The latest entry in the God of War series comes out in March. Up until now it's been more or less of a perfect franchise. Sure, God of War III suffered a bit, it was the Return of the Jedi of the three main games, but overall the tale of Kratos waging war against the cruel and treacherous Olympian Gods has been a fantastic, if brutal, ride.
The big news with the new game was that there would be multiplayer options available, and such was my faith in the series that I actually went out and bought a headset just to fully appreciate the experience. In general, I keep my gaming a solitary affair as I find not being forced to endure half-witty smack talk during play to be more enjoyable. This time, it's full-on.
Currently the beta test of the multiplayer features has two modes, Favor of the Gods and Capture the Flag. Favor of the Gods pits you against three or seven other players in an all out melee in one arena. It's exactly like playing God of War against human-level intelligent enemies. No more of that Batman thug logic of hanging back and coming in one at a time.
On one hand the battles are exactly what you would expect, though in this version you're limited to a hammer and a sword with the chained blades Kratos made famous nowhere yet to be found. This is probably a good move as the reach would likely make the game no fun to play against at all.
The sickening kills that define Kratos return. Wearing your opponent down will allow you to pull off full-on cinematic executions that really help the mode feel like a continuation of the solo game. There aren't a whole lot of them, unfortunately, so they can get a bit monotonous. Then again, it takes quite a while to get good enough to make them happen regularly so the sheer challenge curve keeps them fresh.
The problem so far as I find it is that even on a plasma TV of pretty impressive length, there isn't really enough detail in the characters to tell them apart, especially with the extreme wide angle of the camera shots. Armor, weapons, etc all have to be earned, so your initial avatars are all generic looking bald white guys with one of two weapons. This makes any sort of alliance you may be trying to form in the arena difficult to enforce as your friends and your opponents look almost identical.
I mean, even Spartacus had a black guy in it. Is that asking too much? So far there are no Nubians or Amazons, just an army of Vin Diesels under tiny, hard to read name bars.
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More fun is Capture the Flag, which is full of traps, warps, random weapons gifted from the gods, and more than anything a true God of War feel. The press release that accompanied the download code for the beta test stated that voice coordination would be essential to making the most of this mode, but honestly my team stood by in silence and won more often than not.
It's really intuitive. You make sure someone guards your flag. Some douchebag that cares only for upgrading themselves goes treasure hunting (This is the only way to unlock new and better armor), while the rest attempt to get the other flag away.
More than anything this mode is brilliant. The map that's been released (Desert of Lost Souls) is easy to navigate, and offers ways of achieving victory for both the brute and the brain. You can hone your basic combat skills to an edge and win through, or you can really get to know the map and run circles around the other teams as they walk into fire and spikes.
Either way is good, and both can be addicting as hell. Icons and a basic color coding, plus immunity to friendly fire, show that Capture the Flag is going to be a big and well-executed hit for Ascension. I can't wait for more maps to be unlocked.