Not a Review: God of War III

On the back of hearing that God of War III is one of the best PS3 games of 2010, plus having played the previous two games, I felt I should finally give this game a go.

First of all, God of War III is clearly a game about spectacle. The sense of scale imposed in so many of the game’s scenes is really something to behold. It feels pretty satisfying to see Kratos climbing over giant Titans, literally messing them up inside and out, but this kind of thing brings its greatest strengths and weaknesses into stark relief. It’s kind of the same with every God of War game; the best things it has to show you require very little interaction from the player, and any player interaction feels pretty disconnected from what’s happening on screen.

I think enough has been said about the exceptional polish on God  of War III, so I’ll just jump into some of the glaring oversights I noticed during my time with the game.


You know how it is. When you’re sitting down to continue your game, you just want to boot right up and get in there as fast as possible. I’m a busy guy, OK? Sure I hammer on the go button during those logo builds, because I just want to get into the game. How annoying is it, then, when the game disregards any saves you may have on your console and always makes “New Game” the default option? It’s especially bad when that launches you into an unstoppable, unescapable opening cutscene, which was pretty cool first time around, but now only makes more apparent the need for better UI design on the front end.

Always check if the player has saves, and make Resume or Load the default menu option. If you can’t check for saves, make it the default option anyway; the only people you’re going to piss off otherwise are those wanting to quickly jump in and continue a game, which will happen more often than the guy jumping in for the first time and accidentally hitting Load.

I admit it’s a weird thing to notice, but it became a problem enough for it to really stick out. Just bad UI.

Combat and Control

It’s hard not to let my experiences with other character action games like Bayonetta inform some opinions about the combat in God of War III. So rather than fight it, I’ll just run with it.

I feel like the combat in God of War III is starting to show its age. Maybe I was never that into it in the first place, but when compared to Bayonetta, I just don’t feel like I have as much control in God of War. Having spent a crazy amount of time thinking about it, I believe a lot of it comes down to evasive maneuvers and blocking. Too many times in God of War did I feel like I got hit because I couldn’t break the animation of some protracted attack, while I don’t remember having that problem at all in Bayonetta. Sure Bayonetta’s evasive flip is a little fudged in the way it can be used to avoid damage from any earth-shattering attack, but at least I felt in control. When I hit that evade button, I got the expected result and it felt super satisfying; sadly the same can’t be said for blocking in God of War. There I just felt like some of the attacks would take longer to complete than some enemy’s attack animations, meaning I had no way of hitting block in time. Am I supposed to avoid using half the repertoire of attacks because they’re too slow? I think it’s better to give the player a greater sense of control and balance around that, rather than punish the player for using anything but quick light attacks.

I felt like Bayonetta was weighted more toward rewarding the player, with an evasive move that avoids damage by itself, but also grants additional bonuses if timed well.


An enemy that can perform an attack that, if it hits under certain frequently occurring conditions, will kill you instantly. Yeah, that’s pretty messed up. The game has a lot of places in which you can instantly die (and I’ll talk about that later), but none are more infuriating than this, because this one always means having to start an entire encounter again. I hated them in the last games, and was sure that Sony’s Santa Monica Studio would balance them appropriately in this game, maybe making you take a few hits before crumbling to pieces (you know, like the other guys when they’re turned to stone), but sadly no. Fortunately there is not a litany of them in this game, but I wouldn’t have been sad to see them gone completely.

Puzzling Traversal

The single greatest cause of death among Gods, it would seem, is stepping off the edge of a cliff. There’s a terrible inconsistency with invisible walls that prevent you falling to your death in God of War III. Sometimes you’ll be trying to jump down off a platform, only to be foiled by the God stopping power of an invisible barrier, then you’ll be sauntering off the edge of a cliff because the same courtesy was not afforded at this particular spot. It’s an inconsistency that really stood out.

The second greatest cause of death is probably the Icarus wings choosing to take a day off at the most inconvenient of times. I could seriously be holding that jump button for dear life and have absolutely nothing happen. I tested the button for responsiveness and even used a different pad – same problem, sometimes they just wouldn’t go.

The most hilarious thing about all these traversal related deaths is the message asking if you’d like to switch to easy, adding that this only affects combat. Thanks, game, but I just want jumping to work, cool?

You Should Still Check it Out

Despite my grievances on the oversights, I still think God of War III is at least a 3 star game and worth checking out. I’ve probably been too affected by Bayonetta at this point when it comes to the combat, but nothing quite compares to the sheer epic scale on offer here.



Don't mess with this witch
Don't mess with this witch

Having now played Bayonetta at least 3 times through, which I can tell you is a rare occurrence for the way I play games these days, that should be a good indication of the quality on offer throughout this game. When I think back to the images I witnessed coming out of E3 last year and then TGS, I was cautiously hopeful that the game would deliver all the craziness I was seeing while maintaining a balanced game that wouldn’t be as punishing as Ninja Gaiden, but with perhaps more fulfilling combat than God of War. On my first wish, Bayonetta delivers in in gloriously lavish spades, with combat feeling like a finely choreographed dance as much as it does convey a sense of otherworldly power. Fortunately, this combat is also deep and rewarding, with mechanics such as Witch Time promoting good timing over perfectly memorized combos.

I can’t say enough about just how good the combat feels in Bayonetta. I found myself actually being excited to get into another brawl with heaven’s minions, rather than feeling like each scrap was just an obstacle on my way to the real destination. Aside from the mechanics such as Witch Time, making the player feel powerful without making the game easy, every battle is coated in so many layers of visual and audio flourish that it’s sometimes hard to believe you’re even controlling what’s happening on your screen.

The game seems to revel in its own fiction and setting and is all the better for it. The music and visual style build on the clash of modern and rococo themes to make something that feels very unique, if completely insane. While the music does feel a little patchy in spots, there are certainly some moments in which I felt the highs of combat were accentuated by the soundtrack. In addition, it complements Bayonetta’s hyper-sexual striptease aesthetic with some upbeat jazz sounds mixed with lusty vocals.

It must be said that while the titular character is sexual and performs striptease dance moves while dispatching foes, it never feels misogynistic and Bayonetta herself is never coy at any point. Her skintight clothes are made from her own hair, which she uses as a conduit to summon demons and perform more powerful attacks. Doing so causes her to strip down as she summons more of hell’s devastation, as if to make some kind of poetic statement about female empowerment.

Like this, only crazier
Like this, only crazier

Bayonetta is the kind of game that’s easy to play again and again, with plenty of extra items and weapons to be found, each providing their own spin on the combat. This combined with the ability to have two sets of weapons the player can switch between on the fly, as well as most weapons being different if used on the hands or feet, there’s plenty of depth here and more than enough reason to keep coming back.

I enjoyed the first Devil May Cry and I’m glad to see Hideki Kamiya making more good games that celebrate and build upon Japanese game design. I appreciate the numerous nods to various classic Sega and Capcom games; it puts a smile on my face every time I hear that rendition of the Space Harrier theme following Bayonetta’s announcement, “Welcome to my Fantasy Zone.”