God of War: Ascension Multiplayer Hands-On
True story: I had a conversation about the God of War: Ascension multiplayer with another journalist prior to our hands-on that forced me to accept that, for the first time, I’m actually OK with multiplayer being added to a game that has largely been about the single player experience.
At the risk of mangling her point, her worry going into the demo was that the multiplayer might come at the expense of a strong single player experience. That’s a valid concern, naturally; too many games have been neutered by the addition of multiplayer elements. Fortunately, God of War: ascension comes with a built-in disadvantage tailor-made for the fleshing out a good multiplayer can provide: the story is already done.
Ascension is a prequel, you see, which means nothing that happens in the game is going to have any real significance. This isn’t to say that the stories have ever been more than campy, violent excuses for Kratos to kill as many mythological creatures as possible, but with Ascension, we already know how the story turns out and what’s more, we already know everything we need to about who Kratos is and why it is that Kratos does his thing.
To my mind, this renders any concerns about the story or single player campaign entirely moot. We no longer need God of War to be great, we just need it – if Sony Santa Monica is going to continue to make these games, and given how important they are to the studio, they damn well are – to be fun. And since, at its core the series is nothing more than copious, visceral violence, all God of War: Ascension needs to do is provide it in obscene amounts to pull that off.
Mission accomplished, in other words. Ascension’s multiplayer takes what works about the game and gives you more of it, only with the ability to substitute Terrence C. Carson’s hammy voice acting with your own. Blood and gore? It’s all there. Ridiculous, improbably weaponry? Still ridiculous, improbable. Constant, manful grunting? Yep. It’s God of War stripped down to its dumbest and most satisfying elements, and just the thing to pad out an unnecessary look into a character whose backstory has already been revealed at numerous points in the series’ other entries.
As Phil said above, combat is tight and tactical, and I’ll add that I had one of the more enjoyable multiplayer fights I’ve experienced in a long time. Granted, it could just be the result of the significant reduction in difficulty for the press demo, but I’ll pretend otherwise. Combat is (at least in the two modes we saw) entirely arena-based, capture the flag and death match style fights that emphasize melee attacks and the occasional magic spells, the kinds of scenarios that encourage mobility and free for all brawls. (I get bored in modern combat settings and horde mode is generally a snore.) The balance between combat and defensive moves is a also serious plus. I never felt over-reliant on a single combat tactic, which was a nice break from feeling compelling to hack and slash my way through such scenarios. Mainly, at no point did I ever feel cornered except by my own lack of experience.
I won’t repeat what Phil has to say about multiplayer specifics, but it’s worth adding to his comments that weapons, magic, and movement function exactly like the single player game, which is to say, if you’ve played God of War, you’re already trained for this. All in all, while I remain skeptical about the point of God of War: Ascension, I am at least happy to know I won’t be bored trying to figure it out.
This piece is a collaboration between Phil Hornshaw and Ross Lincoln. Read more of Hornshaw’s work here and Lincoln’s work here, and follow them and Game Front on Twitter: @philhornshaw, @rossalincoln and @gamefrontcom.