Kratos was, is and continues to be the angriest protagonist in modern gaming. The Spartan-general-turned-Olympian-god-turned-vengeful-embodiment-of-rage has been around for 10 years, but it's been an epoch since a new God of War game came out. Today (July 14), players can pick up God of War III Remastered ($40) on the PlayStation 4 as a stopgap, but it offers nothing new for those who've already completed Kratos' quest to tear the Greek pantheon apart, both metaphorically and literally.
What Is God of War III Remastered?
God of War III Remastered is a case study in "exactly what it says on the tin." For better or worse, this game is just God of War III, which debuted for the PS3 back in 2010, with a graphical facelift. The Remastered edition introduces no new gameplay features, save for a Photo Mode that lets you snap in-game photos in order to edit and share them online.
On the bright side, the game takes full advantage of the PS4's powerful hardware, allowing God of War III to run at full 1080p and 60 fps. (The original ran at 720p and 30 fps.) It also recreates the game in its entirety, and, as those who played it can attest, God of War III is a pretty good game. As to whether it's a good enough game to warrant its own remaster, that's up for debate.
Should Newcomers Get God of War III Remastered?
Maybe. The problem with God of War III Remastered is that it seems like an odd game to pull out of the rotation and highlight. The original God of War, released in 2005, is a modern classic. The fast-paced, delightfully gory, over-the-top gameplay helped usher in a whole new era in action gaming, where QuickTime events and truly colossal bosses reigned supreme. The next two games were not quite as memorable.
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And that’s the inherent problem with making God of War sequels -- there’s no need for them. Those who played the first God of War (and from here on out, we'll discuss spoilers, so newbies be ye fairly warned) know the score. Upon defeating Ares, Kratos ascends to Olympus and takes his seat as the new God of War. From that moment on, the narrator informs us, Kratos oversaw the battles that humans fought until the end of time.
Or perhaps only until the game sold like hotcakes and Sony decided to make a sequel. Kratos made it all of 15 minutes into God of War II before Zeus stripped away his powers and set him on a quest for revenge. He spends the rest of the game climbing Mount Olympus to confront Zeus. One climactic boss fight later, Zeus casts him down, so that he can do the exact same thing in God of War III.
It doesn't take a master storyteller to figure out why God of War II and III or their myriad handheld and mobile spinoffs ring a bit hollow in comparison to the original. At first, Kratos is a nasty, angry, unpleasant man lashing out at an even nastier, angrier, more unpleasant god. In the second and third games, Kratos seems less like a figure from a classical Greek tragedy and more like a petulant ball of misplaced fury, tearing gods in half because he has nothing better to do.
Even assuming that you want to know the backstory, God of War III Remastered gives you no easy way to do it. PS4 owners can only play God of War and God of War II via PlayStation Now, an expensive streaming service. God of War III Remastered does not have any extra cutscenes or codices to help new players catch up.
Two types of people could benefit from God of War III Remastered, although I'm not sure how big either group is. The first is someone who played God of War and God of War II back on the PS2, never bought a PS3, but recently acquired a PS4. If this describes you, go ahead and pick the game up. It's a lot of fun, and provides a satisfying (if not spectacular) conclusion to Kratos' arc.
The second is a gamer who has never played a God of War game before, but really couldn't care less about the story. Although God of War is a cinematic, story-driven series, it still succeeds on pure gameplay merits. If you want a well-designed action game with a lot of variety, you could do much worse than God of War III Remastered.
Should Veterans Get God of War III Remastered?
Probably not. I played through a good chunk of God of War III Remastered, and aside from the extremely pretty graphics and high frame rate, there is nothing different about the game from when it launched 5 years ago. I liked God of War III when I first played it, but only enough to play through it once. If you wanted to play through it multiple times on various difficulties, you've probably already done so.
The graphics on the PS3 and PS4 are not exactly night-and-day, either. Comparing the two games side by side, the Remastered version looked much better and smoother, but the original hardly looks bad on its own merits. The particle effects, particularly water, flames and magic spells, look much better than before, but the character models and backgrounds have received only modest upgrades.
Unlike many other HD remasters, God of War III Remastered does not add any extra value by bundling in downloadable content, as the original game did not have much. If you have a PS3 kicking around, you can get God of War Saga for about $20, which includes the first three God of War games as well as the two PSP spinoffs, Chains of Olympus and Ghost of Sparta. Throw in the God of War: Ascension prequel, also on PS3, for about $15, and you can get the entire God of War series for $5 less than a single remaster. That math alone makes a $40 repurchase almost unthinkable.
On the whole, God of War III Remastered feels like a game that was probably not dying for a standalone PS4 re-release. A full God of War collection on the console would be great, as would a new God of War game. God of War III Remastered is a half-measure: a pleasant one, to be fair, but one that may not move the series forward or introduce a whole new audience to Kratos.