With its sickening violence, epic sense of scale and delirious set pieces, God Of War: Ascension has everything Kratos fans have come to crave. But like going to a swanky restaurant, selecting your favourite meal and getting exactly what you ordered, this latest blast of mythological ultraviolence offers little that series devotees won't have seen a hundred times before.
As a way to lay the smack down on ravenous legendary beasts, Ascension delivers all the harpy smashin', gorgon slashin', centaur bashin' action you could wish for, all wrapped in deep, satisfying combat that gives players a myriad moves to master if they want to see the best the game has to offer, or simply mash the buttons to unleash blood-soaked hell. Secondary weapons, enhanced Blades Of Chaos and a more strategic use of magic also help make Ascension tremendous fun to play, and keep the action flowing at a dizzying pace, from the tale's ferocious beginning to its gore-soaked climax.
But while the combat is fun and engaging, Kratos' latest outing feels like God Of War by numbers, with the action leaning heavily on familiar series cliches such as towering bosses and frenetic battlefields; conventions that are beginning to feel formulaic and fail to deliver any fresh thrills. The game plot, which lacks the burning desire for revenge that drove other God Of War titles, also feels puny compared to its forebears, while the frustrating platforming sections, occasionally awkward camera angles and overpopulated battlefields also make it feel as if Ascension has learned nothing from its predecessors' weaknesses.
On a more positive note, Ascension is the first God Of War to feature multiplayer modes, where players can team up to battle computer-controlled creatures or get busy with their blades to slice and dice other human players. Sadly, this promising mode wasn't busy enough to test prior to the game's release, so it's hard to judge if it has what it takes to earn Ascension a coveted fifth star. But as the single-player adventure is still a bombastic thrill ride despite its flaws, God Of War: Ascension is a solid choice for anyone who likes their combat uncompromising, visceral and toe-curlingly shocking.
Reviewed by David McComb