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Why God of War III could change everything

For years now, the PlayStation 3 has been, in terms of games at least, more or less on equal footing with the Xbox 360. Every time a multi-platform game is released, it looks more or less the same on both systems, and the PS3’s exclusive titles (while pretty) haven’t truly been anything beyond the 360’s technical reach. Two years out, the system still needs something to truly set it apart. That changes with God of War III, which – if it delivers on all of its promises – could be the game that finally unleashes the PS3’s full, monstrous potential.

There’s a lot that’s changed in the shift from the PS2 to the PS3 (obviously), but the two biggest take-aways from our first glimpse of God of War III are an unprecedented sense of scale, and a detailed level of in-your-face brutality normally reserved for horror movies. “We want to define this generation with this game,” said Stig Asmussen, the game’s director, during an invitation-only press event earlier this week. God of War III will “redefine ‘scale’ in games,” he said, by introducing the Titans - Kratos’ massive allies - as moving, dynamic levels that will exist as independent creatures within the game world.

The series has done similar things before – see Pandora’s Temple in the first God of War, which was carried on the back of the Titan Kronos, or the massive Atlas level in God of War II – but those were really just static levels built to look like Titans. These, however, will be actual level-sized beings with terrain-like skin, which will undulate and shift as they crawl, climb and stomp around Mt Olympus. As Asmussen put it, they’re “living, breathing spectacles that I believe are going to change the way people think about games.” It’s difficult to do their enormity justice with words, so we’ll let the trailer show you:

What you’ve seen above is the Titan Gaia, who according to Asmussen could comfortably fit the Medusa level from the first God of War into the palm of her hand. One of the Titans, Asmussen said, will be taller than the Sears Tower. And while you’re navigating your way across their craggy bodies, the world around you will explode into chaos as the war between the Titans and the Olympian gods rages.

The action will scale from the quiet puzzle-solving and brawler-style skirmishes that GoW fans are used to, to massive, full-scale clashes between Titans, airborne gods and the monstrous armies of Olympus. Asmussen said the approach is to “take D-Day, combine it with the movie Cloverfield and put Kratos right in the middle.” While that means Kratos will get to wade into massive hordes of monsters, it won’t mean endless, Dynasty Warriors-style brawling; according to Asmussen, Kratos’ attacks will evolve dynamically depending on how many enemies he’s fighting at a time.

But we’ll come back to that in a minute. First, we’ll talk about the insane levels of gore that we mentioned earlier. Now, “gore” is a word that gets tossed around a lot in videogames, and it usually refers to bloody dismemberment or maybe a loop of intestine poking out here and there. God of War III takes that shit so far, it made a theater full of jaded games journalists go “eww!” in shocked unison. It’s not hyperbole to say that its gruesomeness is unprecedented in gaming. To be honest, there’s such a level of uncomfortable realism to it that it makes Gears of War’s chainsaw deaths look cartoonish.

First, there was a demonstration of the game’s “zipper technology,” which was trotted out during the gameplay demo when Kratos faced down a centaur. Being a large enemy, it can be finished off with one of Kratos’ quicktime-event finishers – which ends, shockingly, with Kratos slitting open its belly and letting its clearly identifiable guts spill out onto the marble floor.

After graduating from college in 2000 with a BA in journalism, I worked for five years as a copy editor, page designer and videogame-review columnist at a couple of mid-sized newspapers you've never heard of. My column eventually got me a freelancing gig with GMR magazine, which folded a few months later. I was hired on full-time by GamesRadar in late 2005, and have since been paid actual money to write silly articles about lovable blobs.