While it definitely drops the ball in a few key areas, God of War III is still so packed with exhilarating, memorable moments and extremely satisfying combat that the flaws are easily forgivable. It may be the weakest entry in the trilogy, but it still completely crushes all other competition.
Easily the best part of any God of War game is the brutal, visceral combat, and God of War III gives you the best version of Kratos yet. His basic moves remain unchanged, just as fluid and responsive as ever, but his new tools for eviscerating foes absolutely change the game. The best of these is the new grapple where Kratos throws his blades into an enemy and launches himself forward, allowing you to get back into the fray much more quickly and move from one enemy to the next without breaking combo. It's improvements like this that make replaying the previous games much more jarring than I had expected.
A problem with the prior games is that any alternate weapons given felt so lackluster compared to Kratos' blades, but here, the new weapons finally feel like fun, worthy additions, particularly the Claws of Hades, purple hooks on chains that operate like flashier versions of Kratos' standard blades. Switching between these weapons has been simplified beautifully, making it incredibly easy to change mid-combo and get creative with your kills. The problem with all of these tools is that you're not really challenged to utilize everything in your arsenal often enough, so it's up to you to keep things fresh for yourself.
Too much of a good thing is the least problematic issue with God of War III, though. Pacing, level design, and backtracking are all a step backward from God of War II. Different environments don't feel as connected as they used to, with portals leading back and forth across the world, giving the whole game a feeling like it was loosely stitched together. There's also more backtracking than ever before which, rather than making the world feel more connected, only serves to make it feel more disjunctive as you hop back and forth through radically different environments.
However, the biggest problem I have with God of War III is how inconsistent it feels in terms of quality and how much it rehashes from the first two games. There's nothing wrong with the premise here, that Kratos is out to kill Zeus, but the game treads such familiar ground in exploring that premise that it nears the point of mockery. Kratos is sent to the underworld for the third time, has to find Pandora's Box for the second time, and is still getting help from Athena even though he killed her at the end of God of War II. Simply put, Athena should not have been in this game and is only a drain on the story.
But almost all of these issues melt away when you're actually playing. God of War III has flaws but by no stretch of the imagination would I call it disappointing. This game is filled to the brim with some of the most exciting and impactful sequences I've ever played in a video game. In particular, some of the boss fights here are beyond epic and each ends in such a spectacularly violent and gruesome way that I couldn't help but enthusiastically describe each kill to friends, all of whom then demanded to see it for themselves. I'm not exaggerating when I say that I often had an audience when playing.
The moment-to-moment encounters with enemies and bosses in God of War III are easily the best in the genre thanks to Kratos' new moves and some very smart refinements, like completely revamped combat while climbing. As a result, even if it doesn't surpass the previous games in the trilogy in the quality of the overall package, it's often the most fun entry in the series. It's also unbelievably gorgeous both in terms of fidelity and artwork, and I frequently stopped just to ogle the amazing environments. This game is just impressive in every sense of the word.
It's unfortunate that God of War III makes the mistakes it does, but at the end of the day, those mistakes won't prevent you from having to pick up your jaw at least once per hour. It's a stunning game completely worth purchasing.God of War III / $59.99 / PS3