God of War Ascension preview: Multiplayer adds a new dimension
1st Jul 2012 | 13:00
These days, news of another God Of War game is met with a brief ruminatory pause. Sounds good, for sure, but who is there left for Kratos to kill? Cast your mind back over the past few years: he's already finished off Hercules, Hades and most of the other Greek megastars. He's tackled hydras and harpies and the odd Cyclops without so much as a blink. In God Of War III, the guy even had a decent pop at Zeus unless he takes on the sun.
These days, news of another God Of War game is met with a brief ruminatory pause. Sounds good, for sure, but who is there left for Kratos to kill? Cast your mind back over the past few years: he's already finished off Hercules, Hades and most of the other Greek megastars too. He's tackled hydras and harpies and the odd Cyclops without so much as a blink. In God Of War III, the guy even had a decent pop at Zeus. It doesn't get much bigger than Zeus. What's next? Is he going to pick a fight with the sun?
There's nothing to fear, though. God Of War: Ascension winds the clock backwards rather than forwards, returning the furious omni-murderer to his earlier, slightly less pathological days, when he was just an angry young man who'd been tricked into butchering his entire family. Ascension tells the story of his first act of revenge, then, as he seeks to break his bond with Ares, the original god of war and the source of all his unhappiness, before chopping the unfortunate deity into hundreds of slippery little pieces with his whirling chain blades. Family, friends, and lavish bloodshed: it's the stuff of Greek legend already.
EXCHANGE AND SPART
Will killing his old boss give Kratos closure? Probably not. Four games in - more if you count the excellent PSP instalments - and the purple Spartan's mood is hardly going to brighten too drastically. It should make players feel better, though, as they explore a tweaked weapon and combat system - which might even throw in a few new instruments of torture to mess around with along the way - and navigate huge levels that apparently ditch the series' trademark over-reliance on QTE sequences. On top of that, the animation and lighting's been improved, too (not that God Of War III was ever exactly a chore to look at), and we're promised more of those insane setpieces to go along with all the wonderfully overwrought hyper-violence. Maybe the developers will even fix that double-jump.
The really big news lies elsewhere, however, with Ascension marking the point that Sony's blockbuster series finally embraces multiplayer. Happily, multiplayer God Of War looks encouragingly like single-player God Of War - and it will allow up to eight warriors to go at it in both online and offline battles.
Expect avatar customisation alongside armour, weapon, and offensive unlocks, all of which will be tied to whichever deity your character's chosen to follow. You can't play as Kratos, in other words, but you can still throw your lot in with some of his victims, and whether you dedicate yourself to Zeus, Poseidon, Hades or Ares, they'll all essentially work as classes, allowing you to shape your hero as he levels his way from noble scrapper to thunderous demi-god. The design team is keeping the precise nature of these classes under wraps for the time being, but they're likely to be fairly traditional, offering custom classes that specialise in things like melee damage, magical attacks and even healing. The real Kratos probably wouldn't be too bothered about that last one.
As for the action itself, the matches shown so far have been team-based and astonishingly violent, as two groups of killers rip each other to pieces and fight over control points scattered across the map. The whole thing's suitably spectacular, too, with the winner getting to launch all manner of gory, acrobatic attacks on Polyphemus, a shackled one-eyed giant who's leering over the battlefield. Todd Papy, Ascension's game director, refers to the team's approach as offering a "fresh twist" on multiplayer - and with its scale and sense of mythic drama, it should certainly provide a counterpoint to the grim kill-box churn of Battlefield or COD.
Kratos may be on the subs bench for the multiplayer, then (sparing the game a serious balance problem), but multiplayer still offers his brand of torturous bloodletting, with the camera swooping around the action cinematically, and moving in close for the really big kills. There's plenty of brain and offal in the air, and two or three players can all pile in on unfortunate foes at once for a range of elaborate, intestine-unravelling takedowns. So far, it looks like a smart setup, and it feels like the right approach for this particular series. God Of War's heading online, but it hasn't lost any of its swagger in the transition.