Doing the demo: God of War 3

I’m currently working through a selection of PS3 demos, one of which was God of War 3.  When it started, my first thought was ‘Nice graphics’, swiftly followed by ‘Why did I download this?’.  Wiki classes God of War 3 as an ‘action-adventure’ game, but it’s what I would refer to as a ‘brawler’: fight after fight after fight, a frenzy of button-tapping and chains of combo moves.  These games aren’t all button-mashers, some do require good timing and recognition.  Regardless, I’ve always found this genre uninteresting.

God of War 3 is the kind of game I’d rather watch someone else play.  It’s a great looking game, wonderfully designed, coloured and animated.  It’s also hilariously violent.  Kratos, the main character, has an arsenal of ways to kill and dismember his enemies (and innocents).  Watching the game being played would allow me to enjoy the gore completely without being distracted by button prompts.

There’s an irresistible momentum to the game.  Seconds after loading I’m attacked by skeletons.  As soon as they’re destroyed I feel compelled to continue my path of destruction.  The linear, narrow level design and dramatic music push me forward.  I need more violence.  On the way, I remember being told just how savage Kratos is.  I round a corner as some civilians rush into my path, fleeing from skeleton attacks.  I try to kill an innocent.  I succeed.  Good times.

The attacks soon escalate.  Larger troops of skeletons await me, as does a lance-wielding centaur.  This battle completed, I consider the reasons for my disinterest in this genre.  I’m bad at fighting games, that must have something to do with it.   I have a nasty habit of watching the character I control instead of my opponent.  I get so caught up in trying to execute combos instead of reacting to my enemies moves.

There’s a contrast between how big and muscular Kratos looks on the menu screen and how tiny he looks within the game.  Some of this is by necessity; to allow the gamer to view as much of the playing area as possible, Kratos must take up little of it.   God of War 3 restricts the gamer’s control of viewpoint, eschewing the norm of assigning ‘camera’ viewpoint to the right thumbstick, using it instead for dodges and rolls.  With this limited view, the designers had little choice but to minimise Kratos’ presence.

There may be another reason for Kratos’ lack of stature, and this is pure speculation on my part: to portray him as the underdog.  Kratos might be a muscular killing machine capable of murder on a massive scale, but in the land of mythology, he’s small fry.  His lack of heft is evident shortly into the demo, as a character many hundreds of times larger makes an appearance.

I’m not up on Greek mythology, so I couldn’t identify the big blue fellow who appears.  He’s ridiculously big, dwarfing the surrounding buildings.  I also can’t explain what appears to be a flying, flaming cart that pesters him.  I spotted it at the start of the game.  Presumably it follows me about, but I’ve no idea why.  I assume there’s a horse attached to it, but I can’t see one.  The cart is tiny compared to the giant Dr Manhattan but he’s bothered by it.  He swats at it while I stand and watch, both awed and confused.  Some horns enter from the side of the screen.  They’re attached to a beast that I spend the next five minutes fighting, mis-timing combos and missing button prompts, wishing someone else would do the playing for me.

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