God of War III

The men behind the myth.

To get a sense of just how big a leap Sony's Santa Monica Studio reckons it's made from God of War II on PlayStation 2 to the upcoming PlayStation 3 God of War III, simply recall the leap Kratos took off Mount Olympus in the first one.

"The depth of PlayStation 3 allowed us to dive deeper into the plot itself," says Steve Cash, senior producer, who's just gone through a live demonstration of the game. "The only real way I can describe it is for you to look at the first generation of PS2 games and then look at some of the [later] games. They're all using the same hardware, but people just got a lot better at using the hardware. They learned all the tricks and what the restraints were, and what the best ways to achieve the best results were. The difference in my mind is just astronomical."

Beyond the obvious graphical enhancements - the fidelity, rim shadowing techniques, texture resolution and the sheer number of joints in each character - that PS3's Cell processor has opened up for the team of over 100 in Santa Monica, the game's story and gameplay has also enjoyed a nice buffing.

"I know based on the things that I asked for in terms of design that this is a completely different God of War, because we never could do that on PlayStation 2," explains Stig Asmussen, God of War III's game director. "Just the level of detail and clarity that we are getting, and the fact that we can now use the memory that it takes to store all the animations to do things like right body turns, and that we can process enough characters on screen to bring this level of action to the gameplay..."

Anyone who's seen the God of War III trailer that debuted after this Sony event will take solace in the fact that Asmussen assures gamers everything was produced using in-game footage and gameplay. In essence, the leap to PS3 has enabled the team to bring the type of detailed action once allocated to cut-scenes into the gameplay experience itself.

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The, er, Olympics. Presumably.

"I've never seen anyone else work on this kind of scale," says Asmussen. "Because of that, we don't have anything to refer to. We want to design it so that it has a flow, and we won't have to drop hints. We also do extensive play testing."

Since the original God of War took off to become a blockbuster and its sequel grew to an even larger Hollywood epic scale, there's a much larger audience of gamers to hit. And with the demographics also expanding, the team's focus turned to crafting an experience that would appease core and casual fans.

"When we started off writing the script for God of War III, it was important for us to bridge the series," explains Asmussen. "Key moments and things that were relevant in the first two games are profound in this game. We are making a story that is a refresher course for fans of the series, but serves as an introduction for the new players."

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