The Cuddly, Warm Side of God of War: Ascension

Well, this figures to be a rather bland article. New God of War game. Made by Santa Monica (duh). On PlayStation 3 (duh). I like the demo (duh). With that news, get out of here and go play the single-player demo. If you’re still here and want specifics on the God of War: Ascension demo, I will indulge.

There is an unstoppable monster in God of War games who wears sweatpants. Developers have touched on the unstoppable monster part before – seemingly intangible until pinned down – saying how all of Kratos’s moves are forward or through or towards. It’s true. The sense of playing God of War is akin to wearing a suit of armor and fighting off a bunch of puppies with a studded table leg. It is a fantasy of violence and empowerment.

The reason this formula works so well is because of the graphics and overall presentation the series has always striven for. We’re talking industry-defining caliber stuff. As I said a few lines earlier, it’s all there. All the check-boxes of a God of War game have been marked. The first shot of Kratos in the demo literally (literally!) dropped my mouth open. It’s amazing stuff that will make you forget and even question whether PS4 was announced yet. The visuals on screen here are just ridiculously, stupidly, lavishly good.

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No one was surprised there. Something that also won’t surprise people is the gameplay. It’s all there too, for better or worse, largely unchanged. I mentioned on the Game Plan podcast this weekend how God of War is not a “when you put down the controller” game. Rather, it’s a “when you pick up the controller” game. It’s not out to blow your mind and – if we’re being honest – doesn’t give two toots of Pan’s flute about story. So, just give in to your base desires and instincts and kick back for the show.

Because once you settle into the formula, a comfy pair of sweatpants after a cold day, you will wonder why you ever left the house.

I mean, really, what do you want from this? It’s God of War! It plays better than 99% of its knockoffs without a drop of pretense or irony. I love the series for that. It’s a video game, pure and simple. Sure, there are some things that made me sit up, like sliding down the front of the cyclops to literally open it up like a plump haggis, but I was just happy to be back. Before the cyclops-splitting, I didn’t even think a second about mounting its stunned body and using it to kill minions. Do we ever contemplate the fate of Goombas? I think it’s safe to say that Kratos has entered the canon of modern gaming icons, moveset and all.

In fact, the game only improved on its formula. The camera is more dynamic and thoughtful in its placement. Sometimes we’re panned waaay far out to take in the gigantic scope and for others we’re pulled riiight over the K-Man’s shoulder. It’s really immersive stuff, pushed even further by the titanic levels of fantasy-realism we get here.

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However my favorite use – maybe a bit of fan service – is when a boss is stunned, during the foreplay before the quick time event, they fall over slumped and waiting for you. Instead of panning over to the boss’s unconscious body, it furtively yet confidently lingers on the red highlight above it, coyly giving you the go-ahead. All that fancy-schmancy comboing is just a precursor to the real show. It doesn’t matter to whom or to what you are about to do it to, all that matters is you and that red highlight. It’s a romantic gesture; you’ve wined and dined so now go finish the matter.

And those QTEs! It makes me wonder how people manage to get them wrong. Smartly, their use in Ascension has been greatly diminished, only requiring three or four button presses in the most gratuitous ones. Still, they fit in with the game’s formula of opulent ecstasy and violence as well as they did in 2005. They are the fireworks of the evening, so to speak; leaving you to roll over, go to bed and wake up with a pep in your step and a throbbing head all the same. Yet, after all that, you just want to be in sweatpants again, right?

So get out of here already! If you’re not keen on the series, you won’t ever be. These games give you little to think about and even less to relate to. BUT! If you are a series fan, or simply looking to impress your visual cortex, or just wanting a nice pair of sweatpants, you should be excited for the newest entry into the God of War franchise.

Written by: Nick Cane

Game writer, fervent lover of mac and cheese. Favorite games are ES4: Oblivion, Kirby's Adventure, Link's Awakening, Final Fantasy 8 and Mario Galaxy.

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