SYSTEM: Sony PlayStation 3
ESRB RATING: Mature
REVIEW RATING: 5 stars (out of 5)
Everyone familiar with the “God of War” franchise knows that the lead character, Kratos, is no hero. There aren’t any bedtime stories depicting his heroic exploits, and if anyone tried to put him up on a pedestal, he’d just break it into tiny pieces. So, why is he so popular in the gaming realm? Well, it’s hard not to admire a bold freethinker who’s tough enough to challenge the Gods!
“God of War 3” begins where the second installment left off, with Kratos scaling Mount Olympus alongside his towering Titan comrades in arms. Only the death of the mightiest god of all, Zeus, will quell the rage that has built up inside Kratos since his early days as a Spartan warrior. Players can expect to embark on a truly epic journey that spans the depths of Hades all the way to the crest of Mount Olympus!
Along the way, many gruesome enemies will fall to Kratos’ deadly new blades, dubbed the Blades of Exile (they “exile” enemies really well). Other new weapons include the wicked, soul-stealing Claws of Hades and the brutal Nemean Cestus, which are giant, lion-headed gloves that can smash through solid objects and shields.
Many new moves are now available, depending on the weapon Kratos wields. He can also grab weak enemies and use them as a battering ram, which is very cool! It’s also possible to beat larger enemies into submission and then jump on their back and control their actions. This move is great for beating on enemies, revealing secrets and crossing bottomless pits.
This title wouldn’t be nearly as impressive without jaw-dropping visuals and excellent level design, so it’s fortunate that Sony made it look better than any PS3 game to date. Not only are the backgrounds huge and full of realistic lighting, but they also feature up to 50 enemies at once. Now, imagine Kratos swinging his glowing blades through the heap, with bodies and limbs flying in all directions, and you start to appreciate the technology that makes this possible.
Simply put, “God of War 3” is an essential part of every PS3 collection.
‘Final Fantasy XIII’ Goes Casual
DEVELOPER: Square Enix
PUBLISHER: Square Enix
SYSTEM: Microsoft Xbox 360 (PS3)
ESRB RATING: Teen
REVIEW RATING: 4 stars (out of 5)
When I think of “Final Fantasy,” I imagine lush realms full of imaginative characters where players explore the world, engage in various activities and fight enemies using turn-based combat. So imagine my surprise to find out that “Final Fantasy XIII” is nothing like its predecessors. It seems like the developers tried to appeal to a more casual audience, but what casual gamer would play an 80-hour game?
At least the story line is as complex and interesting as former incarnations. The sheltered city of Cocoon exiles anyone who comes into contact with the outer world, and a resistance group leader called Snow embarks on a heroic journey to save his fiancee. A ruthless fighter called Lightning and several others join him as they try to stop PSICOM from purging the entire city.
Some standard JRPG features are found in this game: surreal enemies, check, annoying wimpy male teenager, check, elemental magic, check. So, why do all the characters look Americanized? None of them look or act even remotely Japanese, and there is no option for a Japanese voiceover.
I also can’t understand why the game is mind-numbingly linear for the first 80 percent of the game. It is beyond dull to traverse a small path for so long when the environment isn’t interactive. I would also like to explore a town or two and see some variety. Thank goodness the game opens up during the last bit, letting the player get off the beaten path.
For me, the saving grace of “Final Fantasy XIII” is the intricate real-time battle system that starts off very easy but eventually becomes rather complex. Each character has a segmented gauge that is used to initiate combat moves. Depending on the power it exudes, each move takes one to four segments to perform, and several moves can be queued to perform combos. It’s also possible to summon powerful allies, and now players can hop on their backs and attack in unison! Sweet!
Change can be a good thing, but too much change has made “Final Fantasy XIII” barely recognizable.
REVIEW SCORING SYSTEM
5 stars = Must Have
4 stars = Very Good
3 stars = Above Average
2 stars = Bargain Bin
1 star = Don’t Bother
Entertainment Software Rating Board (ESRB)
E10-plus: (Everyone 10 and older)
T: Teen (13 and older)
M: Mature (17 and older)
To find out more about Jeb Haught and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.
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