So there’s this demo on the PlayStation Store right now. You might want to have a look-see. At last year’s E3, the SCEA Santa Monica team responsible for God of War III capped off Sony’s press conference with a 10-minute sample of this unbelievably polished and brutally visceral action extravaganza, which caused absolutely every journalist in the vicinity to either drool or unhinge their jaw…or both. All we wanted to do was go hands-on with that very same piece of gameplay. But now, everyone with a PlayStation 3 can do that; you can either have the God of War Collection sitting on your shelf or you can download that very same demo on the PSN right now. It’s a downright massive download, clocking in at nearly 2.8GB, but it’s well worth your time if you’re not a Collection owner. I may not be the biggest fan of every last feature on the PSN but playable demos may be my favorite addition to this generation, and quite possibly the most useful one for consumers. But come on; who needs a demo to convince themselves that GoWIII is gonna rock?
Well, you may not need convincing but you likely want an early glimpse of a guaranteed Game of the Year nominee. They also debuted even more gameplay footage on GTTV last night, and you should’ve seen David Jaffe’s reaction to it. If you missed that, head on over to his Criminal Crackdown blog and check out his latest video update; he starts talking about it at the 4:22 mark. His response to that is similar to the responses we heard to that E3 demo, which is what I just got finished playing a few minutes ago. It’s so pretty and so fluid and such a feast for the eyes, and the instant I began testing out the battle mechanic and experimenting with the most deadly and versatile Kratos yet, I knew I was in for a very special treat. The balance of the combat in every GoW has always been amazingly impressive: you never feel overmatched, but you do feel the challenge and above all else, you feel up to that challenge. I despise action games that are designed to make your supposedly super powerful main character feel like he’s just struggling to survive. That's just dumb.
Anything that gets in this guy’s way is gonna get torched. And that’s bad-ass . His special abilities and maneuvers are just so damn abusive and humiliating to the offending hordes that continually assault him from all sides. Whether he’s using one enemy as a battering ram, tearing another enemy in half, or destroying a particularly large foe in one of the most grotesque and satisfying ways possible, Kratos is always inflicting his insane brand of justice on any nasty thing that crosses his path. I love the fact that the block button is also mapped to the combo trigger; you hold down L1 to block but you also hold down the same button and press circle, triangle or square to unleash a special skill, which works beautifully. You can block and then without changing a thing, simply press an attack button and launch into a massive whirlwind of death. Then there’s the variety in the gameplay that was on display, even in just a short demo. I flew with my wings through a tunnel packed with debris, rode Harpy Hags across gaps, used the head of some dude to illuminate darkness (and a secret), used one of my alternate weapons for brutal melee attacks, and did a bit of wall climbing. So, so engaging and so wonderfully done.
There are only two aspects of this demo I didn’t particularly like but they’re so minor, they might not even be worth mentioning. The first is that I noticed the camera sits a little too close to Kratos when running through a smaller, enclosed space. However, this being said, the fixed camera has almost never been a problem in any GoW entry and it wasn’t a problem in this demo, either. I just felt it got too close at times when running forward in a few of the narrow alleyways. The other thing is that the QTE button prompts can appear on any side of the screen (top, bottom, left or right), which is a little irritating; I’d much rather be looking in one spot for the next requirement. But again, it doesn’t really affect anything provided you’re aware that QTEs can show up anywhere. I personally like the way Heavy Rain handled the QTEs: you may not have noticed if you’ve played it, but the requisite commands appear near where the action is happening; i.e., if Madison has to throw a chair at her attacker, the command appears by her hands. It just seems natural because your eyes are always drawn to certain places. Might be tough to do in GoWIII, though.
But really, this demo is awesome, and I’m sure the final version will be a gargantuan achievement and a ridiculously fun ride from start to finish. Kratos really is the biggest bad-ass in gaming today.