Rarely, I would guess, do reviewers wish they had rated something more highly. If they could make changes to their body of criticism, they'd probably go around lopping off stars, not adding them.

Such is the case with "God of War III," which I gave four stars in 2010. I don't remember much about playing it, but I sure remember how it looked.

The game starts with series protagonist Kratos crawling around on a mountain. But hang on; the mounting is talking -- and walking. And fighting something. And the something it's fighting is Zeus. This is awesome. And it looks awesome, the earth way below, the literally titanic figures above smashing into each other.

I was swept away by the grandeur of it all, too shocked and awed to realize I was playing just another button-mashing beat-'em-up.

'God of War: Ascension'
» System: PS3
» Price: $59.99
» Rating: 3 out of 5 stars

"God of War: Ascension" begins, whaddya know, with Kratos running through a city that turns out to be an enormous creature. As the "Uncharted" series shows, with its collapsing buildings and capsizing ships, there's something primally thrilling about the ground shifting under your character's feet. And with "Ascension," the novelty hasn't worn off. The dynamism and scale of your surroundings are a one-two knockout, and parts of the game look so good, you wonder why Sony is bothering to make a PlayStation 4.

"Ascension," a prequel to the main "God of War" trilogy, takes us back to when Kratos was a man, or demigod, or whatever he was before he became a ghost, or god, or whatever he is. Casting the player as a younger, weaker Kratos, as the recent "Tomb Raider" reboot did with Lara Croft, would seem to open some interesting gameplay opportunities. But, disappointingly, the gameplay is exactly the same this time around: You get a button for quick, weak attacks, a button for slow, strong attacks, a button for grabbing people and a button for kicking people, and you hit those in various combinations to annihilate everything that gets in your way.

So rent the game or buy it used, instead of plunking down 60 bucks, think of the fights as palate cleansers between the visual feasts, and sit back and enjoy the show.