On a long weekend off high school circa 2005, my older brother handed me God of War, insisting that I'd like it. He was correct in his assessment. I spent the majority of that weekend hunkered in my room, eviscerating my way through Greek mythology. Come Sunday night my eyes were bloodshot from staring at the television for three days straight. I was thoroughly hooked. Little did I know back then that I was playing only a prelude to one of the most intense games ever made. To put it short, God of War III is as near to violent, brutal perfection as any game has ever come. Future games will be hard pressed to top it.
As is typical with the series, God of War III opens with a spectacle that ups the ante from previous titles. Where in earlier games the end goal was to tango with the gods, you begin this one riding on the back of a titan duking it out with the sea god Poseidon. This battle is epic and serves as an early example of the game's brilliant use of scale. Where other God of War titles haven't flinched at pitting you against foes of a superior size, God of War III revels in showing you just how insignificant you are. The camera is constantly zooming out to show you that Kratos is really little more than a speck on the backside of a giant.
The remainder of the game never quite reaches the level of the opening battle, but remains a thrilling experience, serving as a Return of the Jedi style cap-off on the franchise. There's not too much story telling here, just action sequence after action sequence as Kratos unceremoniously slaughters the gods -and a few titans- in unrelentingly gruesome manners. The gameplay here is very much the same as in every God of War game. One might think this would make the game a bit stale, but boredom has no place here. The combat was great to begin with, and save for a few lulls in the game's intensity, it remains solid throughout, being both simple to learn but never easy. Praise can also be heaped on its puzzles, which successfully straddle the balance between challenging and accessible, offering up a little variety in a game that would otherwise be ten hours of nonstop hacking and slashing.
The pacing can be a bit uneven. While the action is consistently exciting, and on several occasions jaw-dropping, it never quite reaches the level that it does at the game's opening. It tends to drag a bit at the end before throwing you into a final boss battle that seems almost abrupt. That said, even the slower moments are still a blast, and the eventual close of Kratos' story actually manages to turn four game's worth of random violence into something endowed with meaning and, dare I say, subtlety.
It should go without saying that God of War III looks and sounds fantastic. The graphics are absolutely lush. The detail in the textures in particular impressed me, seeming almost to pop off the screen. The character models most of all showed a great level of care. Every pore on Kratos' body could be counted if you took the time, and for all the size and scale of the titans, they're just as detailed. Even more impressive is the audio. In every moment of the game, the soundtrack is there pushing things forward, intensifying already intense moments, and otherwise just creating an atmosphere representative of the chaos that characterizes the story. The voice acting as well is spot on, making excellent use of both the game's returning cast and several celebrity additions. I'll give you seven guesses as to who Kevin Sorbo plays.
Every now and then a series comes along that transforms a genre. Ever since the first game, the action genre has been all but defined on the merits of the God of War games. Heavenly Sword, Conan, Dante's Inferno; while fine in their own rights, these games and many others have all been branded at one point or another as “God of War clones.” God of War III demonstrates exactly why that it is. It doesn't set the bar, it obliterates its, drowns it in blood and pisses on the ashes. Even its own flaws are more a result of how incredible its best moments are rather than any actual problems with the game. God of War III is the kind of closure every series should have, excellent and uncompromising to every degree.