The story of Kratos
God of War goes back to its roots for the latest outing in the series. The roots of its Spartan antihero Kratos, to be precise. Set years before the first God of War game, Ascension opens with the ever-hostile Kratos a tortured prisoner of the Greek gods and follows his escape and subsequent quest for angry vengeance. Long-term fans will lap up the details of the warrior’s backstory – but let’s face it, God of War isn’t Jackanory and this game’s real appeal lies in its ultra-violent take on Greek mythology.
Ascension doesn’t stray from the hack-and-slash formula established by the series’ debut eight years ago, but that isn't a problem, since God of War’s raw and intense combat is still intoxicating. It’s fast, furious and utterly brutal, with Kratos smashing and stabbing everything that gets in his way in a blur of flashing blades, gravity-defying leaps and vicious kicks. Ascension also continues the series’ commitment to delivering the biggest and boldest boss battles in gaming, following up every spectacular clash with an even more spectacular clash.
Like previous God of War games, Ascension is a visual feast. Its imaginative world is packed with stunning visuals, imposing yet graceful ancient Greek architecture and enormous mountainous enemies that make Kratos a mere speck. To make the most of this graphical excellence, the game takes direct control of the camera so that players always have the best possible viewpoint.
Platforming and puzzles
The game-controlled camera might enhance Ascension’s eye candy but at times it is to the game’s detriment. At points the camera zooms out to show off a monolithic enemy only to make Kratos a hard-to-distinguish figure, which may please the eye but can make fights feel more about button mashing than skill. The fixed viewpoint also hinders the game’s platforming and puzzle-solving by forcing players to make dangerous leaps at tricky angles, which – coupled with fiddly double jumps – can be a source of frustration rather than fun.
Ascension might stick to the tried and tested for the most part but it also takes the series into the multiplayer realm for the first time with a selection of online modes to choose from. But since Sony’s not switching the servers on until the game hits the shelves on 15th March we have no idea at this point if they’re any good. We’ll update the review with our verdict on the multiplayer as soon as we’ve been able to give it a go.
Single-player has always been the core God of War experience, and Ascension gives fans exactly what they want. Stunning visuals, plenty of violence, a raging Spartan antihero and another generous helping of gaming’s most jaw-dropping bosses. But while the combat still thrills, the platforming can be irritating and there’s little here to convert the unconverted. The addition of multiplayer might add a new dimension to the series of course, but we’ll have to wait and see on that.