God of War: Ascension ReviewPS3

excellent
key review info
  • Game: God of War: Ascension
  • Platform: Playstation 3
  • Reviewed on:
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God of War: Ascension review on PS3

If there's one franchise that's emblematic of PlayStation consoles, it's the God of War one, which appeared on the PlayStation 2, PlayStation Portable, and PlayStation 3.

Now, after plenty of installments and the supposed end of the story, developer Sony Santa Monica is back with God of War: Ascension, a prequel of sorts that not only brings a fresh story starring everyone's favorite rage-filled Spartan – Kratos – but also new features, like a multiplayer mode.

With the promise of bringing more details about Kratos' past and, for the first time in the series, a competitive and a cooperative online experience, God of War: Ascension is looking like the definitive installment in the franchise.

Does it succeed or do the gods frown upon this new hack and slash title? Let's find out.

Story

God of War: Ascension's story is pretty straightforward, although its exact placement in the series isn't clear at first.

Basically, the game takes place before God of War 1, with Kratos being tortured by the Furies for turning on the blood oath he made with the current god of war, Ares.

As you can imagine, nothing can really stop Kratos in his quest for vengeance and the story of the game takes him and the player through all sorts of great adventures filled with impressive locations, great cinematic sequences, and huge battles against many different beasts.

The plot sheds a bit more light on Kratos' past, his relationship with his wife and daughter, as well as on the very first adventures he went on before the start of the regular trilogy.

While some twists are obvious, the whole plot manages to keep players motivated, even if it might not compare with the epic feel of the vengeance-filled stories from previous titles.

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Kratos is back ...
... and does what he does best


Gameplay

God of War: Ascension is still a classic God of War experience, allowing players to hack and slash their way through legions of enemies, while exploring many different locations and solving some pretty challenging puzzles.

While the core combat is still the same, there have been some key changes made, like the rage mechanic, which now fills up much faster but can also decrease if Kratos gets hit or if he doesn't continue attacking enemies. Once the meter fills up, you can unleash special elemental powers that are unlocked throughout the campaign, while your regular attacks do much more damage.

In terms of weapons, you still have your trusty Blades of Chaos, which can be upgraded by spending red orbs, but also other items, not to mention ones that can picked up from the ground (including swords, spears, or hammers), which can be used for a limited time.

Enemies are quite varied and there are plenty of new monsters to fight, including bug-like soldiers, various goat-human hybrids, not to mention classic creatures like Cyclops or chimaeras. The opponents are pretty smart and, depending on their equipment, can offer a big challenge to players, even on the normal difficulty.

Kratos explores a variety of iconic locations from ancient Greece in Ascension, from the Oracle of Delphi, to more mythical places, like the prison built by the Furies on the body of a Titan. All these locations include many huge set pieces and emphasize exploration with plenty of hidden chests containing red orbs, which can be spent on weapon upgrades, but also collectibles like Gorgon eyes or Phoenix feathers.

Besides fighting and exploring, Kratos also has to do a lot of thinking, as many of the aforementioned locations include numerous and quite challenging puzzles. While some are relatively straightforward, others require a lot of trial and error and plenty of out-of-the-box thinking to succeed, especially optional ones that grant access to bonus chests.

Sadly, quite a few glitches are present in the campaign, with Kratos failing to grapple onto special hooks or falling through various seemingly solid surfaces. The fixed camera also behaves erratically in some situations and zooms out a lot during certain battles, so you can't really figure out who's attacking who until the camera zooms back in.

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Explore impressive locations ...
... and take on enemies


Multiplayer

God of War: Ascension, for the first time in the series, boasts a multiplayer mode that consists of a competitive and a cooperative experience.

First up is the competitive one, which sees players take on the role of different warriors who can pledge allegiance to four major gods. Ares grants various melee powers, Zeus focuses on area of effect spells, Poseidon has great defensive and healing abilities, while Hades offers stealth attacks. Each god has different advantages and the multiplayer action can become truly chaotic if players choose from all of them.

In terms of gameplay, online battles are quite hectic as players can perform practically all the moves from the story, from light and heavy attacks, to parries and rolls. Throw in the array of information that's portrayed on the screen during battles and you'll have a hard time keeping up with everything that's happening at the same time.

Modes include traditional deathmatches, called Favor of the Gods, but also team-based affairs like Capture the Flag. Maps are extremely varied, quite large, and filled with different items, from traps to teleportation stations and much more, so things will always stay interesting, especially when you consider natural hazards, like a rampaging Cyclops.

For those that don't like fighting against others, there's a special Trials of the Gods mode, where you can play solo or with a buddy against waves of enemies. This is a great way to get some XP before jumping into competitive matches, as leveling up your abilities and weapons is crucial to withstand the attacks of others.

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Vanquish foes by yourself ...
... or use others


Visuals and Sound

God of War: Ascension is a stunning game and evolves the already great graphics seen in the previous PS3 installment, God of War 3. Sadly, while everything looks great, there are some glitches, like Kratos entering different finishing moves even if he doesn't have an enemy on which to perform them.

In terms of sound, Ascension performs great, as it retains the impressive booming orchestral soundtrack, making Kratos' adventures, but also the multiplayer battles, feel even more epic. Voice acting is top notch, making the characters feel powerful and believable, but also vulnerable in certain situations.

Conclusion

While God of War: Ascension is a great game as a whole, its single-player takes a back seat to the multiplayer. Kratos' adventures are decent, although they lack the same epic feel as previous games. Meanwhile, the multiplayer, for a first installment, is a great experience that not only delivers impressive competitive experiences but also great cooperative ones.

Observation: Due to Sony's restrictions, we can't post any videos in this review until the game is released next week, on March 12, in North America, and March 13, in Europe, for the PS3.

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story 8
gameplay 9
concept 9
graphics 9
audio 9
multiplayer 9
final rating 9
Editor's review
excellent
 
NEXT REVIEW: The Showdown Effect

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