God of War: Ascension
What parents need to know
Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that God of War: Ascension, like all games in this M-rated series, is extraordinarily violent. Few games feature blood-soaked battles with more severed body parts or spilled innards. It's gory enough to make even media desensitized grown-up gamers occasionally whistle in disbelief. The game also carries some mature sexual themes, particularly in a scene early on in which players encounter a large room filled with women whose naked, oversized bosoms jiggle freely. And Kratos, the game's protagonist, makes a particularly bad role model for kids and adults alike, given that his propensity for violence leads him to kill just about everyone he runs into, including (in the past) his own wife and daughter.
What's it about?
You may have thought you'd seen the end of Kratos after God of War 3 ended with his apparent demise, but in GOD OF WAR: ASCENSION, a prequel to the original trilogy, players get to see a younger version of the ashen-skinned hero. The story begins with Kratos in chains and being tortured by a Greek Fury for betraying Ares, then follows him on a bloody and brutal quest to win back control of his own fate. As in previous God of War games, this one is all about gory, visceral combat and spectacular set piece battles, including a massive, lengthy level set entirely on and inside of the moving body of Hekatonkheires, a 100-armed creature turned into a stone prison housing traitors to the gods. New to this edition is a multiplayer mode in which players can do battle with and against up to eight other players while earning experience and rewards including better weapons, armor, magic, and items.
Is it any good?
God of War: Ascension is impeccably designed and perhaps the most visually grand entry in Sony's PlayStation-exclusive action series. Tweaks to combat -- including a new ability to pick up weapons lying around the world -- have been expertly inserted into action that otherwise feels welcoming and familiar. Plus, the wildly over-the-top, undeniably cinematic boss fights are nothing if not memorable. From a technical and graphical perspective, it ranks highly among achievements in PlayStation 3 games.
And yet it's still lacking a certain something. It could be that it is becoming too familiar, that players have seen everything they want or expect to see at this point in the series. Maybe it's simply that Kratos' story, which has followed an epic arc that includes what felt like a conclusion, feels like it should be over. It's still worth a look for grown up gamers who crave finely tuned brawling action -- especially fans of the series who have always wished they could test their godly war skills against other humans in online multiplayer -- but don't expect the experience to have quite the same impact as that of previous games in the series.
Families can talk about...
Families can talk about antiheros; characters who are clearly bad yet somehow still earn the audience's support. Is Kratos an antihero? Do you think he can ever redeem himself? Does he want to redeem himself, or is he interested only in bloody vengeance?
Families can also discuss the impact of violence in media. Should games be treated differently than other media because players control rather than passively observe the action?