Let's face it, when it comes to God of War, despite the emphasis on Ascension's new multiplayer component, fans really want to know more about the single player campaign. Unfortunately, Sony Santa Monica Studios has been keeping it under wraps, but don't let that trick you into thinking the studio has ignored the game's roots. In fact, it's quite the opposite actually. God of War: Ascension's single player could be the best we've seen yet, and my hands-on with this portion of the game proves it.
During a game showcase this week, Sony treated media to a full-blown 30-minute-or-so preview of the game's single player adventure. It began with an impressive cinematic with Kratos chained and being tortured by a Fury, one of the sisters that targets those who break blood oaths with the gods. The three Furies also serve as the game's primary antagonists. After breaking free of the shackles, I was immediately thrown into action.
God of War's signature hack n' slash combat has always been a shining point for the franchise and in Ascension it's better than ever before. The addition of a World Weapon System adds a new element to Kratos' combo. You are now able to pick up and wield certain weapons, such as javelins, clubs and swords. These weapon attacks add a whole new dimension to Kratos' fighting style and flow smoothly into the usual chain combo attacks.
Furthermore, the game now offers a new tethering ability which allows you to chain-hook enemies from a distance and have your way with them. Upon pressing R1, you can grapple an enemy, at which point you are free to use them to your advantage. You can choose to keep them tethered, rendering them useless as you attack other enemies, or you can use them to deal damage to others as you toss them at oncoming creatures. This new system certainly allows for some creative combat.
It's not just the combat that has seen improvements though. Now you have more of an organic environment to interact it. Fighting on (and at times inside) of a giant titan creates some really interesting and intense action moments. A new mini-game of sorts has been introduced that has you bury Kratos' blades into a wall and slide down, requiring you to steer him past obstacles and hazards. It allows you to interact with the environment in a brand new and exciting way. On top of that, even in the normal gameplay, pieces of the environment are constantly shifting and rotating. I did have a few problems with the camera angles, but it quickly adjusted itself. Coupled with the camera pans and wide shots, Ascension certainly has a feeling of massiveness to it, even more-so than its predecessors.
And it's not just massive, but beautiful as well. The world is alive, and it feels that way as you traverse on and inside a Hecatonchire. The enemies look pliable and real, as you slice half-bug/half-human creatures in half, rip open the belly of a cyclops, and tear off the heads of enemies (though there was some clipping with this animation). There were some moments that actually made me cringe, like when I spilled the guts of a giant cyclops or when a bug entered the Hecatonchires' hand and performed a bone-breaking monster birthing animation. The way creatures transform before your very eyes is both equal parts disgusting and beautiful.
Being a prequel, set six months to a year after the death of Kratos' family, it looks as though we're going to see a new side of Kratos. He's often been criticized as being a one-dimensional character, but judging from the video they showed us at the event (the newly released ad) and the opening cinematic, the story is going to allow for a deeper, more passionate Kratos.
Heading into my hands-on session, I knew God of War: Ascension would play well, but the game honestly takes combat to the next level with these new additions. With the new fighting mechanics, the stunning environments, and the seemingly deeper Kratos, God of War: Ascension is definitely on its way to being one of the best single player experiences in the series.