Feels like it’s been an excellent year for video games. I’ve played quite a number over the last few months, all of them good to some degree, but all sharing the fatal flaw that they’re not Red Dead Redemption. Perhaps the least good amongst these (though certainly not without it’s redeeming features) was God of War 3.
I played the first one some years ago, and in a little movie about the development of the game, I seem to recall one of the designers hooting gleefully, “Kratos needs to be more brutal!” Clearly they have taken this as their mantra for the series ever since, because MAN it is one gore-soaked slice of ultra-violence. Humourless Spartan psychopathic murder-machine Kratos continues his one man vendetta against the gods of ancient Greece, and the game runs the full emotional gamut from snapping monsters in half, to ripping their eyes out, to cutting someone’s legs off, to punching their heads until there’s literally NOTHING LEFT. It’s one of those drawing-room comedy games, you know.
Despite the 18 certificate, it seems to be firmly aimed at adolescent boys, with its digital boobies, casual brutality and heroic lack of humour or irony. Man, you can like totally tear off the sun-god’s head and use it as a TORCH. To begin with I was wowed by the visuals and the sheer scale of everything, but quite quickly I started to get a little bit bored. The gameplay, which was so innovative and influential in the first game is starting to look, I dunno, a bit retro. A lot of timed button pressing, a lot of untimed button mashing, and I found myself frequently trying to move the perspective around then remembering, er, you can’t. To be fair, this sort of game has never really been my favourite type, I’m more a role-playing and strategy buff, on the whole, but still, double jumps, really? In 2010? In essence it’s a scrolling platform button smasher. An ingeniously dressed up button smasher, with some very nicely styled movie sequences and some incredible set pieces.
Mind you, some of those set pieces really are quite something. I’d just be thinking, man, I’ve had enough snarling mayhem, when the game would blindside me with another set of immense, swooping perspectives and staggering scale, and I’d be all sweaty-handed again. The battle against the titan Chronos is particularly amazing, in which you clamber, ant-like, over his giant body, crawling down the back of his arm, for example, an insignificant speck, while in the far distance you can see his frowning, moon-sized face as he casts about for you. He swallows you and you cut your way out of his stomach in an immense fountain of gore with a sword ten feet long, in case you were wondering. Using some timed button presses…
So quite a technical achievement in many ways, and with some superb sequences, but it does feel a little like a format that has had its day. A bit like when you see a small hatchback with expensive body kit, spoilers, underlighting, and etc. Maybe you should just have invested in a better car, rather than spending all that money dressing up one that is, fundamentally, a bit ropey? The main criticism, though, has to be that as the final cut scene comes to a close, one can’t help feeling – “Meh.” If the central character is just a gurning cardboard thug, it’s hard to really care much about how it all works out, however many polygons are involved in his construction. Compare with the emotional punch of Red Dead Redemption’s (in some ways not dissimilar) ending. All I can say is, “erm, could Kratos be just a little less brutal?”