The seventh God Of War game has less puzzle-solving and more gore, writes John Walshe.

Every God Of War release is greeted in the Walshe household with seriously late nights and unhealthy amounts of caffeine, so the latest Kratos adventure was greeted with cheering when it dropped through the letterbox. Ascension is the seventh GOW game, and while anyone whop has yet to step into the sandals of super-Spartan, Kratos, will find it hugely enjoyable, the swords n’ sorcery is starting to feel a tad jaded. Though this may be because I have played and replayed each title in the series to date until the disk pretty much wore itself out.

Set before the events of the original trilogy, Ascension tells the story of how Spartan general Kratos originally came to blows with Ares, the ancient Greek god of war. Our shaven-headed anti-hero begins the game clapped in irons by the Furies, the punishers of oath-breakers. However, it isn’t long before Kratos escapes his captors and sets out on a killing spree that takes in all manner of mythical enemies, from the usual minotaur and cyclops to the more unusual juggernaut (an elephant on two legs) and the massive centaur, en route to an audience with the Oracle of Delphi.

As well as his formidable Blades of Chaos, Kratos collects special power-ups which combine with the blades to devastating effect, including the Fire of Ares, the Ice of Poseidon, the Lightning of Zeus and the Soul of Hades. Different weapons work better against different enemies, and it can be fun working out the best strategy of attack. And you will be doing loads of attacking, as the emphasis on combat is stronger than any other GOW adventure.

Sure, every game in the series had its fair share of gruesome battles and blood-spattered fights, but there was also a fair helping of puzzle solving, platforming and good old-fashioned exploration (I have particularly fond memories of negotiating the maze in Pandora’s temple back in GOW3). While there is a modicum of head-scratching here (particularly when you gain the ability to heal or destroy vast cities), most of the game plays out like a series of boss fights, even on Normal mode. Admittedly, it rarely descends into pure button-mashing, but for this gamer, it was the combination of combat, adventure and plot that made such a heady brew, and the fun is lessened as a result of simply trudging from one encounter to the next. I’m possibly being a little tough here, because the game sounds amazing and looks great, with superbly rendered locations and characters (including a wealth of new enemies), but given the quality of what came before, Ascension feels like a slight let-down.

For the first time in the series, Ascension includes a multiplayer element, with up to eight players hacking it out online, but it feels like a last-minute addition to the regular campaign, while it too could have been much stronger.

If you’ve yet to cross blades with this ancient fight fest, than Ascension will be one of the best games you play all year. If, however, you’re already familiar with Kratos’ rage, it’s still fun to play but it won’t add a whole lot to the GOW legend.

Platform: PS3
Publisher: SCEE
Age Rating: 18
Score: 3.5/5

John Walshe