The first few fights were a quick reminder tutorial for the combat controls. I quickly got back into the rhythm of switching between light attacks (to control groups of attackers) and heavies (to take down individuals once I got them separated from the pack). Kratos is more brutal than ever with his chain blades and, up close, the blood really flies from finishing moves. Toss in the powerful area-clearing whirling storm of magic he can call down and it becomes nothing short of bloody, gory mayhem.
But where other action games provide waves of enemies to be mowed down like so much chaff, even the basic opponents in God of War 3 take some damage to bring down.
This gave me a real incentive to hit the pause menu and pick up some of the combos I'd forgotten. Just in time too, as even early on God of War 3, did a good job at mixing up the enemies I faced, providing the right challenge to keep me playing with different attacks.
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Pacing stood out in this first level, highlighted by the artful way the massive boss fight with Poseidon was threaded throughout it all. Poseidon, sent by Zeus to stop Gaia, calls forth a Leviathan. I travelled all over, around, and inside Gaia hacking away at the massive claws this giant water serpent used to latch onto and rip into the titan. In each encounter, right about the time I thought to myself that I'd done a lot of damage, the scene would advance to either another stage of the fight or an adventuring interlude.
Mixing things up like this and traversing these varied areas -- some horizontal, some vertical, and some even upside down -- helped solidify the sense of grand scale my eyes told me was there. The design team seems to have really picked up on the power in contrasting the grand open spaces with the up close. It also gives them a chance to show off the impressive detailing that shines when the camera pulls in, particularly Kratos's character model; it's stunning.
The climax of my fight with Poseidon really brought it all together. After facing him in giant form, weathering his massive trident attacks and tearing through his defenses, I ripped him from his watery shell. In the final confrontation the view switched to seeing things through Poseidon's eyes as he watched Kratos finish him off mano-a-mano, right up to the point when I clicked in both sticks to crush those eyes with Kratos's thumbs.
Suffice to say, it was an intense level. So long as the rest of the game can live up to to pacing of the first level, expect to see God of War 3 reach legendary status.
A PlayStation 3 exclusive, God of War 3 hits North American retailers March 16, 2010.