God of War: Ascension Review
- Posted March 7th, 2013 at 13:01 EDT by Steven Williamson
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While not quite the high-point of the God Of War series, Ascension delivers an action-packed, gloriously-produced, freak-bashing extravaganza with an addictive multiplayer component to boot.
- Looks incredible, brilliant character and level design.
- So much variety in combat that it never gets tiring killing creatures in all kinds of brutal ways.
- Multiplayer brings the universe to life in an addictive online arena.
- A lull in action a couple of hours into the game with boring platform and on-rails sections.
- Pushing objects and pulling levers - some of the puzzles can be tedious.
- Concern about longevity of multiplayer if core players level up too quickly
I can honestly say in all my years of gaming I’ve never had to fight off a dozen bleating, spear-wielding goat-men from inside the belly of a python. Nor have I ever had to square up against a giant of a man who happens to have the face and arm of a frightening-looking old geezer protruding out of his side like a conjoined twin and who speaks like Gollum from The Lord Of The Rings. But hey, that’s God Of War for you, the only series I’ve ever played where you never know what freak of nature is around the next corner and where gutting a Minotaur or pulling out the eye of a Cyclops feels so strangely empowering. Predictably then, God Of War: Ascension follows suit and lives up to the no-holds barred violence and bonkers combat of its predecessors with a rich cast of unsavoury enemies and an array of moves and finishers that asserts Kratos' standing as the most brutal badass in PlayStation history.
That’s right, the freak-bashing extravaganza is back with a vengeance, but what’s interesting about this latest iteration is that Kratos actually has a tender side, so it’s not solely all about cracking skulls in a variety of gruesome ways. In between bouts of knocking ten bells of shit out of indescribable, mythological monstrosities, he actually shows his human side and proves he’s not just a mindless thug who gets a kick out of thrusting his Blade of Chaos through the eyes of lolloping giants and revels in bloodshed. There is actually some meaning behind his madness.
Set ten years before the original God Of War, and serving as a prequel to the series, there’s a firm focus on ‘redemption’ and building back-story in GoW: Ascension. And through some lavishly produced and superbly directed cut-scenes, we learn how Kratos was tricked into slaughtering his own family before he was imprisoned by God Of War, Ares. With Kratos' blood-tied to Ares, he seeks to sever the tie by killing the Furies, the guardians of honour and enforcers of punishment.
There’s a lot we learn about the Greek demi-God and for the first time in the series I found myself empathising with his character as I discovered what actually made him turn into the kind of guy who seems to enjoy bathing in the blood of others. In truth though, that empathy I felt during certain sequences didn’t last too long because the action in GoW: Ascension speaks far louder than the narrative, though fans of the series should enjoy his "vulnerable" moments and how things pan out. Told with the high-quality production values that we expect from the Santa Monica studio, we learn how Kratos became the man he did and was moulded by Ares to take down the walls of Olympus. In this latest tale, the killing is personal and it’s refreshing to see a different side to the legendary Spartan general.
And what a man-mountain Kratos is, a huge hulk of a character whose presence alone is a powerful thing on screen. When controlling him you almost feel his wrath through the way he moves, slices his opponents in two and displays such strength in battle, as well as his meaty array of moves. Combine this slick animation with eye-popping visuals and some powerful sound effects, such as the stomach-churning “slurp” of the slicing of an Elephantaur’s cranium, and you’ve got a game – and indeed a series – that cannot fail to leave you impressed with the creativity of its violence and its high production values.
Indeed, GoW: Ascension sounds and looks fantastic throughout the entire campaign. From the fine animation of some of the violent finishing moves to the detailed character design, from the ornate palaces and sweeping vistas to the elaborate mechanical structures that dwarf the surrounding mountains with their grandeur, there’s an overdose of eye-candy to enjoy. But it’s not just how it looks, it’s also the way that characters move and interact with the environment, using every inch of an arena’s space to try and gain the upper-hand. Kratos does this best, ramming goat-men into a set of wall spikes or grappling enemies and slamming them around an arena like a strongman pounding down his hammer with force in the ‘Test Your Strength’ game at ... (continued on next page) ----