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God of War III

Kratos' last stand is his best yet.
Of all the iconic video game characters, Mario, Sonic, Master Chief, Samus, Link, etc, Kratos is one of the most recent and certainly the most vicious. Created for the original IP God of War on the Playstation 2, Kratos has become a Sony mascot, wielding a path of bloody destruction that carved him a spot at the top of the sales charts. The original God of War was a revelation: A mix of blood, gore, nudity, combat, and puzzles that had even the most jaded gamer shouting with enthusiasm. The second game upped the ante, taking Kratos on even bigger adventures against ever more powerful foes. The series continued with a prequel on the PSP, but the final chapter was held until the powerful internal mechanics of the PS3 could do such an epic justice. And now that it's arrived, there's no doubt: God of War III is the best game in the series to date.

God of War has always been about Kratos' struggle against the gods. The first game had Kratos saving Athens from his former master, God of War Ares. After defeating him, Kratos was himself granted the title of God of War, but his loathing of the Olympians led him to wage a war against their cities, causing Zues to remove Kratos' powers and leave him for dead. Not willing to pass on quietly into that good night, Kratos regained his strength and took the fight to Zeus, only to discover that Zeus is in fact his father. Even more angry at the Olympians after this revelation, Kratos summons the Titans to destroy Mount Olympus and all the gods who live there. God of War 2 ends with them scaling the mountain's side.

Wasting no time, God of War III picks up as Kratos leads a charge of the Titans to Zeus' doorstep. And if you thought the previous games had some impressive moments (remember back to the first reveal of Ares in the original game, or your trip through a mountain housing a Titan in the second), that's nothing compared to this, where you battle more gods than ever before. God of War III is relentless, pitting you against some of the most powerful beings in the Greek mythological universe, and the effect is exhilarating. Waiting for the PS3 was a smart move, as the graphics are some of the best yet seen on the system. All kinds of detail are evident, from crumbling facades to the vines that serve as Gaia's veins. Kratos is immaculately rendered. The sense of scale is also awesome (as in filling you full of awe), with Kratos looking like an ant against the massive bodies of the fearsome Titans.

The gameplay doesn't differ too much from the last two entries, preferring to refine what's already there as opposed to reinventing the wheel. The focus is on making the combat as smooth and seamless as possible. You can now switch weapons on the fly, allowing you to start a combo using your trusty blades, switching to mammoth gauntlets to break faces, and ending with a bow shot that takes your foe to task. A few new weapons spice things up, even as returning ones continue to satisfy in the bloodletting.

Oh, and what blood you will see. No fight is free of the crimson tide. Every hit draw forth a fountain, making the game earn it's M rating. Of course, this is expected by now, but there's something about Kratos pounding Olympian gods into mush that gives one pause. Kratos is the most singularly nihilistic character in video gaming history, seemingly willing to destroy the entire world to satisfy his hunger for revenge. The finality of the actions you take give the game more weight, and thankfully by the end the story does open up beyond the single note of merciless mayhem it's been playing up to that point.

The developers also break up the single-mindedness by including puzzles, although none as grueling or brain-busting as those found in the last two. However, instead of feeling too easy, the experience now feels like a welcome diversion. You never spend so long on any one puzzle that you start to miss the days of good old fashioned combat, and their inclusion means you don't get sick of the fights that make up the majority of the game.

If you liked the previous God of War titles, you're going to feel right at home with this one. If you were put off by the others for any gameplay reason, the streamlined mechanics may be more to your liking. If you're not a fan of violence, then this game will never be for you. But if you own a PS3, you owe it to yourself to pick up and play Kratos' best and last battle. Videogame Talk Collector Series

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