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    God of War Ascension hands on

    He’s back you know. Yeah, you know who I mean; Kratos. The angry, chrome-domed chap with the ash of his kin adorning his flesh and those natty tattoos has returned with a brand new game for the PS3, one which is yet another prequel to the current series, but nevertheless appears to be an extremely solid, if not terribly revolutionary entry for the franchise.

    At the Eurogamer Expo this year I got to take a look at both the single and multi-player sides of the game and while the former is little changed yet drenched in familiar bombast, its really the latter that makes this the freshest entry in the series for a long time.

    Starting with the solus campaign, God of War: Ascension really is more of the same stuff that the series has built its bones on since 2005, albeit with the retina searing prettiness that God of War 3 was known for set to eleven.

    Honestly, the single player portion on display offered precious little in the way of anything new or fresh; Kratos collects orbs, busts open coloured chests, interacts with shiny stuff, kills baddies in increasingly gruesome ways and QTE’s bosses to their grave as required once they’ve been significantly weakened. If it sounds like i’m selling the game short in this regard, that isn’t my intention; I’ve always had a soft spot for the spectacle fighter shtick that the game has so ably accommodated and by that measure, Ascension seems at least as accomplished as God of War 3, it just doesn’t do much to further itself in that regard.

    From a technical perspective, the game continues the series grand tradition of looking drop dead gorgeous. Relentlessly epic in spectacle, the game has lost none of its technical mastery or visual polish; depicting insanely detailed monsters (the tremendously grotesque Elephant Giants being a particular highlight), breathtaking backgrounds and gigantic foes, God of War: Ascension amply proved itself to be one of the most visually arresting games of the show and easily one of the best looking games yet seen on the current generation of consoles.

    If the single-player mode is spectacular, yet familiar, then the multiplayer side of the affair is a revelation; specifically the ‘Favor of the Gods’ mode that was present at the show.

    The Favor of the Gods multiplayer mode is set around a basic premise; there are two teams, Spartans and Trojans, and the first team to accrue the required amount of points will attain victory. These points, or ‘Favor’ as they are more properly known as, can be accumulated by killing members of the opposite team (you get more for chain-kills), capturing altars, hoovering up those yummy red orbs and setting traps for the other team to murder themselves on. In addition to all of the kill, loot and trap tomfoolery that frequents this game type, various deity themed power-ups spring up at specially designated locations on the map to spice things up even further.

    These power-ups grant a boost in ability appropriate to the deity that they represent, so for example, the Boots of Hermes will increase your speed temporarily, whereas the power-up belonging to Hercules increases your attack power for a short time; adding a nice little element of unpredictability to what is already a fairly chaotic game mode.

    The real crux of Favor of the Gods however is that it focuses on offensive and defensive strategies. You see, as well as accruing points, the end objective of the game mode is to dispatch a ruddy great big Titan, which on the map that was on demo at the show was Polyphemus; a colossal cyclops. The singular-eyed beast is imprisoned on the level and to secure his freedom so that you may slay him afterward, I quickly found that it was no easy task to do so.

    Firstly, you must ensure that the mechanical switches and gears which hold the Titan captive are released and the only way to do this is to hold the contested zones in which they are contained. Naturally as defenders, its your job to defend these hotly sought after zones, lest the enemy take them and begin unleashing the captive giant themselves.

    Also, I should probably mention that the Titan in question isn’t exactly an idle spectator in all of this, as throughout the game he’ll periodically smash parts of the level; bestowing grisly insta-death upon anybody his house-sized fists happen to come in contact with.

    Once the Titan has been freed and your team has the requisite number of points or Favor, the Spear of Olympus materializes allowing you to slay the beast. Should you make the kill, your team wins, but should you lose crucial territory whilst trying to use the spear, the Titan is reset to its original starting position and you and your teammates find yourself back at square one. With a focus on constant fluctuating attack and defense momentum and team co-ordination, Favor of the Gods turns out to be one of the best things Sony Santa Monica have done with the IP to date.

    I found it also elicited a fair bit of similarity to Capcom‘s multiplayer Dreamcast gem PowerStone, which in all honest can’t be a bad thing at all.

    God of War: Ascension did more for me than just be the cynical retread and stop-gap before a true, next-generation God of War that I thought it would be. The single-player mode, while unremarkable in innovation, nevertheless looks and plays as solidly as you thought it might with its usual taste for the epic and fantastical, but the real star here is the multiplayer.

    In a climate where multiplayer additions to traditionally single-player franchises don’t end up working out all that well after falling into afterthought territory, Ascension’s effort is sufficiently accomplished enough that it makes the franchises’ traditional bread and butter campaign play second fiddle to its maddeningly addictive ways.

    This is looking very promising to say the least.

    God of War: Ascension is due to release exclusively for the PlayStation 3, on March 12th 2013 in North America. The European and UK release will follow on March 13th and 15th respectively.
    Last edited by Vyse; 10-07-2012 at 00:12.

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