It is strange that I should enjoy God of War III so much. I’m not a particular fan of hyper-violence – and with a game that features Zipper Tech, a subroutine that calculates innards spilling out of a disembowelled centaur, it’s fair to say that it’s a tad on the violent side. I’m also not the biggest fan of puerile sex scenes in any media – and banging Aphrodite (off-screen) by Quick Time Event while two of her bare-breasted attendants watch and get all hot and bothered in the process doesn’t strike me as a particularly mature depiction of human (or indeed mytho-divine) sexuality.
And yet, in spite of me slaying more Olympeans than I care to shake my blades at (come to think of it, most of them I killed by shaking my blades at them, repeatedly), none of my pinko liberal borderline-pacifist sentiments complain the way they do when I hear about how much Jack Bauer rules. It’s not that I fist-bump every time Kratos tears some satyr’s head off or impales a minotaur on his torn-off horns… but damn, if the game doesn’t make those things enjoyable! And even though I’m about the greatest story-whore there is when it comes to games (two fingers to you, ludologists!), I guess my enjoyment of God of War III comes down to gameplay, first and foremost. I don’t know how Sony Santa Monica did it, but the Ghost of Sparta (known as Krony-Poo to those friends of his who want to have a close look at their lungs) and his arsenal of mythological weapons of mass destruction control so well. For non-gamers, it may be difficult to understand just how much a game can pull you in with a reactive, easy-to-learn-hard-to-master set of controls – and the God of War series has always been extremely good at this.
While story isn’t the game’s main attraction, it is pretty well told – and eminently pretty, in a “Look at the shader effects on that flesh wound!” way – and Kratos’ butchers tour of ancient Greece features some memorable re-interpretations of the big names, from snide but doomed Hermes to bruddah Hercules who gets his face Gaspar Noéd in to poor doomed Hephaestus who only wanted to protect his daughter, Pandora. But the visual beauty of this game doesn’t come from the characters (although it’s impressive to see Kratos’ scars in realtime HD) or the cutting-edge (pun intended) blood and guts – it’s the amazing, epic scale that each of the games has managed to put onto the screen. From fighting the Colossus of Rhodes to the Steeds of Time to climbing around on Gaia’s ample back fighting harpies… and don’t even let me get started on the architecture! In effect, God of War III may dress up as splatter, but at its heart it’s scale-porn – it gets hot and bothered showing tiny little figures climbing around gigantic buildings and creatures. It’s what a model railway built by Peter Jackson would look like. And, pinko lefty liberal that I am, I eat it up like it’s going out of style… and if it means pulling the heads off another 99 hydras.