The God of War 3 demo is out. Let’s discuss!
– Dear Sony – screw you. I understand that you wanted to put a demo out right before the game is released. Everyone does it (or at least they should do it). But you’ve got a lot of guts to then go ahead and tell the world that yes, this is the same thing you showed at E3 2009. I might be reading too much into this one, but I think this is quite a daring bit of marketing psychology. Sony knows that “core” gamers would kill to be able to attend E3 and feel like they’re actually a part of the industry. Putting this label on the demo is a great way to convince this audience that, through their benevolence, Sony is giving them an opportunity to be part of the Secret Fraternity of Real Games Journalists, if only for a few minutes.
But I think a lot of gamers are smarter than that. We have read about how E3 demos rarely reflect the final product. We also know that God of War 3 has had another whole year to simmer. I might be seeing “E3 2009 demo”, but what I’m reading is “We could have given you this demo any time in the last ten months, but we decided it would be better to sit on it, so that we didn’t have to cook up another one, based on the actual retail release, before March rolled around. We probably would have served you better by letting you have this shortly after the Expo ended, but that would mean we actually cared about you. With this approach, we can trick you into thinking this, while in reality we continue to treat you, our loyal consumer, like the Unwashed.”
– This is one of those demos wherein they throw you into a level that may actually be in the final game, but with powers and abilities that will be impossible to obtain by that point. It is an effective way to tease gamers with a taste of what the game can do, but being the (technically) fourth game in the franchise, I have something to compare it to, and it doesn’t stack up. Kratos has been given even more special moves, including a new ranged attack that lets him pull in enemies Mortal Kombat style and set them up for a throw. GOW2 was smart to remove the ability to infinitely chain air throws together, and this move may bring the problem right back. Kratos also has a new throw that lets him use his foe like a battering ram, giving him both several seconds of invincibility frames and a form of crowd control. The demo also lets you use one of the alternate weapons, a set of giant melee gauntlets with surprisingly good long range capabilities. In my experimentation, I found these gauntlets to be disturbingly effective at interrupting boss attacks. Not to mention the absurdity of giving a slow, close range weapon a ranged attack. It’s as if the game is afraid of making players compromise. That probably isn’t far from the truth.
These are the gauntlets I mentioned. When fully upgraded, I bet they fire rockets and summon Meteor.
– I’ve always felt uneasy with the nature of the violence in this series, and this demo didn’t help matters at all. The camera tries harder than ever before to zoom in on the HD carnage of the game’s Quick Time Events, which continue to push the envelope in regards to blood and dismemberment. Call me a sissy, but I’m not sure how much more I can take. And curiously enough, I think the game feels the same way that I do. The command icons that pop up during the QTE’s have been moved the left and right edges of the screen, so that the action can go on unobscured in the center. So the cues you need to see are in one place, while the events the game wants you to see are in another, and rarely is there time for you to switch between them.
Fortunately for its sales potential, God of War is gamer comfort food. But from a critical perspective, it has always been treading on thin ice. GOW2 kept treading because it fixed critical combat flaws, and the PSP game was such a good graphical showcase for the PSP that it just barely slid along. But this demo falls right through and drowns. I understand that there isn’t much incentive to drastically change the formula with a popular franchise such as this, but others have at least been able to use current gen hardware to significantly increase the spectacle. There is no evidence of this in the GOW3 demo, and what enhancements it does boast comes at the expense of the more sensible elements of game design. It makes the game look as if it is desperate to justify its existence, so it flails its swords around in a fit until it accidentally cuts its own limb off. It breaks things that never needed fixing. Etc, etc.
And if the retail product does turn out better than this, then Sony only has themselves to blame for not coming out with a fresher demo. I’m willing to be persuaded, but I’m not very receptive to trickery.