The original trilogy in the God of War franchise came to a close back in 2009 on the Playstation 3. The story spanned all three games as a Spartan named Kratos took vengeance on the Gods of Olympus for the veritable Greek tragedy that had been his life. In celebration of the 10th anniversary of the first game, it was time for a remaster for the Playstation 4, so here we have our official God of War III Remastered Review.

Thus do we return to witness the finale in the tale of the Ghost of Sparta.

Look and Feel

God of War III was a graphical marvel at the time. When compared to the vast majority of other games its age, not many hold up anywhere near as well as this one. It is because of this, then, that the remaster seems more of a port than an upgrade despite its name. Having said that, I am the very definition of the “untrained eye”, and anybody with an eye for graphical fidelity will no doubt appreciate the 1080p resolution. It’s not so much that they didn’t do much to it, but rather not much needed to be done.

The Ancient Greek aesthetic is as enticing and faithful as ever. Whilst Kratos himself is a Santa Monica creation, the world he resides in is that of popular Greek mythology. Olympian Gods such as Zeus, with his trademark white locks and beard, preside over a land of Titans, harpies, three-headed dogs (Cerberus) and undead soldiers, all in incredible detail. The sweeping cinematic scenes allow you to soak in the environments, and it’s hard not to appreciate the care taken in the building of this world.

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Then there’s the combat animations, which have always been enjoyable. Particularly during the button-prompt killing of enemies. When in control of an angry man on his quest for vengeance, a blood-soaked battlefield is both gratifying and worthy of its 18+ rating. Ripping off the head of Helios is an acquired taste.

An epic soundtrack accompanies some fantastic voice-acting from your leading man to your supporting cast, with a special acknowledgement of Malcolm McDowell for his portrayal of Daedalus. A heart-wrenching performance, however brief it may be. All of this serves to show why Sony Santa Monica are held in such high regard for their attention to detail. They clearly love their work, and that helps me to love it too.

All that said, by today’s visual standards, God of War III is somewhat run-of-the-mill. A game that holds up beyond a generational gap deserves praise, but its by no means the pinnacle it once was, and it becomes ever more apparent just how much of this game is background filler. Ultimately, anything I can say that’s negative about the visuals is somewhat invalidated by it not pretending to be anything more, so it’s nit-picking at this point, and serves no purpose.

Story

Naturally God of War III isn’t the best place to start for those of you new to the series, but if you’re insistent on doing so, know that this section will contain mild spoilers for certain parts of the game.

This game picks up directly at the end of God of War II, wherein Kratos and the Titan army, led by Gaia, battle their way up Mt. Olympus in an effort to dethrone Zeus. In response, the remaining Gods of Olympus advance on the encroaching army with their own unique abilities. Following the defeat of Poseidon, Zeus strikes Gaia and Kratos from the Mountain. Gaia, being unable to save Kratos and continue her ascent, chooses the latter, explaining to Kratos that he was nothing but a pawn in the Titan’s own quest for vengeance. Kratos then falls to the lower-most portion of the world, in to the River Styx and loses his powers once again. Thus begins your actual adventure, somewhat rehashing the events of God of War II, with Kratos not only up against the Gods, but now the Titans that betrayed him.

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Now, I really enjoy the God of War story-line, but it’s hard to deny that Kratos isn’t a great character. He’s awesome in his combat, visual design and Terrence “T.C.” Carson brings him to life with a powerful vocal performance. The problem is that he’s a terrible person. Don’t get me wrong; I’m all for playing deeply flawed, complex anti-villains, but Kratos is just a villain. He has his reasons for most of what he does, but very quickly do you find yourself hating the guy. My moment came in the form of Kratos’ acquisition of the Bow of Apollo. Peirithous is trapped behind rotting vines and requests your help in exchange for his bow. Instead, Kratos opts to ride a fire-breathing hell-hound to his location and burn Peirithous alive alongside the bramble that restricts him.

Never fear, however, because the Gods and Titans? They’re worse than Kratos. The only one worthy of a modicum of respect and appreciation is Zeus, and the “Fear” unleashed by the opening of Pandora’s Box in the first God of War goes a long way to explain why Zeus has become so obsessed with Kratos’ death. The remaining Gods, on the other hand, are either annoying or just petty. Take Hermes for example; constantly mocking you as you attempt to pursue him. Granted, this makes his death incredibly satisfying, but there are many opportunities to form a difficult moment for the player emotionally, and instead they’re given an idiot to kill, perhaps to compensate for Kratos being such an awful, awful man.

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In perhaps the most unexpected twist of all time, Kratos unlocks a new emotion towards the end of the game. Those familiar with the series will know that Kratos usually has two modes: remorseful over deeds long past, or angry. That’s it. No in-between. In God of War III, however, he gains an acceptance. He still sounds incredibly angry about his acceptance, but acceptance it is indeed.

All banter aside, God of War III ends the trilogy with an epic series of set-pieces, but is let down somewhat by the characters being mostly unlikable. They have depth, but that depth often only serves to reveal even more of their rotten behaviour. Kratos himself is a great design with much potential, but barring a few brief moments, is mostly one-dimensional throughout the series and no real change occurs here. In the end, though, most didn’t come to see a deep character study, nor do I believe the game ever intended to be. The story is still a great deal of fun, but it’s dumb fun in a series that had the potential to be deeper than the final product. Nevertheless, you’ll love the spectacle of it all. It’s the summer blockbuster of video games, even if its a tale already told six years prior.

Gameplay

There are misconceptions of the God of War franchise, and I find myself a staunch defendant when told the games are just “button-mashing”. The difficulty you choose dictates the mechanics you need to use. For example, I began on Normal. You can absolutely mash your way through the hordes of enemies at this level, requiring the advanced maneuvers only occasionally against bosses. You may still need to evade with the right stick from time to time, but you can take a beating from the basic enemies and still feel pretty safe.

Go higher in difficulty, however, and you’ll find yourself needing to defend, parry and counter a great deal more, picking the appropriate weapons for certain enemies and paying more attention to your positioning and surroundings.

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In God of War III, you acquire new primary and secondary weapons as you advance through the story. Through killing enemies and opening chests, you’ll acquire red orbs, which are consumed in the upgrades menu to enhance weapons you’ve unlocked. These enhancements are similar from weapon to weapon, as they unlock new combos and improve the magic attributed to that weapon.

In truth, I liked all of the weapons, but three of them are very similar and one of them is the most useful in my opinion. The Nemean Cestus is a pair of massive fist-weapons that stun enemies upon repeatedly successful hits. They also seem to be the strongest weapon of the four main ones you obtain, rendering the alternatives somewhat useless in comparison, but perhaps it depends on your play style. All I know is, as soon as I obtained the gloves, I never looked back. I used a new weapon, wasn’t keen, and went right back to them.

Enemy variety is impressive. Ranging from basic grunts to more advanced foes like ogres, cyclops’ and dual-bladed spear wielding acrobats. The enemies often have varied attack patterns and advance on you without discrimination. This isn’t an old-school kung-fu movie; these guys are out for blood, and they’re come for it whenever they please.

The combat itself is relatively simple: alternate between square and triangle to figure out the various combination moves, or check the move lists in the main menu, and press R2 to unleash the magical ability tied to your currently equipped weapon.  Use the right stick to evade your enemies quickly. Use L1 to block and time it right to produce a parry and counter if available. Circle is used to grab foes. Weaker enemies can be gripped right away, whereas the more difficult breed usually provide you with a large circle prompt over their heads for a seriously gratifying, violent kill accomplished by button prompts. It all works well for the most part, but my complaint is in regard to the evasion mechanic. It’s just not as fluid as the rest of the gameplay, and the rest is remarkably fluid. The evasion is shockingly rigid, often resulting in mistakes being made by the insistence of Kratos adhering to a stiff, straight line. Should there be another iteration or a spiritual successor, I imagine there’ll be a smoother evasive maneuver implemented, but for now, it can be frustrating.

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Perhaps what God of War is mostly known for is its Quick-Time Events (QTEs). Boss battles often occur on a grand scale, and it’s unfeasible that Kratos could take on some of these opponents one-on-one, so the cinematic QTEs provide a way to show an epic take down of a Titan whilst allowing the player some input in the process. I personally like QTEs, but I can understand why fatigue may have set in. Whilst it’s not a long game, QTEs are used often, and mini-QTEs occur in regular fights. It can be a little much, but I appreciate them from a story-telling perspective and I’d rather have them than a ridiculous hack-and-slash at a seemingly insurmountable foe. The boss fights are epic and more than worthy of a play-through on their own merit, but as the whole package is an exciting, engaging experience for the most part, it feels all the more rewarding to reach these milestones.

God of War is spoken of mostly for its violence and QTEs, but not much praise is given to it for its puzzle portions. I think this is where this game truly shines, as you attempt to work out various puzzles on your way up Mount Olympus. It’s just the right level of difficulty to make it enjoyable without being frustrating.

Once you’ve completed God of War III, you can attempt it again with cheats unlocked by the acquisition of Godly Possessions in your original play-through. Trophies will be unobtainable, but you’ll be given various enhancements or handicaps depending on what costume you choose to wear, unlocked by the aforementioned items in the main game.

Should you not wish to revisit the story, you can engage in the Challenge of Olympus. You’ll be thrown in to an arena with an objective to achieve. Complete them all and unlock the Combat Arena. They’re fun asides that get you right in to the base experience of God of War without having to go through the campaign. They’re like enjoyable, bite-size chunks of Kratos’ bad-assery.

The game lasted me about 10 hours for my first play-through, and a fair few more hours spent in Challenge of Olympus. It doesn’t out-stay its welcome, and is a masterclass in pacing.

Overall

As a finale to the series, God of War III plays it safe and improves upon itself rather than innovating. As one cohesive narrative, this makes perfect sense and I appreciated the focus. There’s not much about it to make it worth a second look, but its been long enough since the original release for fans to appreciate a return to it on the Playstation 4. Thankfully, the game holds up even with little improvements. A testament to the overall game design, and had the characters themselves had a little more weight to them, this would be a masterpiece in my eyes.

Co-Founder Gav of War gave his thoughts on the entire God of War franchise as a whole back in 2013, so for more on God of War, check out his article!

God of War III Remastered
Review Format: PS4

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