God of War III was nothing short of a feat of engineering when it hit the PlayStation 3 in 2010. It took the God of War formula from the original, perfected in the sequel, and brought it into the biggest, flashiest rendition of ancient Greece we’d yet seen.
The scale and movement of God of War III were like nothing we’d yet seen at the time, and helped make the game feel like a living, breathing world. The game was a true showpiece for the PlayStation 3 as one of its best exclusives.
Five years later, we peer over a cliff-like Kratos so often seems to, into an abyss of remasters, remakes, and collections. We look down at the swirling mists and wonder if God of War III Remastered stands out from the crowd or if it’s just another remaster in a long list.
Despite the mass of Quick Timer Events and puzzles that make up big parts of the God of War series, the combat is really the core focus and the part that has helped the series garner the fanbase it has. Since the original on PlayStation 2, God of War has had tight, fast combat.
This is, unquestionably, where the remaster serves its subject matter best.
God of War III Remastered gets the standard fresh coat of paint – updated textures and improved lighting. They do make a pretty big difference, too. When I was in the thick of combat, I forgot I was playing a five year old game. Enemies and lighting effects look great. Kratos, with his scowling, ashen mug, looks especially good. He clearly received a lot of attention.
The real meat of this, though, lies in the technical details. Alongside the updated textures and lighting comes an update to full 1080p resolution and 60 FPS action.
It’s still God of War III, but it’s buttery smooth like it has never been before. Switching between weapons, between attacking and blocking and dodging between enemies all feel great and, most importantly, fresh. The combat in God of War III has aged surprisingly well.
This is assisted by a massive stable of monsters pulled right out of Greek mythology, from cyclops and satyrs to gorgons and minotaurs, the gang’s all here and they provide just the right amount of variety.
The improved textures help keep the environments from feeling updated as well. One of the big bullet points with the original release was the scale of the game. Kratos spends portions of the game climbing massive, lumbering titans, battling monsters all the way up. The camera frequently pulls out to remind you that you’re on a giant moving thing, and it’s convincing and impressive. Cronos and Gaia, feel more alive than ever before, rivaling only Kratos himself in terms of animation and texture detail.
The other human characters, though – including the gods – haven’t been given the same care. They look, aside from some great lighting effects, like PlayStation 3 models. They’re clunkily built with facial animations that lend some cutscenes unintentional humor thanks to bugging out eyes or weird-looking faces.
Battling the Game
The other elements of the game, unfortunately, don’t hold up as well.
First, there are the Quick Timer Events, also known as interactive cinematics.
What started out as visual flair for the game, something that set it apart from other action games, has become a grating albatross weighing the game down.
God of War admittedly does a better job of it than, say, Resident Evil. Most events are not punished with instant death, and success is rewarded with some beautifully choreographed gore. An especially nice touch puts the button presses at the four edges of the screen so that you can pay more attention to the cinematic and less to the button press itself. This is generally successful.
I’m really bad at these, though. The same way a parent trying to call just one of their four kids into the house never says the right name the first time, I never press the right button the first time. I’m plenty good at the game (and action games in general), but quick timers have flustered me since the original and at this point it seems like the designers could come up with an equally cinematic alternative that would let me put my combat skills to work instead of my timed button pressing skills.
Then there are the puzzles. Like the QTEs, these feel more like they’re there to break up the combat than anything else. And that really is necessary. The combat would get old without a mix of some other elements inside.
Many of these puzzles, though, have a timed element compromised frequently by bad collision detection or confusion spatial arrangements. A few times, for example, I encountered puzzles that required that I scale a wall, jump across a horizontal gap, and then scale a wall again. Often after crossing the game, I would try to scale the wall only to find that my character was stuck on the corner between the horizontal and vertical sections despite being, visually, in exactly the right place to start moving up. Things like these made puzzles feel more tedious than fun.
Kratos is the worst
The most frustrating part of the game, though, is Kratos himself. The things he says and the way he behaves. I was with him in the first game – Ares tricked and betrayed him, took his family away from him. I love a good revenge story, and God of War was just that.
At this point, though, Kratos is, to say the least, an insufferable jerk with a serious anger problem.
I’ve played as some pretty unlikeable characters and managed to side with them, but I never once felt for Kratos. The gods are jerks, for sure, but Kratos stomping around and and yelling “Vengeance!” at the top of his lungs didn’t start convincing me and didn’t end up any more so.
The actual acts performed as Kratos go beyond the pale in God of War III as well, enhanced that much more by the improved textures and lighting. I wanted to look away as Kratos tore the head off one god and slashed the legs off another, but those Quick Timer Events kept me unhappily looking at the screen, watching skin stretch and tear, expose bone hitting the ground.
Innocents get caught up in Kratos’ unquenchable blood thirst, too. Aside from sort of bringing about the end of the world, unleashing plagues and floods, he does things like pushing an otherwise innocent (and nude) woman under a gear to keep a door open long enough for him to get through before she’s crushed into a pool of blood and giblets.
About the only people Kratos doesn’t end up killing are Aphrodite, who you have the option to have one of the classic God of War off-screen sex sequences with, and a young girl who is crucial to the plot and, for some reason, the only thing Kratos hesitates to level his blade at.
God of War started life as a neat “What If” story about Greek mythology. Now, though, it feels like fanfiction where the author’s main character goes through and murders everyone we learned about in the third quarter of 6th grade English.
God of War III Remastered is a smooth, well-crafted action game. With a buttery framerate and updated lighting, the action feels as fresh as ever. If you’re a huge fan of the series or maybe missed out on the PlayStation 3, the game is worth checking out just for the combat and some of the puzzles. Be prepared for one of the most unredeemable protagonists in gaming, though.
If already bought the game, though, there’s nothing new here – just the updated game and assembled DLC. Aside from the visual improvements, this is the same game it was on PlayStation 3, for better or worse.
Disclaimer: We received a copy of God of War III Remastered for the PlayStation 4 from the publisher. We completed the campaign on normal difficulty before writing this review.