God of War: Ascension: PS3 Prison of the Damned Demo preview
It's a phenomenally popular series, but it's one that I've not previously spent heaps of time playing, to be frank.
So, when the offer of some hands on time with the seventh instalment of the series came in (there's been six previously and I've not played them all???) I have to admit to having had my interest piqued. The latest, God of War: Ascension is to all intents and purposes, a prequel to the series and expands out the mythology of Kratos and how he came to be God of War.
Based on the hands on time I was given (around 30 minutes) I have to admit that the God of War: Ascension: Prison of the Damned demo looks pretty, erm, damned good. And that's just the single player part of the campaign - with multiplayer being brought into the franchise for the first time.
It starts with Kratos bound and chained by all his limbs in part of a coliseum in some kind of prison area - how he got there, is at this stage unknown, though I suspect that these origins will be expanded out when the game is properly released and could potentially have something to do with his family.
Taunted by a tentacled creature (like a spider thing with stacks of legs slashing at Kratos), you're thrown straight into the demo as the Furies make their presence known to Kratos. Swirling cameras and panoramic shots give you the feel of the arena - and it's huge. Immediately, it's upto you to sway and avoid the slash attacks, and by gradually mastering these moves, Kratos becomes freed. From there on, it's up to you as Kratos to hack and slash away at hordes of baddies as you try to escape from the Prison of the Damned and get back at the creature which imprisoned you in the first place.
Visually, God of War: Ascension is nothing short of epic.
From twisting turning corridors, to walls being torn asunder as you try to negotiate them, it's got it all. In terms of the combat moves and the visuals, there's seamless integration of the various slashing moves as well as the additions of a few new tricks up Kratos' sleeves. As you attack the creatures heading your way, you build up what is in your Rage meter by combo attacks (with grading going on similar to what was recently seen in Devil May Cry). This fuelling up leads to unleashing of new attacks from Kratos himself and is a cool touch as opposed to having to wait to find a power up point in a level or purchase new powers as the game level concludes. It's also a great incentive to beat the stuffing out of anything which comes your way.
Kratos' fighting skills are also seamless - from grappling, grabbing and generally getting hands on with his enemies, there are some bloody pay-offs with heads being ripped off and kills showing off the gore quotient.
God of War: Ascension also scores for the ick factor as well. For while Kratos is platforming his way out of the jails and avoiding the hordes coming toward him, there's flies which attack him. Sure, swatting flies with Kratos' Blades and stomping on them are easy enough (and great fodder for the rage meter) but when these ugly bugs gets hold of the other victims imprisoned in the prison, there's a kind of transformation turning the humans into half man, half bug and all angry. It's a creepy touch and one which really sets your skin on edge.
All in all, God of War: Ascension looks to be meshing together the epic feel of Roman and Greek mythology (which so enthralled me in my college years) and a good solid combat / platformer. But what it also looks like it will deliver is a rich story amongst the decimation of the hordes. It's likely to expand and enrich Kratos' back story but not at the expense of newbies to the series. With a single player campaign and a multiplayer aspect as well, it looks as if God of War: Ascension will be the mother of all games and bring Kratos to life for many who've never experienced him before. Die hard fans will be salivating at what lies ahead - and counting down the days to release.
God of War: Ascension is out March 14th on PS3.