I really don’t know how to feel about all of these remasters. Some, Like Wind Waker on the Wii U are effortlessly necessary and easily justifiable thanks to its array of improvements and the years that have passed since the original release. It wasn’t played by enough people back in the GameCube days and is generally considered a classic of the genre – fair enough – remaster away. At the other end of the spectrum however is the recently released, Prototype bundle, a lazy collection of decidedly average and totally forgettable video games that have seen little to no improvement over the original releases and, well, come on – who the hell asked for a Prototype bundle on current-gen consoles? It’s the remaster phenomenon taken to its final and most ludicrous extreme – ok, that honour might go to the recently released, Legend of Kay remaster, but either way, you get the idea.
Sony’s, God of War III Remaster falls somewhere in the middle of these two extremes. It’s unquestionably a very good video game, but like, The Last of Us before it, it was only released a few years ago and already looked fantastic on PS3. The new PS4 release does add the obligatory 60fps and 1080p visuals, and while that does add an additional layer of gloss to an already gorgeous game, I’m not sure if it’s enough to justify the full price purchase of a game that can be easily picked up for a few quid on PS3? It’s probably not if truth be told, but then, that’s coming from someone who has, and continues to own, a PS3. This game, again, like the Last of Us, is clearly aimed at the gamers (of which there are many), that have made the generational migration from Xbox 360 to PlayStation 4. As a part-time video game journalist and industry obsessive, it’s easy to forget that not everyone buys every console on the market – the fact is, there are literally millions of current PS4 owners who have never had the opportunity to play God of War III until this very moment.
When you also take into consideration the fact that Sony will obviously be looking to tease God of War IV in the not too distant future, suddenly, Sony Santa Monica’s remaster makes a lot more sense – sure, it might not be for me, but with so many new Sony gamers yet to experience Kratos’ somewhat unique ‘charm’, it’s hard to be too critical of their decision to return to one of the PlayStation 3’s greatest technical achievements.
And it really is a technical achievement; it didn’t make any huge changes to the successful formula established during the PS2 era, but it did deliver a scale that had only been hinted at previously. Don’t get me wrong, both God of War and God of War II (the second in particular) did spectacle in a big, big way, but given the technical limitations of the platform, you always got the impression that the series hadn’t quite matched the imagination of its developers. That wasn’t the case for the third release though – this game does scale quite unlike any other game out there. Right from the off, the battle on Mount Olympus delivers one of the most visually epic set-pieces of all time, and while the game is a little front loaded in terms of sheer spectacle, this is big, brash, bold gaming from beginning to end.
While this is fundamentally the same game as it was on the PS3 (complete with some additional minor DLC), there have been a few changes that ultimately make this the definitive version of the game. The all new counter system, while arguably unnecessary, does add some additional tactical options to battle while the extra enemies on screen that the PS4’s extra horsepower allows does add to the already massive sense of scale. Further to this, the choice to remove magic drain from your additional weaponry does make the use of your entire armoury a more appealing and logical option. The chains are still the star of the show, but it’s good to see a greater emphasis on the rest of Kratos’ increasingly impressive selection of murder weapons. Other than these additions though, God of War III Remastered remains very similar to the original game released back in early 2010 with only a photo-mode added in terms of additional options and extras. Again, it’s a nice addition, but as you might expect, it’s far from essential.
Whatever you might think of the handful of relatively minor trimmings added for the remastered version of the game, they would all ultimately count for naught if the game itself didn’t hold up. Luckily, God of War III holds up admirably. The ultra-violent combat is still hugely satisfying with that slower, more considered pace still somewhat unique in a world occupied by the fast-paced likes of DMC and Bayonetta 2. The combat isn’t as technically nuanced as either of those and it certainly doesn’t offer anywhere near the kind variety inherent to each of their systems, but what it does have is impact and an undeniable sense of brutality. That’s not to say it’s simplistic of course (top players can still put together some very impressive combos), it’s just that, for your average gamer, it does put a greater emphasis on spectacle and crowd control making it a more user-friendly system for those uninterested in battle ratings or giant combos.
The story and world created remain compelling and the use of Greek mythology is consistently inspired, sadly, while the world itself is an artistic tour de force, Kratos remains a hugely unlikeable protagonist whose, ‘I’m all angry’ schtick soon becomes rather tiring. There is a brief attempt to make him a tad more relatable, but for the most part, Kratos is, well, he’s a bit of a dick if truth be told. It’s a problem that has been with the series from the start, and after numerous releases across the PS2, PS3, PS4 and PSP, Kratos remains as largely unlikeable as ever. While I welcome the potential return of the God of War series, I for one hope that God of War IV is sans Kratos and his incessant shoutiness.
Still, despite Kratos proving as wholly unpleasant as ever, God of War III remains a stellar action adventure, one that looks better than ever in 1080p and 60fps. Whether it required an upgrade is up for debate, but this is a fundamentally rock solid game with an almost unmatched sense of scale and a fantastic battle system. The platforming and puzzles remain unambitious and a tad clumsy while the second half of the game doesn’t quite match the sheer spectacle of the first few hours, but that doesn’t take away from the fact that when God of War III is at its best, when it really ramps up the action and turns the volume up to 11, there still isn’t anything out there that can match it.
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