God of War: Ascension (single player) User Review
Over the years SCE Santa Monica Studio has offered as much story as they can without it feeling overly intrusive of GoW's core play. That's understandable and nothing about that has changed here. Ascension does mark the earliest outing on the GoW time line, taking place six months after the loss of Kratos's family but before Chains of Olympus and the original GoW. So here's a chance to see Kratos less enraged by his vengeance and more probing for answers, yet to have resolved his vengeful actions at the gods. Don't let this fool you into thinking this rogue spartan can't fight a vicious fight. He can. Oh yes, he can and does. But there is a different vibe here knowing that Kratos isn't 'balls to the wall' angry while ripping to shreds his adversaries. So gamers should expect some interesting pieces of Kratos's history filled in, making him seem a bit more man than one sided wrecking ball; though, it does it at the cost of not pairing up the usual rage with brutal combat viciousness. Fans who really want to 'get into' the GoW lore may appreciate this new perspective on the series' protagonist. Others may wish the emotion of this game stayed consistent with prior entries. It really depends on what drives you to play a GoW game.
The combat brings to the table the familiar beat'em-down in droves approach in play with pretty much the same solid control system we're accustomed to. Kratos is oftentimes out there lighting up an expanse by creating a ruckus amongst more than a handful of baddies with them fire breathing Chaos Blades. He's learned a few new tricks and turns into one immensely powerful war machine by the end of it all. He in part accomplishes this with the aid of “World Weapons.” Basically, those random secondary weapons found laying around battlefields. These handy objects come in the form of a spear, shield, sling, or sword, giving Kratos a leg up in play, even so much to get a free stun on a thick and tough baddy. Kratos also has several elements at his eventual disposal. He being able to modify his Chaos Blades to adopt something of an elemental affinity. Each element moderately alters the behavior of a given set of actions. Basically, under the right conditions, Kratos can choose to activate his 'Soul of Hades' blade modifier on the fly, then 'rage' out, and execute some unique attacks, maybe even dealing that rage fueled killing blow and score some green health orbs in the process. Those who really like to soak up the game play in these genre types will no doubt find the nitty-gritty of special moves and blade characteristics rewarding.
Other appreciable combat modifications extend to the QTE's as well. Kratos is presented with a bit more of a struggle while delivering that final killing blow. He will have to pause from plunging his blade into flesh and stop to evade as the grappled foe tries to strike back in an attempt to preserve their life. It's a nice and innovative nuance that really adds to that primal aspect of GoW's play.
The game puzzles are back of course and now with the added twist of gaining the eventual ability to decay and heal mechanisms and objects. During the second half of the game the puzzles will compound a bit further with an ability to clone oneself to hold a lever or stand on a switch while going to interact with another component of the puzzle. Not all of the puzzles in GoW: Ascension are great, some being too obvious and others being a little too vague in what constitutes it's logical components. But there are some nice one's to be had here. When they're at their best I've found some series' favorites of my own.
Platforming elements have been overhauled. Kratos scales the sides of walls with forceful finesse, feeling slicker than ever by holding only the directional analog to navigate limb-reach ledges and handholds. He uses his Chaos Blades to grapple hard to reach locations. And now Kratos can slide down the sides of walls or slopes while steering himself clear of obstacles, making turns and jumping crevices along the way down. It's all implemented well, albeit being a rather simple addition, and it presents a nice mix-up in tempo that complements GoW's brand of action.
The whole thing is presented with the sort of jaw dropping technology one would hope for. It's clear Santa Monica knows how to flex the PS3's hardware better than most anyone else out there. The game just looks and sounds awe inspired in art direction and epic majesty. It's hard not to be impressed when massive full level sized bosses twist and contort stages. You'll be impressed by how grand and detailed things can get. I guarantee it. Just wait until the end boss. That was insanely cool, raising the 'wow' factor of GoW that much higher. The grand fully orchestrated soundtrack also delivers, showing no sign of mismatching the epic feel of the journey.
It's hard for me to really make solid arguments against GoW: Ascension, save it be for a few. It's a sizable journey having taken me just over 9 hours to complete on Normal difficulty. It presents some of the best mechanics in the series with game play enhancements felt throughout practically every facet of the series. This includes a fairly expansive array of enemies, some of which are recycled, yet tweaked, from games past. The overall production while brimming in quality feels just a little uneven at times. There's occasional moments where certain encounters didn't seem quite dialed in from a technical aspect or smaller gaps of time that seemed a little too mundane, particularly just after the opening first few dramatic chapters; assuredly, however, the experience mounts as a rising crescendo to an exciting finale that left me awe struck and excited for more. So other than the handful of slight technical oddities, this thing is AAA material, where the minor setbacks are far outweighed by the lofty standards held by this series.
Overall, it may be familiar but assuredly Kratos hasn't been outdone or outclassed by his genre peers. GoW: Ascension makes for a strong worthwhile entry to the franchise, bearing only small blemishes and the possibility that the familiar play and setting may have worn out their welcome to lesser fans of the genre and series. If you can count yourself among those who like GoW and it's usual offering of Greek mythological chaos and it's unbridled brutality, the quality is most certainly there. Are you ready to receive another ample sized doze of GoW scaled action?
This user review does not reflect the views of the PSX Extreme Staff.