‘GOD OF WAR: ASCENSION’ (M)
Sony Computer Entertainment
As PlayStation’s crown jewel, the “God of War” series is always guaranteed the most eye-popping production values and polished gameplay that money can buy, but in the original trilogy, what really made the blood-drenched odyssey into Greek mythology memorable was the story of Kratos. Deceived by the gods into slaughtering his own family, this tragic antihero got angry and set out to slay a deity. And once that was done, he got angrier and set out to slay that deity’s boss. The first three games were all about ascending rage and ascending stakes. And now we have a game actually called “Ascension,” which — oddly — takes place before any of that. Kratos’ backstory was very clearly fleshed out in the original trilogy, and, unfortunately, doesn’t leave a lot of wiggle room for retrofitted prequels.’
Having been betrayed by the titular god to whom he swore his lifelong service, Kratos decides to give his two-weeks notice, upsetting the Furies (mythological oath-enforcers who don’t take kindly to welchers). It’s a bit like having already watched a quitting employee’s epic confrontation with his boss and then flashing back to an earlier altercation with the boss’ secretary. But whatever epic grandeur the narrative lacks is certainly present and accounted for in the battle scenes. Enemies are more jaw-droppingly mountainous than ever, and their downfalls are unprecedentedly gruesome. Gameplay is similarly improved. The developers finally realized that we just want to use Kratos’ default Blades of Chaos, so useless alternate weapons have been replaced by elemental augments for the Ghost of Sparta’s preferred instrument. “Ascension” also features multiplayer for the first time in the series, and it feels as tacked-on and ill-advised as every other multiplayer mode forcibly affixed to a longtime single-player game. One can’t help but wonder what might have been if Sony had ditched the ungodly multiplayer and diverted those resources into developing an ambrosian narrative.
‘CRYSIS 3’ (M)
“Crysis 3” equips you with a futuristic bow, which can be quietly fired at adversaries while you’re cloaked, for stealth kills. You can also reprogram automated turrets to shoot your enemies. These features are undeniably awesome, but have the unfortunate side effect of making the game far too easy, leading to a much shorter campaign than those of previous entries in the series. Nevertheless, this is a fun shooter with absolutely stunning visuals. The jungle backdrop of the first game and the urban battlefield of the second have been combined into a ruined metropolis overgrown with vegetation, offering the best of both worlds.
‘CASTLEVANIA: LORDS OF SHADOW – MIRROR OF FATE’ (M)
“Castlevania” games have been a mixed bag over the years, with gameplay alternating between the second and third dimension and the narrative becoming increasingly convoluted with each new generation of the Belmont clan. “Mirror of Fate” takes the contents of that mixed bag and fuses them into a single game. We’ve got blocky 3D characters platforming through Dracula’s 2D castle. We’ve got multiple Belmonts as playable characters, each grabbing the whip just as you were getting used to his predecessor. There are plenty of moments reminiscent of the best 2D Castlevanias, but it’s likely they’ll just make you wish you were playing the earlier games instead. CV