Wednesday, 21 March 2018

Kratos returns in God of War for PS4 this April



Sony has another PlayStation exclusive hit on its hands with the upcoming God of War for PS4 this April. Previews suggest first-party studio Santa Monica has outdone itself. So, in anticipation of the latest instalment in the franchise, here's my God of War 3 review for PS3, which I never got around to publishing on this blog, in all its gory glory...

God of War 3 is more Return of the Jedi than Return of the King. For gamers (myself included) who remember playing Greek myths on the Sinclair ZX Spectrum, this is a wonderfully upscaled version of those ambitious 8-bit titles from the eighties.

Bayonetta, a darling of critics everywhere, left me cold [I've since become a huge fan in the intervening years and now own the original and Wii U sequel on Nintendo Switch]. Therefore, I was pinning my hopes on God of War 3 to reignite my thirst for the visceral hack and slash genre popularised by Dungeons and Dragons (D&D), Golden Axe and Devil May Cry.

It may be worth pointing out that I've never played PlayStation exclusive God of War or its first sequel - something I plan to redress once the remastered God of War: Collection is released [Never did get around to it. Because Mass Effect trilogy.]. To use a filmic analogy: I was about to watch Return of the Jedi without ever seeing Star Wars or The Empire Strikes Back. However, I had it on good authority that God of War 3 could be played without any prior knowledge.

Olympian video games have enthralled me since Gift from the Gods graced the Sinclair ZX Spectrum in 1984. Despite the generation gap, both Gift from the Gods and God of War 3 are epic revenge fantasies wrapped in the trappings of Greek mythology.

The player is plunged into the action as Kratos battles the undead to defend a female titan scaling Mount Olympus - much to the chagrin of the Gods. The frenetic pace, sweeping camera angles, aping Peter Jackson's The Lord of the Rings trilogy, and surround sound, induced a migraine and I was forced to put down the controller after only a few minutes of gameplay! This isn't a negative. It's symptomatic of an overwhelming opening sequence that the Clash of the Titans reboot would be envious of.

Death-dealing has never looked more picturesque than it does in God of War 3. The game's aesthetic is most reminiscent of BioWare's Star Wars: The Old Republic. To be honest, I'd, incorrectly, assumed that it was a BioWare release. It doesn't take a huge leap of imagination to see Kratos, himself, as a Sith Lord!

Much has been made of the visceral violence in God of War 3: from decapitating limbs to beheadings, in all of which you play a pivotal part. But, it's mostly operatic in nature and didn't disturb me as much as Resident Evil Code: Veronica - that game was the stuff of nightmares.

However, it's not exactly 'family-friendly' and I'd politely suggest thinking twice about playing this alongside a family game of Wii Sport Resorts! It's worth pointing out that amongst this melee, there's sexual content, too. The camera doesn't pan away, and you could find yourself fielding awkward questions from younger gamers.

This is the third act and has a satisfying conclusion, unlike most trilogies. For those of us who haven't played the previous instalments, there's now a compelling motivation to do so. But, I can't imagine that the franchise will end here. It's too lucrative and the PlayStation needs exclusives. However, I hope that the developers will allow Kratos to retire with dignity and serve up something fresh, exciting and worthy of the mantle.

By turns breathtaking and awe-inspiring, I was still left wondering if there could have been more imagination and less regurgitation applied to the development of such an auspicious title.