Now that the dust has settled from the best E3 in years, we can take a moment to process the years’ worth of upcoming-release insanity that we took in over four days – and that means making early, snap judgments based on what we’ve seen and played. One of the biggest and best presents for PS3 fans this year was a playable demo of the long-awaited God of War III, and it was joined on the show floor by a few games that clearly took their cues from Kratos’ past exploits (or were at least similar enough for us to draw comparisons between them). But are they worthy adversaries, or merely pretenders to the throne? Only by dissecting each one can we decide for sure!
God of War III
Full disclosure time: The author of this article is a huge fan of God of War and would probably moon over GoW III even if it was just hours of Kratos frowning meaningfully at a potato. But even with that in mind, the 10-minute demo that was playable at E3 was pretty badass. So far, it delivers about what we’d hoped for from a PS3 God of War game: more of the same tight, button-mashy action, but with much prettier visuals and more of everything.
There’s more gore, including the realistic tearing of sun-god Helios’ neck as Kratos rips it off, or the “zipper mechanics” that come into play when he slits a centaur commander’s belly open (courtesy of a quicktime kill) and spills a pink pile of entrails. There’s more stuff to do, like hitching rides on harpies to get across chasms, riding on the back of a giant Cyclops to massacre shield-bearing undead warriors, using one of Kratos’ new grab attacks on hapless man-sized enemies and using Icarus’ wings to fly up through vertical hot-air vents.
There’s also a new weapon, the Cestus, a set of lion’s-head gauntlets that – while they don’t feel quite as effective as Kratos’ default Blades of Athena – are almost as versatile and can bash through armored enemies. There’s more magic and cool accessories for the taking; in addition to items carried over from God of War II, like the Icarus wings and the Golden Fleece, Kratos can now use the severed head of Helios like a magic lantern to reveal secrets, light caverns and blind enemies.
Finally, there are more varied enemies, as evidenced by a Chimera that goes through three separate fighting styles (one for each head) and by that centaur commander we mentioned earlier, who can rally crowds of cannon-fodder skeletons to swarm you with coordinated attacks. It all comes together beautifully, with the same carefully calibrated slash-happy gameplay and attention to detail that made the last three God of War games so much fun. With almost a year between now and the game’s release, we’re eager to see what else is ahead.
There was, however, one problem with God of War’s E3 showing: apart from newly redesigned harpies and the appearance of murderable Greek civilians, there wasn’t much on display that we hadn’t already seen in February. We’ve already heard a lot about the game’s plans for ground-breaking “Titan Gameplay,” which will turn Kratos’ allies, the massive Titans, into huge, moving levels wandering through an open world. But we weren’t offered even a glimpse of it in action during the demo or during an in-depth, behind-closed-doors presentation of the game. We’ll give God of War III the benefit of the doubt for now – the series has certainly earned it – but next time, it’s going to have to do more than give us a chance to play through what we were shown four months ago.
Worthy? Without question – although we’re going to be a little skeptical until we see more.
Likelihood of defeating God of War:
(Well, OK, obviously God of War III isn't going to defeat itself. Just think of Kratos as the control group in this experiment.)
Much as Bayonetta isn’t a deliberate grab for God of War’s lunch (unlike certain other titles on this list), its button-mashy, slashy-shooty brawler action is still similar enough to Kratos’ latest monster-stomp to merit a mention. Slick and ultra-stylized, Bayonetta actually looks a lot like Devil May Cry 4, and with good reason: it’s being made by some of the people who worked on that series, including the first game’s director, Hideki Kamiya. The difference between this and Dante’s last outing is that, while DMC was always a little extreme, Bayonetta throws off as many restraints – and as much clothing – as it can get away with.
First, there’s the title character, a sexy witch who carries four guns – two are strapped to her ankles – and wears a skintight catsuit made from her own magical hair. Her basic gun/kick combos are fluid, brutal and fun to pull off, and while she has a sword, it’s not nearly as fun to use as her weird brand of gunkata with its increasingly ridiculous attacks. A lot of Bayonetta’s attacks also incorporate her hair, which means that, mid-combo, she’ll often suddenly appear to be half- or mostly naked (a gold unitard covers up the absolute bare minimum of naughty bits). The hair often seems to have a mind of its own, to the point that – during finishing sequences for certain bosses in the demo we played – it actually grew a dragon-like face and started chomping on our downed enemies.
Above: That’s not to say that all her punishing attacks are hair-based, however
So far, what we’ve seen of Bayonetta’s visual presentation is nothing short of bizarre; she seems to live in a world inhabited by ghosts, and most of her enemies are huge, angelic-looking beasts with the marble faces of classical statues. Stone mugs or no, they go down pretty quickly, especially when Bayonetta gets their weapons – no matter how huge - away from them, and uses them to go on an angel-killing rampage. (Although, as is the case with most found weapons in games like this, even the really big ones aren’t as fun or as versatile to use as the default implements of death Bayonetta has from the start.
Above: Nor are they as fun as making a giant, kicking hair-foot
It’s definitely not as dark, blood-soaked or cruel as God of War – in fact, it doesn’t seem to even begin to take itself seriously – but its goofiness, charm and ever-present promise of nudity and sexy hip-thrusting make it just as captivating. It’s also a lot of fun, as Bayonetta unleashes more over-the-top crazy combos than Kratos could even wrap his rage-addled mind around. And that’s not even scratching the surface of her weird abilities, which include growing butterfly wings for a quick triple-jump and being able to walk, run and fight on walls and ceilings with the push of a button.
Worthy? Absolutely, assuming it can keep up its bizarre pacing without wearing out its welcome. If this trailer is any indication, we expect wonderful things ahead:
Likelihood of defeating God of War: