Kratos isn’t charming. He’s not interested in saving the world, rescuing a princess or really doing anything at all that doesn’t serve his immediate goals of getting revenge and tearing apart anyone that stands in his way. He’s a one-note character with a one-note aspiration, and yet somehow this bald, grunting terror of ancient Greece is the headliner of the PS3’s longest-awaited and most hotly anticipated action game. Although if you’ve followed his exploits since 2005’s incredible slashfest God of War, you already know why.
God of War III is Kratos’s fifth and ostensibly final adventure, and it brings the series crashing to a fittingly brutal close, giving fans everything they’ve come to expect on a bigger scale than it’s ever been delivered. Gallons of blood are spilled, gods and Titans die in horrifyingly elaborate ways, and thousands of monsters are messily eviscerated by Kratos’s whirling chain-blades. The bosses are big, the puzzles are bigger and the combat is more fluid than ever. It’s also prettier than any other game in the series (duh), and while it doesn’t delve as deeply into Kratos’s troubled past, it doesn’t really need to. This one’s all about Kratos, the anarchic force of pure rage, bringing down the old order as violently as possible.
And before you ask, yes, there’s a sex minigame. One that actually shows you visibly bare breasts while it’s happening.
Above: Unfortunately, we can’t show it to you - yet
The end begins
Before that happens, though, there’s a lot left over to resolve. When we last saw Kratos, he was riding up Mount Olympus on the back of the Titan Gaia, ready to get all kinds of nasty on Zeus (who’d tricked and killed him at the beginning of God of War II, and then escaped justice at its end) and the rest of the Olympian gods. That’s exactly where GoW III opens: the Titans are still slowly making their way up the mountain, and it’s up to Kratos to keep the gods’ army of skeleton warriors off Gaia’s back. After he’s battered his way through a few dozen of them, he’ll face the game’s first real challenge: Poseidon, god of the sea, who appears as a water giant riding a team of massive, crab-like horses.
Above: This is one of them
As a single horse-creature burrows through Gaia’s arm like some kind of gross parasite, you’ll get your first real taste of what Sony’s been hyping as “Titan gameplay.” The landscape – actually just Gaia’s forearm – buckles and shifts as the water-horse yanks it around, forcing Kratos to climb up its sides and monkeybar underneath it during the fight. Meanwhile, the action zooms in and out for dramatic effect, frequently reducing Kratos to a tiny onscreen speck (which doesn’t get as confusing as you’d think) and giving you a real sense of the massive scale on which these creatures operate. It’s all pre-scripted, but it’s impressive nonetheless.
As gargantuan as Poseidon’s water-horse is, it’s as vulnerable as anything else to Kratos’s Blades of Athena, and before long Kratos has torn off its jaw, stabbed it through the heart and pummeled its master to death in one of the most jaw-droppingly ugly beatdowns ever to appear in a videogame. Soon afterward, however, events conspire to send Kratos rocketing back down to Hades, where he (once again) loses all his powers and sets the game’s real plot in motion. Yes, he’s still hell-bent on revenge – but before he gets it, he’ll have to murder his way up the Olympian hierarchy, endure the pleas of an imprisoned girl who reminds him of his long-dead daughter and be reunited with a powerful artifact from his past.
Above: Also, he’ll get to finally kill that fat creep Hades
Chains of destruction
Losing all your abilities so soon after getting a taste of fully powered-up Kratos isn’t so bad, seeing as you’re guaranteed to get better stuff down the road. And God of War III’s new weapons and powers are better – better-implemented, more useful and much more fun to use than those in previous games. For starters, no longer will you be forced to choose between Kratos’s chain-blades and some big, kludgy weapon that isn’t much fun to use. While Kratos’s new Blades of Exile handle more or less the same way his favored weapons always have, the three new additions to his arsenal – the soul-stealing Claws of Hades, the lightning-infused Nemesis Whip and the lion-headed Nemean Cestus – are all cool variations on the chain-blade theme.