You mention the name 'Kratos' and almost any gamer will start grinning. God of War 3 was voted 'Most Anticipated Game' at the most recent Spike TV Video Game Awards. It was also named to our Ten for ’10 Games to Watch. And on March 16th, the final chapter in the story of the man who challenged the gods and won (well... at least the end of this story line) will be released. Newsarama got to check out a preview of the game at Siren Studios in Hollywood last week, play the beginning of the game and chat with some of the design team. If the 'woot's and 'awesome's being yelled around the room are to be believed, this anticipated game is a surefire hit.
We started the preview at the beginning of the game, and played through the death of a god. If you've played the previous games, that is no spoiler, but be warned...some slight story spoilers are ahead. As we began, Kratos was traveling on the Titan Gaia to Olympus to defeat the gods who forced him to kill his family. If you've seen the trailer, you know how large she is. Todd Papy, the Lead Game Designer, was on hand and talked about just how big they are.
“The Titans are about 500 meters tall. About 1500 feet. The Sears Tower, you know? And Kratos is about 2 meters tall, so he's roughly 6 feet...for the most part, when we design, we're dealing with static geometry and we can say, 'play through this, adjust it'...When I started prototyping the Titans, we were kind of using Colossus as our scale. The Titans we're using right now are 6 times the size of the Colossus.”
As the Titans climb, the Olympians prepare. We see Zeus, Helios, Hades and Poseidon, the god of water watching their approach. There are no traditional cinematics here. You move almost seamlessly from scene to gameplay, from shots of the gods to fighting skeletons in real time on Gaia's shoulder. We see Poseidon dive from the top of Olympus, into a whirlpool to begin the first attack on the advancing Titans. Lead Environmental Artist Chris Sutton said water the way they wanted to do it was a challenge. He noted, “At first we didn't have the tech to make the water...'hey, look at the water they have in that game'...eventually the programmers got sick of us and gave us the tech to do it.”
Suddenly, Gaia is seized by a giant water horse with crab claws (the Leviathan), watery lightning breath and a waterspout that can knock you on your ass. As you rack up combos, the ground is moving...well, Gaia is...and you continue the fight hanging from her arm. Sutton said, “This time, we literally had a character that is a level...we had to make sure that things held up to the cameras moving in and out...when the camera moves out, the Titans still have to look good from a distance and be comparable, quality-wise to the other characters.”
And when it's time to finish him off, you are presented with a quick time event, that love-it-or-hate-it sequence of button presses. Some have complained of quick time events that had you concentrating so hard on which series of buttons to push that you missed the awesome things they let you do. This time, they are simplified by having the buttons on the edges of the screen that correspond to their placement on the controller. Plus, you get to rip off a jaw. Ah, Kratos. How we love your violence!
Without completely spoiling the first sequence of the game, here are some other things to expect. You're still climbing all over the place, (up curly vines, the universal symbol for 'climb here') swinging from point to point and moving giant blocks of stone. And there are still those mini-games. You're still looking for chests to fill up your various orbs (which look way better than they did in God of War 2) and using the Wings of Icarus. You're still cracking skulls in new and exceedingly bloody ways. My favorite is the head stomp. Papy had a couple favorites, “Favorite kill? Obviously the Poseidon one. And I think probably the Centaur one. I like the intestines for some reason. It's a clever way to eviscerate someone. [laughs]”
Oh, yes. And the nudity. You get to fight half-naked harpies and archers and we're told that the, um, visuals are vastly improved. “You will see plenty of bare chests, male, female and beasts...imagine what you've seen us do with our bosses and the production quality of the models. We've gotten fantastic models and the way that they're able to model the body is...we spent some time with it. [laughs],” Papy said of the nudity. Sutton added, “I can't really talk about specifics, but...HD, so much more texture and detail. The characters look so much...[laughs]...better.”
We fought the Leviathans, entered the 'Heart of Gaia', fought things that kick your butt even after you cut off their legs, swung around the walls of Olympus and were quickly stopped by the developers as we approached the 'Tomb of Ares' level. But the coolest thing by far was (and while this may be a spoiler, trust me, it takes nothing away from the visual impact... stop reading here if you don't want to know) the death of Poseidon. Once you cut him down to size, you use quick time events to take him out for good. And let's just say that you get to see it all from another perspective.
“With the Poseidon one, you saw our take on our first person...what would it be to be one of Kratos' victims. And it's disturbing. [laughs] It's that line where, you want to go with that edge. We're dealing with some uncomfortable situations and we want to make sure that the player feels something or gets freaked out by it, or says, 'Oh sh*t!' [laughs]” said Papy.
So, will this really be the end for Kratos' story? Or will we get to see him battle it out with the gods once again? Papy confirmed this is the end of this portion of his story.
“It's the end of this trilogy...right now, we're going to take a nice long break to get away from it. Then we'll come back and see what floats our boat? Is there still material or is this something we need to put down and go away from for a little while? We don't want to start compromising the series and create Kratos 17 or anything like that. We've done a very good job on [God of War] 1 and 2. I think this one is the best of the series. I don't want to compromise that.”
God of War 3 will be released in the US exclusively for the PlayStation 3 on March 16th.