We previewed God of War III, which has a bunch of surprises

Contributed by
Dec 14, 2012, 3:54 PM EST

Kratos is back, and chaos rules ancient Greece again in God of War III, and SCI FI Wire got a sneak peek at the title, which remains as fantastically violent as ever, earlier this week in Los Angeles.

When we last left Kratos, he had made an alliance with the giant Titans to overthrow the gods on Mount Olympus. The third and final installment of the franchise begins right where God of War II left off, though the developers say that you get caught up really fast. New players should have no trouble getting into the story.

Designed exclusively for the PlayStation 3, God of War III looks like it's taking full advantage of the system's power. The graphics look phenomenal. We were informed that the model for Kratos alone wouldn't even fit on the PS2. Along with the trailer, we got a look at gameplay. Before we tell you what we saw, here are a few notes.

The developers told us that all cinematics are now in-game. No more cutscenes. Since they no longer have to use smoke and mirrors, as they did on the PS2, the goal for the game is to do something with scale that has never been done before.

A portion of the game takes place on the back of the Titan Gaia as she and the rest of the Titans climb Mount Olympus. We learned that the Titans would be larger than the Sears Tower if they really existed, and that you could fit the Medusa level from God of War II in Gaia's hand. They also promise a shocking ending with a major revelation. Some of the new features of the game include rideable enemies with one-to-one control, new weapons like the lion-headed cestus, seamless transfer between weapons, a new grab move that evolves in larger battles and the ability to use your opponent as a battering ram.

The gameplay we saw takes place once the war between the Gods and the Titans is already in full swing. Kratos is at the base of Olympus, and he needs to find the Gate of Eos, which will give him back-door access to the gods' fortress. As we watched, the designers explained that Kratos now has rim shading to make him pop in the screen, as well as realistic muscle flexing.

We see the God Helios in his flaming chariot and a molten-rock Titan climbing and smashing the fortress. To move to higher levels, Kratos uses the "Wings of Icarus" to assist him. It wasn't clear whether these actually allow him to fly for long distances. It looks more as if they're used for gliding and being blown about.

When he reaches the next level, he fights skeleton grunts, smashing them with the violence we've come to expect from the franchise. When the leader of the grunts, a centaur, enters the fray, the AI actually gets smarter, as if responding to their commander. We also got to see Kratos use his new fireball ability.

One of the more dramatic moments was seeing Kratos split open the belly of the centaur and the guts springing out. The designers were really excited to tell us about the "hinges" they put on the body so the gut-springing looks realistic. Kratos then has to fight a three-part "boss" of sorts, a Chimera who is part snake, part lion and part goat. You fight each part of him individually. And rip the horns off the goat at the end.

There is a nod to platformers as you swing from harpy to harpy to reach a new level (the gamer who was demo'ing for us actually died on this part). The goal is to find Helios, beat his minions and rip his head off! The head of Helios can be used as a tool to reveal secret areas and light up enemies in the dark. Travel in the fortress is often accomplished via long vertical tunnels or vents up which you fly, dodging fireballs and falling debris.

There were wild cheers from the audience every time the violence level went up. The designers assured us that we hadn't seen anything yet. Of course, we had to ask about the famous sex scenes. We were told that since they had ramped up everything else, we could expect the same thing in that area. This is certainly not a game for children. But it looks like it's going to be incredible.

They have yet to announce a release date for God of War III, but they expect to have one by the Electronic Entertainment Expo in Los Angeles this year.