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Review: 'God of War: Ascension' rises on faltering wings

Much like the recent Tomb Raider, the new God of War entry is a prequel that tells the origin of the Ghost of Sparta, that famously brutal, angry, mortal-turned-god-turned-mortal-then-sent-to-the-underworld-then — well, you know: Kratos. Set 10 years prior to the original trilogy, this release (seventh in the franchise so far) doesn’t offer much new in the singleplayer gameplay department, tries its best with the multiplayer and comes down somewhere in the middle.

Kratos has had better days. (Sony) The gameplay? Well, if you’ve played one of the original trilogy, you’re familiar with the wonderfully over-the-top, brutal combat and absolutely visceral instant gratification that one of the GoW games can convey. All of that is still here. As is the incredible sense of scale that we’ve come to expect from a GoW game, and some stunning visuals. You’ll pull off combos and will take down huge enemies with a sense of smug satisfaction. You may even, as I did while playing GoW III, chortle at times when you pull off a particularly impressive move.

Unfortunately, though, the attempt to tell Kratos’ backstory falls flat. That is because while there are cinematics of Kratos being more calm, introspective and in search of the truth about his betrayal by Ares than we’ve seen him before, those cinematics are sandwiched in between sessions of gameplay where Kratos is ripping limb from body, separating head from torso and generally being the Kratos we all know. It’s dichotomous at best, unbelievable at worst.

Kratos isn't pleased with what he's hearing. (Sony)The multiplayer (why do so many developers put in multiplayer where it isn’t needed?) falls short of the hype surrounding it. There isn’t anything original about the combat to set it apart from the other brawlers out there, and I found myself really having to force myself to play it. It simply wasn’t compelling to me.

Nor, evidently, to many others: an analyst has stated that Sony has only sold “around 360,000 units” of God of War: Ascension in the first month of release. Signs of fans losing enthusiasm for the franchise? Possibly. With the lackluster story and uninspiring multiplayer, it’s not hard to see why.

Score: 6/10