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God of War: Ascension Review

God of War: Ascension Review

God of War: Ascension begins with Kratos breaking out of imprisonment whilst being taunted by an evil figure, before ripping their chest open with the end of the chains in a shower of gore and throwing them a hundred feet off the edge of a cliff. The level title flashes up and the game begins.

Not thirty seconds have passed since the Main Menu has gone by and already the player is being subjected to wide camera angles, sumptuous visuals, splashings of excessive gore and numerous angry roars from the protagonist: gaming's most violent character is back in a prequel to the original trilogy, ready to dish a three-course oriental menagerie of rage upon all those that stand in his way. And oh, what a sweet assault it is.

Six months have passed since Kratos stood over the bodies of his wife and child, his fingers dripping with their blood. Tricked by Ares into butchering them, Kratos shatters the blood oath he has with the god of war and begins a path of vengeance to make all those pay that had a hand in the death of those he loved. The franchise's strong points have never really had a gripping narrative at their centre but as a prequel to the original title, Ascension has a sense of intrigue that the others rarely have, with fans eager to have the gaps in the plot filled in by the writers. Of course, the general crux of the title is that Kratos is angry and monsters need to be killed, and the developers never once forget that; but it's nice to see a generally interesting plot to follow as everything and everyone is beheaded.

Eight years since the series' debut hit shelves and Kratos is still angry, blood stills flows in waterfalls from gaping wounds stretching from shoulder to shoulder, arm to arm, ear to ear; and evil, yet awesomely designed and animated, characters stand between the player and his ultimate goal of the complete destruction of anyone and everyone that raises a weapon towards him. This avalanche of interior emotion within him leads to some fast and frantic gameplay, a factor that those who have followed the franchise since its inception should be very used to.

If the gameplay of God of War: Ascension was of a poor level then the whole experience would crumble beneath its own feet: thankfully, Santa Monica have created a title that becomes more increasingly enjoyable with every second that passes. It would be pointless to diverge into the facets of the gameplay as anyone who has ever picked up the controller of any previous title in the series will be instantly familiarised once God of War: Ascension begins, but a small wealth of new additions shakes up the formula just enough to make it feel pleasant and fresh.

Whereas in previous God of War games, Kratos would have a selection of weapons to use from, in Ascension he is limited to just his Blades of Chaos: not only is that a crucial narrative point, what with this title taking place ten years before the first game in the franchise, but it is also a clever move by the developers as it wasn't until the release of God of War 3 that these extra weapons were ever seen as useful. To compensate, Kratos now has access to different elements that can be combined with his blades for devastating effect: one sets his weapons on fire and another turns them into twin bolts of lightning. It's a great addition to the franchise and adds another facet to the already-deep combat experience that is the God of War series.

But Ascension's greatest strength lies not with its gameplay but with its visuals, as the PlayStation 3 is pushed to its absolute limits. With rippling muscles and a downwards brow unlike few others out there, Kratos looks absolutely stunning and when combined with the realistic shadows created by Santa Monica that erupt out of every piece of the setting, Ascension is undoubtedly an absolutely brilliantly looking title. And in usual God of War fashion, there are moments of jaw-dropping spectacle, with huge monsters and massive maps for Kratos to fight through. Whilst the game does open in epic fashion, there are very few moments of such a marvel throughout the rest of the title: when it does happen, it is great to see Kratos massively out-sized by everything else on the screen but these sequences are too far between each other, especially when compared to previous titles.

Ascension is not a perfect game, however, and minor faults hold it back from greatness. Sometimes the difficulty spike elevates so sharply that a great sense of overwhelming settles into the player, especially during the end when a section becomes so difficult that frustration becomes present within minutes. Another fault is that sometimes the camera gets in the way, blocking Kratos from view and others it pulls back so far so the protagonist is nothing but a tiny dot on a massive canvas, meaning that it is unbearably difficult to actually see the enemies apart from the painted-white warrior.

For the first time in the franchise, Ascension features multiplayer and its effect is mild. There's nothing particularly wrong with the online aspect of the title but at the same time, it's hardly the addictive and deep experience that Call of Duty or Halo is. Deathmatch and Capture the Flag, favourites of the multiplayer genre, are present and the visual spice of the franchise is present as maps feature huge skulking creatures in the background, showing that the same amount of effort has been put into the online portion as with the single player. It's undoubtedly a fun pastime should you finish the main campaign but playing it in a few months' time, you probably will not.

God of War: Ascension is a fantastic action title with only a few minor flaws holding it back. With an interesting prequel storyline, phenomenal visuals and a great gameplay mechanic at the centre, Santa Monica continues the high level of production values with the new entry into the franchise. Fans will be pleased to know that their favourite angry protagonist is as good as he has ever been.

8.00/10 8

God of War: Ascension (Reviewed on PlayStation 3)

This game is great, with minimal or no negatives.

God of War: Ascension begins with Kratos breaking out of imprisonment whilst being taunted by an evil figure, before ripping their chest open with the end of the chains in a shower of gore and throwing them a hundred feet off the edge of a cliff. The level title flashes up and the game begins.

This game was supplied by the publisher or relevant PR company for the purposes of review
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