God of War III Demo Impressions

Emails containing a code for the God of War III E3 demo were recently emailed to a random selection of European PS3 users. Obviously I was one of these people. Here’s my impression of that very demo:

There seems to be a lot of expectation surrounding the upcoming God of War; a level of scrutiny beyond that which most Sony first party titles receive. This is unsurprising really as the first two God of War games for the Ps2 stood out as the high water mark of the hack ‘n slash genre. To put the potential fears of fans of the series to rest straight away let me say that GoW3’s core combat system is as good as that of the previous games. Perhaps though, this raises a problem in itself. With two really good hack ‘n slash games in its lineage, is it enough for God of War III to be a really good hack ‘n slash?

In reality the answer is probably yes. Unfortunately there is the sense that the developers themselves weren’t quite convinced. Even in the short running time of the demo, probably no more than 10-15 minutes in length, the game bombards you with a number of different mechanics to get Kratos from one fight to another. This wouldn’t have been a problem if these gimmicks, which range from platforming segments through to riding along a series of harpies (while stabbing them), felt as fluid as the combat itself. As it stands the game is constantly breaking you out of the moment for increasingly aggravating set-pieces that only highlight how much fun you were having. In one section, for instance, you have to use the recently detached head of Helios, god of the sun, to light a pitch-black path. This is about as much fun as it is in any other game that has tried it and I can only hope it doesn’t turn out to be a regular requirement throughout the game.

Because dark corridors are always fun!

As I’ve said, the combat that is present is both solid and enjoyable. This is mostly due to the control system and move list being imported wholesale from the previous games. On the one hand this ensures that series veterans will be able to get instant gratification from the the start but, by the same token, leaves everything feeling a bit too similar to what has gone before. Where the demo really starts to stand out are in the, admittedly small, new additions to the combat, such as a section that ends with you controlling a wildly thrashing cyclops to break up a tortoise formation of shielded guards. The true mark of this game will be its ability to provide enough interesting extensions to the well-established combat to keep the game feeling fresh.

This will feel instantly familiar to series' fans.

Also returning are the controversial quick-time events. To give God of War its due these have always at least been properly contextualised, with the buttons you are asked to press at least matching up to the actions they would normally correspond to if you did have full control. The death animations that underlie these events are unflinchingly brutal with minotaurs being eviscerated, a cyclops having his eye pulled out and Helios’ head being ripped from his body. Their appearance on the overlay, however, with each button appearing at the far side of the screen does mean you are often too distracted to actually see the action (much in the same way that the visuals in Rock Band et al. can only really be appreciated by those not participating).

Much of the processing power seems to have gone towards gore.

Overall the God of War experience remains relatively unchanged, with all the joys and annoyances that that brings. While it remains to be seen whether the developers can give enough diversity to the games’ combat and tighten up the non-combat sections it will undoubtedly be received well by fans and probably even draw in some newcomers. If the gameplay on offer in this demo is any reflection of the game as a whole, however, it may not quite be the classic that people seem to be expecting.


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