With the disappointment of The Last of Us not being playable at Gamescom, God of War: Ascension became my most anticipated game at the event almost by default. I had played and enjoyed every console game in the series (I missed out on the second PSP title) and was looking forward to seeing how a prequel would work within the framework of the series and of course to get a chance to check out the much discussed multiplayer mode.
As I have already talked about in my Gamescom Blog, God of War: Ascension was one of the playable titles located within the belly of Sony’s massive stand at the show. The way the area was set up meant that you couldn’t see any of the screens playing the game from outside of the area, and the only way to get in was to queue. The Sony reps were also very careful with under-age gamers, insisting that everyone including a grizzly old 30-something like me had to show our ID before being let in on the gory action.
The inside of the Sony stand offered treats including Dust 514, Assassins Creed III and of course God of War: Ascension which is what I am going to be telling you folks all about today. They had around 10 console units set up with the single player demo of the game that was shown off at E3, with a separate area housing another 10-15 units arranged around multiplayer. There was no rush to get through these games, so I easily had around 20 minutes of God of War action to get a feel for both modes of the game.
Single player first then and it is all pretty much as expected. If any of you guys have seen video of the E3 demo it was essentially the same, although it did seem a little more polished to my eyes. Perhaps though this was just a side-effect of playing the game inches from a massive HD TV rather than through a YouTube video, I’m not sure. Either way the game looked great and a real step up from the detail level on the already nice looking God of War 3. Kratos’ muscles rippled and the gore was free-flowing as I took out various denizens of Hades, including the much-hated Satyrs from God of War 2. A new power then made its first appearance, as Kratos could use certain areas to reverse or speed up time and fix a giant structure to allow him to cross over to the next section. Rather than simply rebuild the structure however you needed to time it so that you froze time half-way through the operation, making a chunk of masonry into a handy ledge. This seemed pretty similar to some other powers shown in previous games, but it could certainly add some variety to the puzzles that the series is famous for.
Another thing that God of War is famous for is gore, and that is certainly on display during this adventure set during Kratos’ period as the champion of Ares. At one point the Spartan warrior peeled back and exposed the brain of a mini-boss character before driving his newly-acquired sword into the seething mass. Nice. Speaking of the boss, this took the form of a massive elephant-inspired creature which indulged into some typical charging attacks, forcing the player to utilize some pretty hectic dodging. After dispatching the creature with some trademark QTE action, the single player demo finished with our hero launching himself along the slimy tentacles of a Kraken inspired monster.
Next on to the multiplayer and I have to say here that the game certainly exceeded my expectations. Split into a team of Spartans and Trojans, players were given a specific character like Perseus or Jason to control which gave a nice sense of belonging to a real team. Gameplay could probably best be described as a kind of tactical version of Power Stone, for those that remember the Dreamcast classic. Although things can get a little hectic and confusing at times, the core of the game was great fun as you hack and slash at your enemies whilst working to control strategic points within the map. The winning team once the time is up then have to locate a certain secret weapon (in this case the Spear of Olympus) and use it to kill the Titan Polyphemus who has been constantly in the background of the level. The team is then treated to a fantastic cinematic as they stab the massive boss through the eye with their newly awarded weapon.
God Of War: Ascension will no doubt be big news when it hits PS3 in March next year. I am very much looking forward to seeing some more of the single player mode and seeing just how much the story tells us about a previously unknown period of Kratos’ life. The multiplayer mode as well is something that I just know will take up a lot of my time. The single player mode however does seem extremely similar to previous games which is good news in one respect, but if you weren’t a fan of the mythological slashing previously it certainly doesn’t seem like the new game in the series will change your mind.