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?”
11 comments so far
What about for someone who hasn’t played 1 or 2? Is the third installment a good place to start?
If only Kratos was normally a pretty okay guy who was trying to be a better man and move past all the horrible things he’s done, but maybe just on occasion flew into an incredible berserker rage whenever things got tough. That might be interesting…nah, who am I kidding? That would never work.
Have you tried playing Demon Souls?
I agree. I also kind of think this one had a fair number of mis-steps. The pacing felt a little off, and Hermes was just awful.
Anyway, check this out as it’s pretty funny/clever:
Should I be worried that Joe Abercrombie wants something to be LESS brutal?????
Joe i do not mean to rant off into right field but you need to get bethesda in on makin a dragon age type game with your world involved. Think about it! we could have it like origins and could start out as a northman, union man or just any type of player from any continent…….Yea i know i am living in a dream world but hey i dream big. Its because of dragon age that i found your novels in the first place because it made me wanna read more mature stuff but at the same time something that will make me laugh my ass off as well. Get this done joe! I have faith in you brotha 🙂
lol i am dreaming big. somehow i turned bioware into bethesda! hahahahaha well you know what i mean. Start abercrombie inc. if you have to…
I think his intention was to intimate that its hard to connect with a character who only ever feels rage, anger and hatred. Too one dimensional.
As far as hack ‘n slash games go I think Bayonetta is top of the pile right now.
Disregard the rubbish attempt at a plot and just enjoy the awesome game mechanics and O.T.T. style.
I agree completely. I really liked the first GoW, but the sequels are underwhelming. The only reason I played them is because the storyline is *just* good enough to keep me interested, but I agree with Joe about the brutality. It’s way too over the top.
And Kratos is just not that interesting anymore. He was when he was the depressed, angry and suicidal Kratos in GoW 1. But now he’s just angry, and that’s not interesting.
For me, the game failed because of a stubborn unwillingness to evolve the basic game mechanics, and the story completely failing to make up for the fact and give the series the send off it deserved.
The pacing was just terribly off throughout. The game starts well, but then hits something of a lull as you get cast down to Hades for the umpteenth time and must fight your way back up. Moments of brilliance (the Hades and Chronos fights) are jammed between tired sequences of killing the same old enemy archetypes in surprisingly uninspired areas.
Christ knows who thought it would be a good idea to try and redeem Kratos at the end by appealing to a sense of humanity he’s completely failed to display for the last two games. Hang on — one second he’s eviscerating a princess by using her body to block a door mechanism, and the next he’s coming across all paternal over Pandora? Completely illogical and just craptastic writing. I wonder if this was the scriptwriter’s fault, or whether some high-up clueless type thought it would be EXTREME include the princess scene and insisted on sticking it in there to much accompanying gnashing of teeth…
So the latter half of the story is just an inconsistent, ham-fisted mess. Luckily, it’s still a good *game* because of what’s been accomplished previously, but as a finale to the trilogy it falls massively short of the heights it should have aspired to. Good to see no intelligent discussing of the game’s shortcomings in the media which slobbered all over it in the reviews — about par for the course nowadays, it seems.