, some blood spraying finale or a neck wrenching climax where the skin finally tears and the blood is let loose. I’m feeling queasy just typing it.

But gore is God of War’s calling card and without it the visceral, brutal and downright sadistic violence would be silenced, the primal thrill neutred and the game’s claim to fame compromised. Then again, if you disembowel a Centaur, rip out a Cyclops’ eye and remove a head with unrelenting force within a 15 minute demo, I think I’ll be playing with a sick bucket when the full game launches next year.

God of War III will be a Playstation 3 exclusive when it launches in early 2010.

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