Kratos Revels in Cruelty, and God of War 3 Assumes You Do Too
Here the game pulls a weird bait-and-switch. As the woman screams in terror and begs for your help, you actually give it. You fight off the monsters that are after her and guide her toward the entrance to the palace, albeit incredibly roughly. When you get there, though, it becomes apparent that the game and Kratos never had any intention of saving the woman, or of even helping her. Kratos chains her to a big wooden wheel and uses her to prop it up, which holds open a door for him. After passing through it, we’re treated to the sickening sound of the woman collapsing under the wheel’s weight and it presumably crushing and killing her. Awesome that a game made me do that.
What else? Well, after defeating Hercules by pinning him to the ground and literally pounding his face into pulp, he falls down into a pool of water. You can drop into the pool and hit R1 to get a closer look at Hercules destroyed skull. It serves absolutely no purpose to the game, but if you feel like getting an up-close look at digital gore because That’s The Kind of Person You Must Be Since You’re Playing This Awful Game™, you can. Lucky you.
God of War 3 is a game that absolutely revels in its gore, violence, mayhem and, most of all, lack of mercy. The series is known for its over-the-top violence, but it seems like in God of War 3 there’s not even any style in it — it’s just the expectation that you want to perform acts of cruelty. And we’re not talking about enemies like minotaurs and cyclops, or people who have wronged Kratos, or moments in which he’s fighting for his life, because the game always lets Kratos go beyond the necessity of performing violence in order to revel in it after he’s already won. It asks you to commit what’s essentially murder to proceed pretty much constantly. What’s more, it assumes that you’re totally into it, that you’ll want to stop and admire the way you smashed Hercules’ face in after he was already bested, or admire the fact that you cut Hermes’ legs off to get at his boots right after he crawled, sniveling, away from you in fear.
Kratos is supposed to be a tragic character enraged by being made a pawn by the gods and for having accidentally killed the people he loved, but he’s not a tragic character — at least, not by the end. He does far more damage to everyone around him than could ever be justified by his revenge rampage. He’s an awful person, and God of War 3 assumes we just can’t wait for a chance to be let off the social chains that prevent us from being awful people, too. It’s telling that the developers tried to humanize him by suddenly making him care about the young girl Pandora for absolutely no reason toward the end of the game, and it completely rings hollow because Kratos hasn’t given a single s–t about anyone, friend or foe, at any point up to meeting her. And what results is a game that’s not only merely decent by the standards of its play and mechanics, but objectively awful in its depictions. Why would I ever want to play a game as this guy?
It’s one thing to play as a bad guy or an anti-hero for the good of storytelling or even to offer some interesting and different takes on gaming experiences. Kratos, on the other hand, is simply played as a bad ass who hurts people, because the game suggests that that’s what bad asses do, and you want to be a bad ass, so you love it. But playing Kratos doesn’t make me feel like a bad ass. It just makes me feel bad.