Wednesday, July 13, 2011

God of War 3: A Retrospective Review of a Masterpiece

Since my last post I decided to pick up a copy of Tom Bissell's book on video games aptly titled Extra Lives: Why Video Games Matter.  The book so far has been great and I highly recommend it (especially since its the only book I've ever come across that lends criticism, usually reserved for books and film, to video games).  Not that I intend to use a Bissell quote for every single entry I do or anything but heres one thats especially applicable to a God of War 3 Retrospective:

"The shock of the new: the sensation of encountering a creative work that knocks loose the familiar critical vocabularies and makes them feel only partially applicable to what stands before you.  It is powerful, powerless feeling of knowing your aesthetic world has been widened" 

This quote comes from a chapter in which Bissell describes playing the very first resident evil for the first time and it hits the nail on the head for certain games, especially God of War 3.

GOW3 knocks you senseless from the get go.  Purely in terms of graphical supremacy GOW3 is king.  I've never seen a video game look that good to the point that it seems so real it ventures into unreal.  Looking at an image like the one below certainly won't do this games graphics justice but remember that the photograph is a screen shot not some elaborate cutscene.  
This picture is a still from actual gameplay
And to be honest GOW3's graphics are only a small part of what makes the game a shock to the senses.  The picture above does give a slight hint that the scale of the game is massive but still doesn't explain just how massive.  There will be moments where you are fighting hordes of enemies at lightning speed and performing incredibly complicated combos but that wont even be the most interesting thing on your screen.  Often there are epic things going on in the background like Gods fighting Titans (doesn't that just sound bad ass to begin with?), huge buildings falling down or harpies flying about.  I do not believe there has ever been a game with this big a scope.  

GOW3 is also a blast to play.  The controls are tight and Kratos' weapons are unique in that they're part sword, part whip.  The combos are seamless and smooth, not to mention lightning quick.  You'll be grabbing an enemy and using him as a shield as you run through countless opponents only to throw a stronger enemy in the air and do insane amounts of damage before they even touch the ground, all in a matter of seconds.  When it comes to boss battles and mini boss battles you'll be introduced to a semi-cutscene where you have to hit certain buttons, in certain sequences, to finish them off.  The action here gets so complex and brutal you almost feel like its unfair for your enemies to be fighting you.  If you want intensity at breakneck speed this is the game.
The fight with Lord Hades is spectacular
The last feature of of GOW3 that makes it an absolutely shocking and incredible game experience is its story, or more accurately its universe or setting.  Don't go into this game expecting Ulysses or Citizen Kane but do expect it to utilize a mythology that is the perfect vehicle for an epic video game: Greek Mythology.  Kratos' story is simple: He wants revenge for the God's mistreating him and only by the death of all of them, will he be satisfied.  This simplicity is incredibly effective for a video game.  All of the tools are already there for the writers to tell this tale.  There are epic characters such as Gods, Titans, and ancient heros that are already deeply rooted in our collective storytelling (whether we know it or not...its a long story) and incredibly interesting settings (who doesn't want to explore Hades, Mount Olympus, and the maze constructed by Daedalus?).  In addition to all of that you're also going to be able to see how Greek Mythology explained every facet of a persons life in ancient times.  Believe it or not, GOW3 is actually pretty informative on the Greek Myths as a whole.  

If you want to play a game that is going to change your perspective on whats actually possible in a video game you need to try God of War 3.  This game will shock you senseless and enlighten you at the same time.  Anything that raises that conceptual bar, that "widens your aesthetic world" is something special.


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