Perhaps the most God-of-War-y God of War game comes to the Playstation 4.
It's been five years since Sony Santa Monica released God of War III, to critical acclaim for its graphics, and gameplay innovations in the series. Like its predecessors on the PS2, God of War III set a high visual benchmark for what could be achieved on the Playstation 3. And so a remastered version targeting 1080p and 60fps gameplay on PS4—which could attract former PS2 owners familiar with Kratos's prior adventures who decided to buy an Xbox 360 during the last console generation—makes a lot of sense. This may be the primary reason to buy God of War III, actually.
God of War III Remastered is visually solid, but sits in that strange zone between last- and current-gen, even with the visual upgrade. To be honest, where I noticed the biggest shift in details from the original game was anytime Kratos disemboweled one creature or another, the viscera looking less blocky, or not nearly as much like rubber hoses. This is not so much a comment about a lack of work that's been done, but rather that God of War III was already really visually optimized. Where the difference is most noticeable is the jump between the cinematics (which look like they're still running at 30fps) and the higher framerate gameplay; the characters in cinematics also look a bit more like they've been molded out of plastic; but in general, in-engine gameplay looks fantastic.
God of War III Remastered looks great, other than that, it's not really that different from the original release, which is both to the game's benefit and its detriment. As a five-year-old game, God of War III plays like a much older title. At the time it was released, Naughty Dog's Uncharted series had by then released two titles, the second of which may be one of the finest action games ever made, and had taken up residence as the vanguard of Sony's PS3 line-up. As great as God of War III still looks, it plays a bit like a dinosaur, with a camera so heavily controlled that backtracking to get an item often means accidentally jumping into a chasm, and it can sometimes be hard to tell where Kratos is in 3D space during platforming sections of the game. It's frustrating to have to redo the first half of a jumping puzzle because you can't get the character to execute the moves you want them to do properly.
Combat remains excellent, with different weapons making a difference on which enemy type you may be fighting. There's limited amount of experience available in the game from fighting enemies, though a judicious search through levels to find all the upgrades can mean upgrading all weapons (if you don't want to search that much, I recommend upgrading the Nemean Cestus and Nemesis Whip, myself). The battles often mix different enemy types that require different strategies, that become like their own puzzles. The actual puzzles aren't bad either, and do a good job of breaking up the pacing of the game. Boss fights have some particularly aggressive visual gameplay innovations—God of War III may be the only game ever that puts you into the perspective of the person being attacked by the protagonist during a rage-filled-vengeance killing; perhaps the only example ever of second-person perspective storytelling in games. While fascinating—almost whacky—it sometimes feels like it's reaching a little too far, like it's trying to shock you into having an emotional response.
Perhaps moments like that are also indicative that where God of War III falters the most is in the story, which is embarrassingly thin and pretty much devoid of all subtlety. I actually started to feel just a little bit ill this time around; not from the gore itself, but from how the game absolves Kratos in the eleventh hour of committing mass genocide (planet-cide?) by way of his vengeance. As Kratos you literally and progressively end the world and kill most of the people in it with every action that you take. This is explained away in the last hour or so of gameplay and story, but it's done in a monumentally poor way. Even for a game that is essentially Conan the Barbarian takes on the Greek pantheon with a pair of nunchaku-sword-axes, it's ham-fisted. However, the greatest sin committed by the story isn't that it's simple, but that it's boring.
Still, the story is not what most people play a God of War game for (I mean, I know I don't). The simplicity of the plot, the solid combat, and the bizarre perspective shifts during boss gameplay make this feel like it's the "purest" God of War game to me. It's a tribute to how much the game does right to the point that I didn't remember a lot of this stuff when I started playing God of War III again, playing from start to finish in a single session (normally I space these things out). However, it probably says as much that God of War III was the last title I played in the series, skipping the last handheld venture and God of War Ascension, since it seemed the series had been taken to its ultimate conclusion with God of War III, with little left to say or experience in the series. I do wish the game had aged a little better, but time marches on! With word of a new game—perhaps a reboot—in the works, in the future we might even get a Kratos who expresses more than two emotions.