Exclusive to PS4
Like its protagonist, Kratos, God of War 3 is big, brutal, inclined to acts of hideous ultraviolence and unintimidated by scale. It’s the kind of game that starts big – scratch that, enormous – then just keeps piling on the enormity. Think taking centre stage in the Titan’s attack on Mount Olympus is a big set-piece? How about tearing the god of the sea from his watery leviathan then beating him to a bloody pulp? Well, God of War 3 regards such things as a starter before the main course; the sort of thing Kratos tackles when he’s just warming up.
So it was on PS3 and so it is on PS4. Sony’s latest remaster takes what was already one of the most dizzying spectacles on PS4 and runs it at 1080p and a targeted 60fps with added visual buffs. It’s still an incredibly rich experience, well worth whacking on a big-screen telly and playing with the surround sound pumped up. Admittedly, the graphic upgrades aren’t particularly noticeable beyond the resolution and frame rate. Up close it’s clear that some textures have been changed and Kratos’s armour is spectacularly shiny, but many characters maintain that signature last-gen rubber-skinned look, or don’t have the detail we’d expect from current-gen creatures when the camera zooms in for a climactic slaying.
All the same, the brilliance of the architecture, creature design and animation still impresses today. This is the series’ Peter Jackson meets Ray Harryhausen aesthetic at its very best, and when Kratos is tackling dozens of undead goons with his Chains of Chaos (now the Chains of Exile) in the midst of some gleaming marble edifice, it still looks amazing. In fact, only two brawlers of recent times can hold a candle to it: Platinum’s Bayonetta 2 and Ninja Theory’s DmC: Devil May Cry.
As for the gameplay, it’s equally terrific. Some dismiss God of War as a button-masher with quick-time-event fatalities, but the strength of its combat is its fluidity, blood-thirsty grace and tactical depth. It’s not as combo-focused as DmC or Bayonetta 2, but you need to think about how you control the crowds, how you isolate and deal with the larger foes like the gorgons or minotaurs, and when to make the best use of your magic attacks.
See also: PS4 vs PS3
In God of War 3 these reached their apex, range from a phalanx of shielded phantom spearmen to spectral monsters dragged from the bodies of slain foes. Meanwhile, you’ll be building up your gauge to launch Kratos’s Spartan Rage, turning the already pretty handy warrior into a sword-swinging engine of carnage for short periods – a move which can turn the tide of any battle.
God of War 3 hasn’t got the series’ best or most varied weapon set, but it has its share of wondrous gizmos, including the Greek world’s mightiest boxing gloves, speediest footware and most gruesome high-intensity torch. Each brings new tools to Kratos’s toolbox of ultraviolence, and part of the fun of the game is in working out new ways to smash, slash and crush a multitude of foes.
See also: PS4 vs Xbox One
The threequel also benefits from some of the game’s smartest puzzles, again making full use of Kratos’s godly gadgets. Some require keen observation, others lateral thinking or an ability to twist perspective. God of War 3 is too violent a game to reach Portal levels of cleverness, but there are brains behind the brawn and brutality, not to mention some keen imagination.
In some ways, time has not been kind to the God of War saga. The constant surge towards bigger, badder, faster, tougher robs the game of any chance of subtlety and the pacing is all flow, with precious little ebb beyond the cut scenes. Some of the violence is actually quite appalling, and I’m not sure if it’s meant to shock you into seeing Kratos from a different perspective, or because God of War 3 came out at a time when neck-stabs, split heads and eyes gouged out were seen as the height of sophistication.
See also: Upcoming PS4 Games 2015
Most of all, Kratos struggles to hold our sympathy at times. Part of the point seems to be that his humanity has been buried underneath his lust for vengeance, but when characters keep appealing for help and all Kratos can say is ‘I don’t care, I just want to kill Zeus’, the guy comes across as, frankly, a bit of a git. He might have been a blood-thirsty Spartan psycho in God of War 1 and 2, but he was a blood-thirsty Spartan psycho you could just about relate to. Here he’s just the kind of chap you try to avoid any eye contact with when you walk into a pub.
To be honest, that’s not a big deal. Nor is it a disaster that your £25 to £30 buys you just one game where the PS3’s God of War Saga collection came packing five. Even the fact that the only really new feature is a photo mode can’t hold Kratos back. Sony Santa Monica’s hymn to mythic ultraviolence is as powerful and thrilling now as it was five years ago. If you haven’t played it, you probably should.
See also: Best PS4 Games 2015
And if you have? Well, that’s more difficult. This is fundamentally the same game that you bought and played five years ago, and while the resolution-bump and frame-rate boost make it better, they don’t transform it. Arguably, you’re better off booting up your PS3 and just playing it again on that, while even some newcomers might want to look at finding the aforementioned Saga bundle if they have a PS3 to play it on.
All the same, I can’t imagine any fan of blockbuster action games buying God of War III Remastered and feeling short-changed. Love or hate its hero, it's a massive epic, the power of which won't be denied.
With a 1080p resolution bump and a smoother frame-rate, God of War III retains its place as one of the mightiest brawlers ever made. You can quibble about the lack of new features or the failure to upgrade and include the earlier two games, but when a game delivers this much intense, imaginative and downright magnificent spectacle you’re almost helpless to resist.