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Hands-on: God of War III


For the lazy, here's the short preview: it's God of War, in HD.

God of War III is the talk of many here at E3. Why wouldn't it? The solid graphics, the over-the-top gore, the visceral gameplay -- and did I mention the over-the-top gore -- make God of War III one of the most polished and fun games available at the show floor. Yet in spite of its successes, one can't help but think it feels a little too familiar. Perhaps, in many ways, God of War III is playing it a bit too safe, resting on the laurels of its predecessors.

That's not a bad thing per se, but we are an industry that champions innovation. Although God of War III doesn't stray far from the mold, it's still incredible fun and quite possibly the most gut-wretchingly violent game ever created. The creative team behind Kratos' latest are truly sick, devising an endless stream of creative deaths for enemies to suffer. Seeing someone's eye get ripped out may sound cool in SD, but God of War III makes sure you see every gory detail. The camera zooms in, proud to showcase the mutilation of the meticulously modeled and designed characters. There's more than blood that oozes (or explodes) out of these creatures; rather, we see guts and other bodily matter -- all in glorious HD. Kratos will, in the course of one short demo, impale a creature with its own horns, cut a gaping wound into someone's stomach, and rip a man's head off with his bare hands. And we're just scratching the surface.

Gallery: God of War 3 | 21 Photos

It's easy to get caught up in the game's graphic presentation, but God of War III's gameplay still satisfies. Anyone that has played one of the PS2 or PSP games should feel comfortable here, especially as many moves are unsurprisingly transplanted from God of War II. The core battle system was always celebrated for its incredible flexibility: able to attract beginner gamers with its intuitive combat, while still satisfying the hardcore with a robust combo system. God of War III is no different -- we're confident gamers of all skills will still be able to pick up the game and enjoy it.

There are a few new additions to Kratos' repetoire, many of which can be seen in the game's debut trailer. Kratos does have access to giant metal fists which radically transform the pacing of the game's combat. With his default blades, Kratos is quite a fast and nimble character; but with the fists, he becomes a slugger, able to dole out massive damage at the sacrifice of speed. While the button inputs remain the same, the feel and timing are completely different. These appreciable differences in the weapons is one of the reasons why God of War's combat remains so fun, even after so many iterations.

Another fun addition to the combat is a new grab move that allows Kratos to use an enemy as a shield and ram through a large crowd of undead. Kratos can also gain control of a variety of beasts, whether it be harpies that allow Kratos to fly to unexplored areas, or a giant golem that allows Kratos to swipe away at enemies with mindless ease. We've seen this all in the last trailer, and we're glad to report it's as fun as it looks.

It's hard to really find flaws in the E3 demo, but perhaps this should go on record -- the QTEs feel far more difficult to see in this iteration of God of War. Perhaps it's the overwhelming detail on the screen, but it can be easy to miss the button inputs when they appear at the far corners of each screen. Perhaps this is more my problem than the game's, but it certainly felt less intuitive than the on-screen indicators of, say, Heavy Rain.

Yes, God of War III plays it safe, but perhaps it's good to follow the "if it ain't broke" mentality. If God of War III is indeed the last game of the "trilogy," then we see it as a promising last hurrah for the series, and we're eager to get our hands on the game when it ships early next year.

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