God of War: Ascension multiplayer preview

We get a look at God of War: Ascension's multiplayer component, shown at a Sony-run press event last week.

The God of War: Ascension demo began in a rather normal fashion. At the Sony-held press event held in West Hollywood last week, game director Todd Papy--who has been involved in the series in some capacity since its first installment--began by running the teaser trailer that I'm confident most (if not all) of us in the room had already seen. "I've been there for all the God of Wars, and I can honestly say that this is the most ambitious one that we've ever done," Papy briefly commented just before the lights went down again. What unfolded on-screen next seemed familiar at first, before a twist in the proceedings blew my mind. The live demo began with an opening shot that should be familiar to anyone who has played previous God of War games. Half of an angry-looking man's face filled the left-hand side of the screen. As the camera pulled back, my first surprise was that while the character looked very Kratos-like, different war-paint, apparel, and facial features revealed that he was not, in fact, the well-known gray-skinned angry man. Brandishing a giant sword, the warrior pulled an ornate helm over his face and began battling a cyclops. The warrior was then joined by another, who helped him gut the creature, spilling its entrails forth in a bloody mess. After dispatching the medium-sized cyclops, the two players ran down a corridor into a giant arena-like area, where it became clear that what was being shown wasn't simply 2-player co-op (which would have been cool, in and of itself). Instead, two teams consisting of four players each (Troy vs. Sparta) battled over a couple of control points. A titan-sized cyclops chained to the surrounding area--and magnitudes bigger than the one battled at the demo's start--thrashed about in the background, occasionally smashing areas in the world itself. Yes, God of War: Ascension will include multiplayer. Variations of modes like Domination, Deathmatch, Capture the Flag, and Horde were mentioned as possibilities, but it's still being decided which of these modes (or others) will make it into the finished product, in five to seven different maps. "We're still working on that," Papy said. "For us, it's about quality, not quantity. We don't want to segregate the players too much. I think the main thing for us is that if we're going to do a Deathmatch, or we're going to do Domination, or Capture the Flag, how can we infuse God of War into that." The mode shown in the demo was called Execution, and the 8v8 match seemed a lot like Domination, with an important distinction. In a nutshell, two teams battle for control over two points on the map. As soon as those points are controlled, the Spirit of Olympus comes down, and then the gameplay becomes "attack and defend." In the match I saw played out in real-time, the enormous, screen-filling cyclops had to be cooperatively taken down by the first team who was successfully able to seize and hold the aforementioned control points. The action was furiously paced, and seemed very much true to the series, albeit with multiple players. God of War: Ascension's competitive multiplayer component will also feature an unlockable suite of god-specific customization options. "The whole idea behind this is that you're going from an unknown hero to a god, kind of following in the footsteps of Kratos," said Papy. "You can align yourself to one of four gods--Zeus, Poseidon, Hades, and Ares--and then from there, you're able to customize your character: Armor-sets, weapons, specials, perks, Magics, and more."

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The two primary weapons shown off during the demo were a huge sword and a giant hammer. While the total number of weapons that will be available isn't being revealed yet, the two on display both had their distinct advantages and associated move-set. Certain combos revealed the presence of some sort of chain-blades that allowed players to fling each other around, but whether or not the Blades of Chaos would actually appear as a primary weapon is still to be determined. What is known, however, is that Kratos himself isn't a playable character in any of the currently-planned game modes. "We're not doing Kratos in multiplayer," Papy said. "Basically, from our standpoint, nobody wants to be Robin [of Batman and Robin fame]. And we would have had a bunch of Robins. And I [also] didnt' want Red Kratos vs. Green Kratos vs. Yellow Kratos, or that kind of thing. That's why we came up with this mythology." That said, a suggestion of a 7-on-1 multiplayer mode in which one player plays as Kratos and other players compete to take him out seemed to intrigue Papy as a possibility. Although God of War: Ascension's single-player component wasn't on display, Papy was quick to assure fans that the team realizes the importance of delivering the spectacular single-player prequel that's also been promised. "Single player is our bread and butter. There's no 'ifs,' 'ands,' or 'buts,' about it. That's what we're known for," he said. "But we wanted to try something new." Speaking directly to the challenge of bringing God of War's traditionally single-player-only combat into competitive multiplayer, Papy mentioned that it's a monumental task that the team is still working on perfecting. "Taking our single-player code and making that network-safe is still something that we're working on, still wrestling with," he said. "To make sure we continue that feel of God of War with hit-pauses, or even anticipating attacks when they come in, and doing all of this attacker-side vs. defender-side so that the hits look right. That's a shit-ton of work." I'll admit to being quite skeptical about the notion of adding multiplayer to the God of War series, but based on what I saw at the recent demo, that skepticism has morphed into excited (but cautious) optimism. The action seems to retain that trademark God of War style, and if the team is able to pull it off successfully (and by all indications, so far, they will), it could usher in a type of fast-paced, melee-driven competitive multiplayer that's never been done before. For fans of the series (like me), it could turn out to be very exciting stuff, once the game is released.
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