God of War III Hands-On Preview

Kratos’ earlier journeys were some of the hottest and most critically acclaimed titles on the PlayStation 2, so it makes perfect sense that Sony was using God of War III as the focal point of their 2010 lineup. The demo that SCE Santa Monica studio brought to E3 2009 was easily one of the most popular attractions on the show floor, but we here at TGR fought through the crowd to bring you our impressions of one of the Playstation 3’s biggest titles.

The demo starts off with Kratos in Olympia, a city where chaos reigns and screaming citizens are being devoured around you. The Titans and the gods of Olympus are at war with one another after the events of GoWII, as you get to witness Helios the Sun God fighting it out with a humongous lumbering beast in front of you. The demo allowed us to play around with a host of familiar weapons–including the Blades of Athena and the bow and arrow–but we also got a chance to experiment with some of the new combat features. An added grappling technique allows you to use enemies as human shields or battering rams, with Kratos eventually ripping them apart in a fabulously gory display of violence.

We were then shown some of the returning enemies–namely the Centaur and the Harpies. We were told that these creatures would have new roles in this sequel, besides being things that you can stab. The huge, ax-wielding Centaur can command smaller soldiers to be more aggressive, or so said the developer. It was hard to see a difference in my opinion, as the the swarms of monsters seemed to mob Kratos just like they normally would. The Harpies serve as a platforming mechanic in God of War III, as you can use them to get across bottomless chasms and gain access to areas that were out of your reach. Sadly, the platforming itself feels unnatural and awkward, only serving as a detraction from the otherwise gripping, adrenaline-pumping action.

Of course, the over the top, gratuitous violence and gore that has been a trademark of the God of War series has returned in all of its glory. Your blades still rip realistically through your enemies, creating showers of blood that stain the ground and even spray on Kratos. Additionally, we got a chance to see a particularly awesome moment where Kratos rips out a Cyclops’ eye, and another where he tears off Helios’ head to use as a grisly flashlight. Epic.

Graphically, God of War has always looked pretty good, but the PlayStation 3 iteration manages to look even better than ever. Character models look crisp and well textured in high-definition, and the game moved along at a brisk frame rate. There also doesn’t seem to be any pesky load times in this one, so nothing will interrupt your slicing of mythological beasties into small, bloody chunks. It became clear that how much you’re going to enjoy God of War III is going to be largely dependent on how much you’ve liked the series up until this point. If you’re simply looking for more of the same, then GoWIII will probably be right up your alley. It takes the gratuitous, chaotic violence of the older titles and improves it with some new gameplay mechanics and better graphics.

However, if you’re looking for something revolutionary, God of War III doesn’t look like it will deliver in that department. While our short time with the game was definitely enjoyable, it felt almost identical to the experience that we had slaying gods and mythological monsters in the second title. It also felt completely devoid of the creativity and innovation that one would expect from the next-generation debut of a huge franchise. So far, GoWIII looks great and contains a handful of welcome new features, but it still seems somewhat lacking in comparison to what we’ve come to expect from the talented Sony developers.

God of War III ships in March 2010, exclusively for the PlayStation 3.

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