God of War III, Pt. 2 - With Special Guest Jessica Walter
I’m on the last leg of the game (I’m just about to enter the Labyrinth), and while I’m still really enjoying the combat, movement and puzzles, I do have a much better understanding now of why people hate on this game so much. I don’t really have a problem in principal with the fact that Kratos is shown doing monstrous things - that’s consistent with his characterization from previous games. Kratos is a vile, hateful mass murderer who cares only about himself and his own power and privilege. Even his love for his family - outside of the excellent, more well-rounded portrayal we see in Chains of Olympus - is framed as ultimately selfish, his anger at their deaths more an expression of him being mad that he had A Thing and someone took that Thing away from him.
I also think the plot is not given enough credit. Jim Sterling wrote in his review of God of War III Remastered that the “plot of any given God of War game is borderline gibberish”, and I don’t quite see that. Like I’ve written in past posts in this thread, God of War II’s plot is pointless, but the entire arc of the series is about showing how a quest for revenge can escalate and become uglier and more brutal and all-encompassing as time goes by. Not the most original idea, perhaps, but a coherent one, and one that is hardly foreign to Greek mythology.
As such, the fact that Kratos is quite literally destroying the world as part of his vendetta against Zeus is not something I think it makes a lot of sense to complain about. I also enjoy the fact that the gods themselves are portrayed as selfish and cruel, although they at least have the basic understanding that maybe you shouldn’t do things that destroy the entire world.
What I hate, however, is pretty much how every individual god is portrayed.
Things start off well enough. Poseidon doesn’t get to have much of a character, but the water horse-crab thing he has going is really cool, and they did a really good job with Hades’ realm - certainly much better than in the first game. No more fleshy rotating spiked pillars, just this gaunt, dark place, steely halls full of evil and dripping with atmosphere. Hades himself also has a really cool design, like that Butcher skin they gave Roadhog but with more SPIKES.
But while the level design remains strong throughout, the Olympians… well.
First off, everything with Helios is incredibly underwhelming. In general, I think Olympia is the weakest part of the game so far - the fight between Cronos and Helios in the background makes for a cool set piece, and the way the Chimera is introduced is really cool. But otherwise, it’s pretty forgettable. What’s worse is that after Cronos knocks Helios out of the sky, “fighting” him consists of clearing some normal soldiers and then a bunch of QTEs. It could’ve been a really cool boss, with flashy attacks and all sorts of games with lighting and visions, but it ends being a very boring encounter. However, the fact you get a head-lamp from him is a nice touch - the scream every time you use it never fails to make me shudder. It really is a good of constantly reminding how horrible and evil Kratos’ actions are (and is one of the reasons why I kinda doubt the game wants to glorify Kratos).
And things only get worse from there. The next character up is Hermes, who… look, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with having effeminite men in a game. We certainly don’t get enough male characters who don’t fall into the categories of “tough strong soldier” or “smart nerdy scientist”. But somehow, I feel like this toxic-masculinity-made-manifest of a game was less interested in making a statement on the nature of male portrayal in media and more in getting its own Jack McFarland.
Next up is the Hercules fight, but first, how about an awkwardly-labelled piano puzzle?
This does not break immerssion AT ALL.
Next up is the Hercules fight, which is OK, and you get the Neman Cestus out of it, AKA the closest thing we’ve gotten so far to the glorious Gauntlet of Zeus from Chains of Olympus. It’s especially good in contrast to the other two extra weapons, who both feel like slight variations on the chain blades - especially the Hades ones, which, to the best I’ve been able to ascertain, are borderline useless.
Then you have Hera, who for some reason they decided should act exactly like Lucille Bluth. Hera blunders around, ranting drunkenly, with a cup of wine in hand. She’s thoroughly unlikable, which is weird because everything she tells Kratos - that he is messing with things he doesn’t understand, that his quest for revenge is runining everything - is perfectly true. Weirder still, what finally drives Kratos to kill her is that she calls Pandora a bad name, which is really out of character not just because Kratos only cares about himself, but that he makes his disdain for Pandora quite clear over the course of the game.
Oh, and did we mention that there’s a disgusting sex scene with Aprhodite in this thread yet? Because… yeah. You know that part in Archer where Lana Kane charges men so they could tell other men in the office they had sex with her, and all of the men know that the other men who talk about having sex with her got the same deal, but they all go for it anyway? Throughout this scene, I couldn’t help but thinking how well that describes cishet male sexuality.
I didn’t think I’d say this, but in the midst of all this, Kratos using a half-naked, helpless woman to hold up a lever, crushing her to death in the process, seems almost mundane. It’s hateful and exploitative, sure, but I find that the more subtle prejudice reinforced by the portrayal of other characters in this game is much more insidious.
And that’s the basic contradiction of this game for me. It’s a very well-polished, well-presented game that I have a lot of fun with, and whose overall plot I can appreciate, if I just ignore the hateful garbage that it spews at every other turn. And you shouldn’t have to do that, and I get why many people don’t want to do that. Frankly, especially nowadays, there’s plenty of stuff you can play that does much, MUCH better. All things to keep in mind for when I play the 2018 game.
I’ll probably have another post after I finish the game, which should be at some point over the next 2-3 days, just to sum up my thoughts and discuss the ending which, judging by the comments some people have written, will probably be a whole thing. Then it’s back to the PS3 for some Ghost of Sparta and Ascension.