I love Kratos. He's probably one of my favorite characters in modern gaming. Not because he's in any way relatable or because I secretly wish I could act like him (except perhaps when attending pop culture conventions), but because I am compelled to keep playing his games just to see what boundary he'll overstep next. I'm pleased to report that he continues to perform quite nicely throughout God of War 3. Ripping off heads, pulling out eyeballs and pounding Hercules until his face becomes concave, all rendered in minute detail. It's the eternal love story between a man and the internal organs of various other bigger men.
Kratos stands as a sort of human counter-argument to the notion that every property needs a character that the audience can identify with. I'm reminded of a story I once heard about The Young Ones, the anarchic 80s British comedy about (fairly typically for British comedy) a bunch of quirky, unattractive people being unpleasant to each other. The show remains a cult classic and was instrumental in pushing the new wave of anarchic, alternative comedy in a country that had grown used to toothless suburban sitcoms about middle class housewives burning middle class pot roasts. And when the show was exported to the US, networks over there asked the creators which character in it was supposed to be the "hero" that the audience identified with. To which came the obvious response that none of them were, and that was kind of the point. There are some characters you like, not because you think you're like them or because you want to be them, but because they're car-crash fascinating to watch.
The "relatable hero" thing is an idea that a lot of people in mainstream media seem to have gotten hold of, and which seems to infect a lot of games. That an audience needs to be able to project, and so the central figure should therefore be this blank, predictable everyman. The bog-standard "protagonist." And I find it a little offensive that story writers think I would relate to most of the bland, personality-deficient bubble-people that take this role so often. An entity who isn't allowed to be interesting in themselves, because (s)he has to have an appropriately relatable expression of slack-jawed disbelief when interesting stuff happens to them.
I concede that such a thing may be necessary in your fish-out-of-water drama or your sci-fi/fantasy epic where the story is more about the world than the characters and the audience needs someone to experience it with. But I want to see more game stories where the plot is driven by the actions of the main character, rooted in conscious decision for complicated personal reasons. Rather than just having them stumble upon adventure, or get sucked up into space on their way home from the chip shop.
Getting back to Kratos. There's one thing I don't like about his character, and that's the fact that he's inconsistent between God of War 1 and 2. To be brief, he becomes like Batman. Watch with awe as I explain that sentence.
Kratos in God of War 1 is a character that suffers tragedy, rather than being the source of it. He's also a bit more of a pussy. Not that you'd still want to say that to his face, but on the Girl Scout to Jason Voorhees scale, he's slightly closer to the mint thin brigade than he is in later games. The guy commits suicide as his very first on-screen action, for god's sake. He sometimes points his big slab-like brow downwards in remorse for what he has become. There are a few moments when people run away from him, calling him a monster and the direction implies we're supposed to feel sorry for him. And most importantly, he actually manages to converse and deal with a few individuals without cutting their arms and legs off. Throughout the course of the game, we learn the event that made Kratos so guilt-ridden and determined (not really a spoiler since the third fucking game is out): That he was tricked by Ares into murdering his own family. Ares was counting on Kratos' not being able to stop for two seconds to look around the room before he started swinging his choppers about.