Review – God of War: Ascension (PS3)

As mentally-scarred, borderline insane, revenge-driven, unrelenting anti-heroes go, Kratos is somehow quite an appealing character. In this already five-game series he has been pulled from pillar to post, and has hit rock bottom more times than a soap opera character. But somehow, someway, Kratos always manages to rise up. To ascend.

God of War: Ascension is not a sequel, but a prequel to the entire series. This includes the 2 PSP prequels, so Ascension is really a pre-pre-prequel. As baffling as that may seem, or sounds, Ascension is no step back. In fact, Ascension pushes the world of Kratos (and the PS3) upon us more than ever before, both aesthetically and creatively. The graphics here are fantastic; lavish detail among each and every piece of brick and mortar, accompanied with bold, vibrant colours.

The motion capture of Kratos and the supporting cast looks more real than ever before, particular in the cut-scenes. As expected, Ascension does not hold back on the graphic nature the series is famous for. It is however noticeably more suppressed than the ever-escalating violence of the mainstay series.

Single-Player

What separates Ascension from its peers is the changes made to the combat. Aside from the series-stable light/heavy attacks and combination strings, there are some excellent additions and alternatives to use. When confronted by many foes at once (as often is the case), a tap of R1 sees Kratos throw one of his chain-attached blades into the desired enemy, and latches on. This not only allows you to either attack your chained foe, but all those around you too, which makes for much more full-flowing combat. You can even evade and still be attached to a foe, making way to get those high numbered combos that bit easier.

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Kratos only has the Blades of Chaos as main weapons this time around. But in various areas of the game there are alternative weapons that can be picked up if desired. This is known as the ‘World Weapons’ system. These weapons can be used with the circle button, and also in combination with the Blades if desired. The chain grab can be used to obtain a shield as a world weapon from an enemy too. It all comes together really well, making Ascension more advanced than any other God of War game.

Puzzle elements are another re-emerging God of War formula. There is the typical form of “push block to access ledge/activate switch”, but this time around there is much more on offer. An ability acquired within the campaign allows Kratos to ‘Heal’ or Decay’ promulgated surroundings to access the next area, or weaken other materials to break through them. These get more complicated as the campaign unfolds, and prove a welcome break from the hack and slash.

Unfortunately, despite its pleasing aesthetics, combat and puzzle mixture, there are a lot of confusing elements to Ascension as a package. This is the only God of War game where I have had issues with the fixed camera system. Quite often in a typical setting, although the exit is obvious, you have to blindly guide Kratos through it, which can be very frustrating at times. One instance even led me to have to reload a chapter, only to find that the problem was the camera didn’t react the first time.

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The other major issue is the slightly bland single player campaign. From the original God of War through to III, the scale has always risen. The story always escalating through to the epic final confrontation. But in Ascension, once the first plot catalyst is confirmed, it just seems so long to get there. This leads to a lot more repetition and very uneven pacing. There is considerably less interaction with, well, anyone, for a good two thirds of the campaign, but does improves significantly from then on. Thankfully the action is noticeably different enough to keep Ascension from being the bad apple of the series.

Multiplayer

New to the series is the introduction of online multiplayer. Although you don’t play as Kratos, you play another Spartan warrior in the same predicament. After a quick tutorial of controls, you choose which god you wish to follow, each one granting different powers and abilities. From there, you can throw yourself into free-for-all or team-based battles, to gain XP which allows you power up and suit up your character.

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The gameplay itself is typical God of War combat. Except now there are eight of you at it at once, in maps littered with traps, power-ups and the like. Although originally sceptical, it works really well, and is highly addictive. The more you power up your character, the more you want to dive in for more XP. Where many will put a God of War game back on the shelf once the campaign is over, this will provide hours and hours of longevity.

Sony has really pushed for a complete package with God of War: Ascension. The excellent addition of multiplayer, the improved combat and puzzle elements, plus the fact it looks glorious throughout, is certainly testament to that. Only the less memorable campaign story and pacing is a slight blemish on what is overall a very worthy purchase. For fans, it’s familiarity with a bit more to tackle. For newcomers, there is enough here to get them hooked on the series. Prequels don’t get much better than this.

5 Reasons Everyone Must Buy God of War III Re-mastered

From my original listing at The Average Gamer (check out the site!)

God of War III, released for PS3 in 2010, is a thing of beauty. Bloodthirsty, brutal and brilliant beauty. Easily one of the finest games to grace the PS3, and now, thanks to the power of the PS4, it will be re-mastered and re-released, no doubt more beautiful than ever. Following Sony’s announcement, many are sceptical about yet another re-mastered last gen title. So, here are 5 reasons why, whether you have already sampled this pinnacle of persecution or not, it’s time to get your cash out this July.

1. The glorious, satisfying violence

If you haven’t sampled a God of War video game before then, spoiler alert, they are violent. Veryviolent, which is the point of the series given it’s a ohgod_of_war_3_helios so very angry vengeful ex-god (also a spoiler) trying to take down the mighty Zeus, et al. Unlike the Mortal Kombat series, whose disturbingly obscene fatalities mean less and less as the years go by (try Injustice as a better alternative), here it is of significant importance and relevance, given the nature of the mythos the God of War series is based upon. It is brutal but never out of context or character; particular highlights being the death of Helios and my personal favourite, the final QTE segment with Poseidon, the best use of the L3 + R3 buttons if ever there was one.

2. The beauty will be even more beautiful

Although few details have been announced so far, Sony have stated it will output at 1080p HD and the developers are targeting 60 FPS, so fingers crossed the fierce brutality will somehow look even better. The original was a beast of game in terms of graphical detail; Kratos himself was often heralded as the finest looking character in video games. If it has anything close to the graphical detail of the series prequel God of War: Ascension (and we all expect better from the PS4 as a given), then it will look incredible.

3. It was the best game released on PS3. (No really, it was)

Ok, so this is my opinion, and make of that what you will, but God of War III is not just renowned for its violence; the whole series is a fantastic fusion of fluid combat, awe-inspiring visuals and dignified storytelling. The combat is so fluid and accessible that the only comparison to give is the Bayonetta series; for me it’s the only combat mechanism that can claim victory over Sony’s Santa Monica studios achievements here. The pacing of the campaign is delivered to perfection, with the opening and ending acts among the best I’ve ever experienced. Oh, but don’t forget the violence too.

4. It’s a celebration

The release of this re-master is to celebrate the tenth anniversary of the God of War franchise, so it’s only fitting that the best game in the series is the one to be re-packaged. I’m hoping there will be a recap included for newcomers to the series, to widen its appeal, and of course plenty of extras for long-time fans to chew on, of which is usually a certainty.

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And finally… That sex scene

I always find that of the very few sex scenes present in video games, they tend to feel a bit awkward (I’m looking at you Fahrenheit/Heavy Rain), but God of War III’s take on Kratos’ carnal desires is arguably more interactive than either of David Cage’s efforts. I expect a wry smile as you read this (for those that know it well), as it is a moment that is as provocative as it is hilarious. It is a moment that, alongside its famous brutality and chaos, is the embodiment of the series’ character.

As more details surface between now and its expected July release, it’s difficult not to be excited by this. Although the PS4 is probably one more re-master away from emulating Nintendo’s Game Boy Advance, this is my most anticipated re-master so far. As I am yet to even own a PS4, this is seriously making me consider my options. I cannot wait.

God of War III Remastered is coming to PS4 in July 2015.

Confessions of a ‘3AM Father’

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Sony’s PS4 declaration “This is for the players” is rather clever in its message and delivery. From my perspective, it’s also delivers a sickening truth. My name is Kevin, and I am a 3AM Father.

We’ve all had that moment where we take a look at the clock and somehow 6 hours have passed, but you think “meh”, go to bed and get at least 4-5 solid hours. Oh how that changes when you become a father.

It’s Friday night, and after working all week with only minimal game time, it’s time to seize the moment. My daughter Lana is a little fighter at nearly 2 years old, and often doesn’t fall asleep until 10pm. She is also at that age where she is absorbing everything, so I ensure that anything on our TV screen is suitable for her eyes and ears. Should a game of FIFA commence onscreen, I often get a cheer and a clap if I score, or even a high five. I would never subject her to a session of, for example, Borderlands 2.

But once she is finally asleep, and everything is tidy, it is only then when the real gaming begins. At nearly 11pm, it can be the mother of all second winds. Cue getting stuck into hours of adult gaming; recent titles include WWE2K14, The Walking Dead, and Spartacus Legends. Quite often these have taken me beyond 3AM.

There is of course an obvious potential drawback, being that my daughter could wake up at any time. Nevertheless, staying up until all hours is much more difficult, knowing you have to be up early the next morning. So much so that I often inadvertently fall asleep with my daughter. My name is Kevin, and I am an often-frequent 3AM father.

I’m not the sole parent in our home, however it is often the case that my wife can be at work at this time, or is out with friends. She works too, after all. My wife is not a gamer, but encourages and respects the work I do and the hobbies I have. When I came into her life I drove her mad with my gaming addictions, but this was often inconsiderate on my part. That, coupled with the arrival of our daughter, has taught me to appreciate what time I do get that much more.

But there is another side to this story. I’m also a stepfather; to a young man I have known since he was 8 years old. He is now 13, but there is a considerable challenge regarding exposure to appropriate games for his age. I don’t allow him to play CoD/Battlefield, or purely adult-themed games such as GTA. I base the suitability of a title on its content, not necessarily the rating stuck on the box.

strictmommemeBack when he was 8/9, even WWE games and television was having a negative effect on his behavior, so these were banned for a time. Now he’s 13, I’m disappointed that all his school friends are playing GTA V, CoD, and mostly 18-rated titles. He does often ask for a CoD title of his own, but this is just so he doesn’t feel left out.

I’d be lying if I said had the same issue when I was 13, owning titles such as Street Fighter II for the SNES, but is worth noting that me and my brother were both banned from Street Fighter II for a short while, as fights often broke out between us over the legendary Capcom title. That was up to my parents at the time, same as I believe it is for me as a parent now.

So in retrospect, I’m currently living a double life as a 3AM father. I care about what I expose my kids to, plus I always want them to be honest about what they want to see and do. And as that means me having to stay up till 3AM at times, or even beyond, then so be it.

My name is Kevin, and I am a proud 3AM Father.