Quasi-Review: God of War 3

I thought I’d be clever with this one, honestly. A few slick phrases, a couple of excessively pedantic words, and we’d be set: I’d tell you that God of War 3 is a Hollywood movie for your Playstation 3. You press these buttons, see, and that big burly man on screen swings his weapons around, right, and then all of those big burly creatures erupt into big burly volcanoes of blood.

That’s it.

And that’s not a bad thing, folks. I grumble about the storytelling and silly ending, but the complaints of a story snob have no place here. God of War 3 is not about story. God of War 3 is about killing Greek gods in indescribably epic ways, looting their corpses, and slamming your shiny new toy into the next opponent’s face. It’s about massive, massive battles against entities taller than mountains, and it’s about painting the world a slick shade of red.

That’s pretty cool, I guess.

Don’t get me wrong – the great bloody game is gorgeous. Graphically, little else comes close, and the tech behind all the gore proves brag-worthy indeed. This ties nicely into the gameplay, which elevates mass murder to an art form while simultaneously nudging you and winking. Oh yes, it’s pretty, but it’s also pretty horrifying, and on occasion so unsettling that you can be forgiven for shuddering.

As it should be, one could argue. But that’s another argument entirely, and one which would be better served by kicking GoW to the side. Sure, it’s done more than any other game to drive home the terrible violence occurring on screen, but there’s a sense that the developers don’t care much for all that high-brow intellectual stuff. They just want you to kill things, darn it, and set about to make genocide as gorgeously terrible as possible.

Maybe that’s my complaint. We have here a game at the very top of its genre, so far as the visuals and mechanics go, but lacking the kind of emotional punch my One True Dream Game would effortlessly add to the mix. What results, then, is a game about violence and all the terrible seeds it sows. And that’s cool. It’s an utter blast to play, at times, especially with that lightning chain whip weapon that mows down crowds like it ain’t no thing, but the end experience feels a little hollow, a lot of glitter and flash glued to the (sweaty, bloody) skin of an animal we’ve already seen before.

It needs a better story. That’s an awfully whiny thing to say, especially when the game makes its violent intentions clear from the start, but maybe that’s just where I find myself, now, having spent way too many years of my life devouring these sorts of games for breakfast. I guess I want more. I tire of the Hollywood game, where the pretty pictures dazzle but the content behind the screen fails to impress.

Call it a sign of the times. We’ve come now to the generation of game consoles where graphics are approaching universal awesomeness, forcing all those pretty little games to fall back on something else to stand out in the crowd. Normally that’s just gameplay. For me, it tends to be story, and there’s the chief distinction.

If you’re fine with a mediocre story and just want to see one tiny man destroy the world, give it a go. And even if you’re a stickler for narrative, go ahead and rent it for a few days, just to see what this generation of consoles can do in the hands of a skilled developer.

Me? I don’t regret the ten hours I sunk into the game. I’ll never play it again, knowing I can’t skip the cutscenes, but that’s fine. God of War 3 wanted me to kill things. I did. And that’s all there is to it, honestly: brawn without brains, pretty pictures with the bare minimum of motivation to keep playing. One day I’ll find a game that does both. Until then…I guess I’ll just be grumpy about everything.

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