God Of War: Ascension PS3 review – beautiful brawler gives rise to the silver Spartan

Note: This God Of War: Ascension review combines both the single-player and multiplayer reviews, which were featured in separate issues of the magazine due to deadline constraints.

When you’ve broken into the king of the gods’ gaff and punched him square in the face until his divine cranium caves in, where do you go next? That’s the problem facing both our surly Spartan and Sony Santa Monica in what’s surely God Of War‘s slaughter-heavy swansong on PS3. After scaling Mount Olympus and vanquishing Zeus last time out, Ascension has no option but to go back… both literally and, very occasionally, gameplay-wise.

God Of War: Ascension PS3 review

Despite sounding like I’m about to get a gripe on, this prequel remains an incredibly polished, extremely confident adventure, which also introduces surprisingly strong multiplayer to the gore-smeared banquet. Set shortly after Kratos makes a blood oath with Ares but before the original game, combat in the latest GOW is as slickly tempting as ever. Subtle tweaks lend the Minotaur-bashing blade work a fluency and forceful grace Raiden could only have slicey night terrors about.

Todd Papy (GOW 3′s design director who’s now levelled up to become overall game director) guides the ash-covered brawler by the bloodied hand on this occasion. He proves quite the dance partner, too. Ascension makes some understated yet game-changing alterations to fights, with Kratos’ updated whip move now the star.

Whip to be square.

Called Orion’s Harpoon (here expanded from previous games), a quick tap of R1 wraps the Blades of Chaos around most monsters’ necks. From here, you can yank them backwards before picking them up and using the fiend as a projectile.

Of course, if you’d rather murderously multi-task, simply hold your enemy on the end of the chain like a naughty pooch and continue to whack other Greek ghouls as you go. It proves a wonderful addition to your arsenal, greatly increasing Kratos’ reach and finally making him a lethal long-range killer.

The Blades’ new elemental attacks are a mixed bag, however. Ascension drops the smashing (and mega-smashy) Cestus gauntlets and spectral Claws Of Hades from GOW 3 in favour of more varied D-pad attacks.

Though the Spartan soldier is now limited to his legendary chains, the array of fire, lightning, ice and undead attacks are often useful for dealing with crowds. Thanks to the comboing abilities on offer, combat doesn’t really feel stripped down from the last game, even if electrifying a Harpy is less satisfying than hooking Hercules with a lion-headed haymaker.

Subscribe for more PS3 & PS4 videos.

Quite why Santa Monica decided to needlessly tweak with its countering system is any deity-doer in’s guess, mind. In past titles, parrying was effective and uncluttered. You simply judged your timing, then tapped L1 to bat away attacks. Now, though, there’s the unnecessary hoop-jumping of having to press X, too.

The intrusion of the added button makes judging the windows for parries much more difficult, meaning you’re mostly forced to rely on Kratos’ right stick roll as your sole form of defence. It’s certainly not a deal-breaker, with the superbly animated, juggle-tastic to-and-fro of combat proving too irresistible for a borked block to dampen.