God of War: Ascension: PS3 Review
Released by Sony Computer Entertainment
Kratos is back.
And he's as angry as ever.
This latest release in the God of War series is a prequel to all that has gone before for the whitened Spartan but is also an evolution with the addition of the multiplayer option. But, let's not get ahead of ourselves just yet, in case we get smacked down by the Blades of Fury.
I have to confess - as I did when I took some to time to preview God Of War: Ascension - that the God Of War series was not one which I'd played a lot prior to this latest release. But based on the single player campaign (which some critics have claimed is not as good as previous releases) I'd be willing to dabble my skull smashing sword into others.
It starts with Kratos bound and chained by all his limbs in part of a coliseum in some kind of prison area. Taunted by a tentacled Fury (like a spider thing with stacks of legs slashing at Kratos), you're thrown straight into the game 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 and reclaim your sanity, which has been sorely shaken by Ares.
Visually, God of War: Ascension is nothing short of epic and gory as hell.
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. Powering up via red orbs, collecting health power ups and magic, there's plenty of incentive to build up the beefcake's arsenal and a good reason to generally increase the fighting skills on offer.
Kratos' fighting prowess is 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. It's the first half which is more of a hack and slash game, as you muscle your way through, take on rafts of enemies and kill everything in your way. After a showdown with an Oracle, you end up receiving an amulet of Uroborus, which changes the dynamic of the game somewhat.
This magical talisman gives you the chance to decay or repair objects, which leads to a series of puzzles being thrown up in your way as you negotiate the final levels of the game. It's a welcome breather from the frenzied fighting but it is one which you will need your thinking cap for. Solutions, once they present themselves are obvious but they take a little time to get there - and it can lead to a bit of a frustrating ride.
While the single player campaign is good, it's the multiplayer option which really adds a new welcome element to the God Of War franchise. Heading online you get to take part in a series of online challenges, teaming up with buddies or unknowns - and it's a lot of fun as you race around trying to complete your quests, curry favour with the gods and generally killing for points. Modes are Team Favour of the Gods, Capture the Flag, Trial of the Gods and a every man for himself Match of Champions. There's certainly a lot of fun to be had taking part in the multiplayer online co-op and it really does mean that if you're stuck scratching your head trying to solve a problem, you've got a chance to vent some of that frustration by cracking some skulls.
Overall, God of War: Ascension is hellishly enjoyable - it mashes together the best of the mythology that so captivated my uni years and pulls together a range of gameplay which is engaging, enthralling, gory and a bloody good time.