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In DOOM a demon’s leg is bent forward until both hip and knee dislocate and the creature’s foot is used to crush its own head. In Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus a Nazi soldier is stalked along a corridor until both feet are chopped off at the ankle and an axe is embedded in his chest. In God of War 3 a man with ashen skin covered in crimson tattoos and scars ties a half-naked woman to a gear mechanism to keep a door open. He walks through and the woman screams as the gears crush her into pulp. Many games use violence to further plot and story progression, but few go as far as God of War 3 did. God of War 3’s impressive graphics and tight, responsive gameplay tended to overshadow its brutal attitudes especially regarding women.
God of War 3 is one of the most violent games ever made which is impressive considering the scale of butchery in the series. The protagonist Kratos, a Spartan and God of War after killing the original Ares, is out for vengeance against the pantheon of Greek Gods. His quest to kill Zeus, his estranged father, takes him from the heights of Olympus to the depths of Tartarus and he murders thousands of foot soldiers, monsters and Gods to get there. From disemboweling Hades to gouging out Poseidon’s eyes and decapitating the God of the sun Kratos drenches his legacy in blood. His success hinges on several moments; moments that often feature him using women’s bodies to get through to areas blocked by obstacles and puzzles.
The game opens with Kratos riding on the shoulders of Gaia, a titan and the creator of earth, as she and the other titans wage war on Mount Olympus. The scale of God of War 3 is impressive from the get-go as humanoids hundreds of feet in height consisting of earth, fire and water scale rocky crags to topple the corrupt Greek Gods. After Poseidon severely injures Gaia and is viciously put down by Kratos Gaia is left hanging onto the mountain by one hand which is connected to the rest of her arm by root-like tendons. Gaia angrily claims that Kratos is merely a pawn to both the Olympians and the Titans. In response Kratos cuts through the tendons causing Gaia to fall from the mountainside. Story-wise it tells us that Kratos is willing to sacrifice the very earth itself in his quest for vengeance, but it also sets the tone for how the game treats its female characters.
Kratos is cast from the slopes of Olympus soon after by Zeus leaving him powerless and weak in Hades’ realm. Guided by the spirit of Athena, killed in God of War 2, Kratos regains his powers over the course of the game and continues to turn various Gods into mincemeat. In Hades’ realm we are treated to a reminder of how Kratos killed Persephone, Hades’ wife, in God of War 2. Her coffin hangs suspended by chains which Kratos than uses to break open a door to an upper floor in Persephone’s crypt. Kratos has little respect for living women and even less for women he has already killed. As the game continues from here Kratos is haunted by visions of a girl similar in appearance to his dead daughter, who he killed in the original God of War along with his wife. The girl is Pandora, of Pandora’s Box, and is instrumental in the game’s final act.
I’ve already mentioned how Kratos opens a door using the body of a still-living woman. The woman in question is a princess dedicated to Poseidon. Her rescue by Kratos could have been one of the game’s defining moments showing how there is still good in Kratos as he presses forward. Instead the almost totally naked woman is tied to an enormous wheel and pulped like a log in a paper factory. Her nudity wouldn’t really be an issue when considered in the context of recent Greco-Roman themed shows like Rome or Spartacus: Blood and Sand but it is considering her violent death and other incidents of a sexual nature throughout the game.
The Goddess of Love Aphrodite is the only deity to feel something other than Kratos’ wrath in all three main entries in the series. Sex minigames can often be found in the dingier parts of the internet and even some mainstream games like Catherine but in God of War they function as easy experience points. At some point in the each game Kratos comes across Aphrodite often in various states of undress and engaged in various forms of foreplay with her handmaidens. Her character is often necessary to each game’s progression although the sex minigame merely functions as a weirdly placed bit of titillation. Its inclusion is bizarre and unnecessary and reveals the nature of the game’s misogynistic attitudes.
Killing gods is central to God of War, obviously. Whether its battering Hercules to death with his own oversized boxing gloves, ripping off Hermes’ legs or impaling the smith god Hephaestus on his own anvil Kratos comes up with endlessly ironic ways to bump off the Greek Gods. The most unnecessary death however is Hera, goddess of fertility and Queen of Olympus. She is the drunk wine mom of the pantheon. Constantly binned, always embittered and needlessly cruel Hera doesn’t endear herself to anyone. However, she never had any real role in the betrayal of Kratos and doesn’t really deserve to die. Yes, she insults Kratos and his dead family but the spurned Spartan has bigger fish to fry. However Hera goes one step too far by insulting Pandora, Kratos’ key to vengeance. With a swift throttle the former god of war snaps Hera’s neck.
Hera’s ordeal is not yet over however. Kratos proceeds to lug her limp body all around her treasured gardens opening various weighted puzzles to proceed to the peak of Mount Olympus. If the death of Poseidon’s princess earlier on wasn’t enough to convince you than surely dragging a woman’s corpse around a puzzle platform to open various doors is. Even Pandora, Kratos’ surrogate daughter doesn’t last the game though at least she chooses her fate as opposed to being squished by gears or strangled to death. God of War 3 came out in 2010 but its values may as well come from 600 BC.
The act of killing in God of War 3 is in a league of its own. There are few real characters in God of War 3 and ninety-nine percent of them die in hideous ways. The game ends with Zeus’ face being beaten in from a first-person perspective and its these moments of glorious, over-the-top brutality that are meant to entertain and they often do in their scale and spectacle. It’s just unfortunate that developer Santa Monica Studio decided to leave in the moments that made me all kinds of queasy instead of thrilled.