I am not prone to hyperbole unless I'm being obviously funny about it, like when I call my cat the cutest cat in the world. So please believe my earnestness when I say "God of War III" might be the best game in three years, since ... "God of War II" came out.
I don't even know where to begin describing every awe-inspiring element. I'll start by acknowledging I enjoy this game more than every Martin Scorsese movie, more than any Rolling Stones album.
Once again, you portray Kratos, the one-time Greek god of war. He has died a few times. He has been brought back to life a few times. He once killed his wife and daughter accidentally, because of a practical joke of visual deception played by Ares, the then-god of war.
In "God of War III," you continue your vengeful quest to find and kill Zeus, in a 12-hour or longer journey through Hades and Olympus and many other gorgeously drawn environments.
The detailed artwork is spectacular -- every cavernous mountain ridge, every gilded-gold castle, every monstrous god. You thought "Avatar" was a neat looking film? Uh-huh. OK. Whatever.
Kratos is still super angry he accidentally killed his family and that Zeus turned on him a few times. He remains the most vicious, bloodthirsty hero of any game ever.
By the end, you/Kratos will have killed Greek gods (Hercules, Poseidon, etc.) and hundreds of underlings (skeleton swashbucklers, horse-headed crabs, Minotaurs and on and on).
You will have killed them with: 1) blades of fire that swing circularly around you, like a devil's whip; 2) lion-headed metal gloves that bash in skulls; 3) magic powers that turn into tornados -- and that's just for starters.
The scope of the creativity runs from the visuals to the arresting music orchestrations, the fascinating story arcs, the puzzles you must figure out to get past obstacles, the realistic movements of everything, the super cool fights, and the supreme dialogue and voice-overs.
Scene after scene, I find myself smiling broadly and saying aloud, "Oh my God" or "gnarrrly!"
Just one astonishing sequence: You take on the titan Cronos. He is so big, you literally start fighting him by pulling out one of his fingernails, which is 10 times your height. The camera perspective moves left, right, up and down. So you must keep your balance, running across this giant monster body and fighting his minions, while working your way toward his head, to try to slay him.
There's so much more: riding on winged harpies; flying upward through caverns, feeling more like Superman than any Superman movie; bedding Aphrodite; and hundreds of other phenomenal sequences.
If there's a lesson here, it's that artistry is alive. Maybe you think pop storytelling is dead, sometimes, with all the reality shows and bad songs in the world.
But as you can see here, thanks to the cast and crew who put "God of War III" together, the artistic process can flourish wildly when taken seriously by geniuses hard at work.
("God of War III" by Sony retails for $60 for PS 3 -- Plays as fun as games get. Looks better than maybe any game ever. Challenging. Rated "M" for blood, gore, intense violence, nudity, sexual themes and strong language. Four stars out of four.)
Contact Doug Elfman at firstname.lastname@example.org. He blogs at reviewjournal.com/elfman.