It seems that Kratos' tale is just a string of never-ending opportunities to destroy enemies with over-the-top violence. But, hey, that's fine by us. The God of War games have been nothing short of fantastic this generation, between the stunning God of War III and the well-organized compilations of his previous adventures on PlayStation 2 (God of War HD Collection) and PSP (God of War Origins Collection).
Now we're finally getting another original tale, the first since part three debuted a few years back, and it's looking like it'll be the best one yet. God of War: Ascension once again plunks Kratos right in the midst of trouble, but provides him some new abilities that come in handy over the course of his adventure, which digs a little deeper into the tale of his origin and how he got to be the anger-induced warrior he is today.
Though the rep didn't break down any more of the story for us (they were clearly trying to avoid spoiler territory), they did give us a shot at the single player demo, which you can check out now by purchasing the Total Recall Blu-Ray or, as a better option that'll save you money, waiting for its full release this February, prior to the game's arrival.
Kratos finds himself arriving on an island where all sorts of nasty trouble awaits, through smaller enemies just begging to be ripped apart and larger dangers that lurk in the distance, including the sea beayt Charybdis, who smashes a Viking ship in half with its arm before trying to pummel you with it.
Kratos' combat has been tinkered with a little bit, for the better. The quick-time events have been toned down quite a lot – something fans have been waiting for – in favor of a new free-form battle system where you can rip apart enemies with more ingenuity. Sometimes you can grab them and rip them in half; other times you can hit specific parts and watch them crumble at your feet. It's a combat system that works wonders, and kept me going to see just what kind of kills I could pull off next.
But an interesting addition to the platforming segments of the game is the ability to control elements of time. At one point in the stage, a large crane comes crumbling down, and it's up to Kratos to use a special magical element to restructure it, or, in the case of this demo, stop the pieces at just the right point in between so he can climb up and reach the next level of the stage, then rewind it even further so he can ascend upon the crane and beat up a few more bad guys.
The combat feels great, and there's no shortage of challengers stepping forth to try to finish off Kratos, whether it's a stone axe wielder who has a nasty diving attack (you can easily evade out of the way, then strike as he recovers) or the Elephantaur, a monster with an elephant's head and a really bad temper. (The way you finish him off – by ripping his brain out of his head – is divine.)
The graphics look wonderful, as per the God of War standard, and the audio is killer from what we heard in the demo, with Kratos once again shouting out confident taunts as he finishes off his opponents. The only problem we had is that it ended too soon, with Kratos mopping the floor with his adversaries, then diving head first right into the awaiting gullet of the Charybdis. But we won't have to wait long to see how the rest of the game turns out, luckily. And that's including the multiplayer, which we'll talk about in beta impressions soon.
God of War: Ascension hits stores March 12th. Be sure to check back for the full review then.