So all that stuff is a lot of fun, as QTEs go. But while the game is mercifully short on “press X to not die” moments, they’re still in there, and getting too used to the peripheral-button flashes might leave you unprepared when a looming hazard suddenly requires you to curve the analog stick down. That’s irritating, but at least the forgiving checkpoints ensure that dying usually just means you’ll have to start the QTE over.
Above: Quick time!
Of course, combat and QTEs are far from the only things God of War games offer. While they’re continually overshadowed and sometimes nearly forgotten, the series has always excelled at huge, elaborate puzzles that incorporate the environment in interesting ways. GoW III doesn’t fall flat here, delivering an assortment of memorable and frequently strange challenges, like the musical one mentioned above. Even more striking, however, is a perspective puzzle that forces you to “see like the gods” to shift its platforms and stairways around until it looks like they’re interconnected, at which point they will be. (Yes, exactly like echochrome.)
Most of the puzzle action takes place in the Labyrinth, revealed as an assortment of what look like massive, hanging crates in a cave halfway between Olympus and Hades. At first, you’ll battle across the tops of these as they shift around their enormous cavern, and occasionally you’ll have to keep a few minotaurs from hacking away at the chains that keep the boxes aloft, which gets frustrating fairly quickly. It’s only when you come back later in the game that the Labyrinth’s true potential is revealed, as a series of twisting, trap-filled cubes that each contain a puzzle (usually of the sliding-block or hidden-switch variety) you’ll need to solve to get through.
Above: Not all that impressive now, but wait until you get inside
As always, the strength of these puzzles isn’t in their size or elaborateness. It’s that while they’re clever, they can almost always be solved just by quickly taking stock of what’s in your immediate surroundings. If a puzzle ever seems tough, just experiment with what’s around you; you’ll get it eventually.
Speaking of things that are enormous, we should take a moment to address one of the promises Sony made early on. In our first real preview with the game, we got to hear all about Titan gameplay, which as we said earlier was supposed to be a revolutionary idea that would set entire levels on the bodies of Titans. These Titans, in turn, would behave dynamically as they wandered around a huge, persistent game world, making for landscapes that would shift unpredictably with every movement.
Sadly, it didn’t go down quite like that (although to be fair, that idea probably would have been terrible in practice). But while we don’t get to climb around on an assortment of Colossus-like Titans, there are two (entirely linear) areas that treat their bodies as moving levels. The first is Gaia, whom we discussed earlier, and the second is a familiar face who shows up late in the game. We won’t spoil too much, aside from saying that popping gargantuan, oozing sores is one of the least-gross things you’ll be subjected to.
So, Sony didn’t entirely come through on its promise, and there are only two Titan areas in the game. However, what’s there is pretty amazing, and the shifting nature of the Titans’ bodies – pre-planned or otherwise – makes them two of the most enjoyable levels in the game. It just would have been nice if there were one or two more of them.