Tag Archive: kratos

NYCC 2013: Ray Takes on Cosplayers!

It’s been a while since I’ve done a video of any kind, and I felt I needed to shake some rust off my interviewing skills. NYCC 2013 seemed like the perfect place to serve this purpose and so I went around the show floor and chatted up some awesome cosplayers. Enjoy!

Kratos goes through the motions

When Kratos arrived on the scene back in 2005, he quickly became one of my favorite gaming protagonists—probably because we had so much in common. We both have familial roots in the Mediterranean. We both have wicked-awesome goatees. And we’re both fueled by an all-consuming rage that the rest of the EGM crew can attest to me possessing when it’s my turn to drive during lunch break. (Stupid SoCal drivers.) Anyway, it’s been with great joy that I’ve played every God of War game to date.

But I’ll admit that when I heard about God of War: Ascension being a prequel, I was filled with more fear than joy. Personally, I can’t remember anything with that label that lived up to what came before it, whether it was a movie, comic book, or videogame. So, it was with much trepidation that I fired up Ascension, not really knowing what to expect.

This trip back in time finds Kratos taking on the Furies in an attempt to break his bond to Ares—and sets our bald, brawny antihero down the path of the main God of War trilogy. You see, before Kratos was to make his mad, one-man assault against Ares in the original God of War, he had to break the magical bond that tied him to the god to begin with. Otherwise, he’d be powerless in his quest for revenge.

Breaking a vow with a god, however, is not taken lightly. It’s here that we meet the Furies, whose sole purpose is to make those who would go back on their word suffer for all eternity. And it’s with great joy that this trio of underworld goddesses adds Kratos to their list of prisoners. He’s not into BDSM, though (at least when it comes to himself), and so the game opens with Kratos escaping his prison on the massive, 100-handed Hekatonkheires, a giant more powerful than even the Titans—and the first to break his word to a god. In his case, Zeus.

These opening scenes pull you back into the familiar button-prompt events and blood-gushing brutality that’s defined much of the God of War series. For fans of the franchise, this will feel like second nature, as the game keeps the action heavy from this opening confrontation with the Furies to the end credits. And you’ll immediately appreciate the cinematic quality of the camera movements that attempt to give Ascension that epic feeling we all expect.

The camera isn’t perfect all the time, though, and it provides the only real technical flaw I found with the experience. As Kratos begins his escape of the Hekatonkheires prison, the camera pulls out—this game actually found an even bigger creature than the Titans to have Kratos run around on. The detail and scope of this monster is exquisite, and it makes you wish that the action would let up for just a short while so you can take in the magnificent scene properly.

As the camera pans out farther and farther, the action continues on the ground as prisoners under the Furies’ control continue their assault. With the camera zoomed so far out in order to give a glimpse of the monumental levels, though, I couldn’t differentiate between Kratos and the enemies trying to attack him. And this continues throughout the game; you’ll find several instances where the camera flares out and Kratos is a mere speck against this gorgeous background. But the enemies keep coming.

Despite the occasionally wonky camera and segments where the action flows poorly, Ascension is still an impressive achievement on a technical level. The graphics and sound are both top notch, and the gameplay itself may well be the best we’ve seen from the series. The new combat system is the most elaborate yet, with seven brand-new powers, a new sub-weapon system that allows for a bevy of new combos, and a refined Rage meter that fills up and depletes faster than ever before, offering the best button-mashers multiple moments for Kratos to flip out.

But while the game shines technically, it stumbles creatively. While the variety here is appreciated, much of it’s simply borrowed from other franchises, making several sequences feel less like God of War and more like any old action-adventure title—such as the sliding sequences down slippery hills, a flavor of the month in game design right now. Meanwhile, the climbing segments through dilapidated ruins remind me more of Uncharted than God of War, while Kratos’ new time-control power screams Prince of Persia.

And this brings us back to the story. Whether you’re a God of War apologist or a stern critic of the franchise, it’s easy to see that this is the weakest story the series has offered yet. I understand that it’s difficult to craft an original tale when fans already know that no matter what happens, Kratos’ fate is sealed. That’s a motif central to Greek mythology, but it’s not a really a big bonus for a videogame.

The new villains are poorly developed and desperately try to fill the role that Ares—and, later, Zeus—provided over the main trilogy, and they fail miserably in this attempt. The levels, although definitely gorgeous and massive, are also the weakest in terms of ingenuity the series has ever seen. And the mythological references are so obscure that you’ll need Google open nearby at all times. It feels like Ascension tries to wring out the last few drops from a dried-out dish rag of mythos. Oh, and let’s not forget the plot holes left open by Kratos’ new powers that he obviously never had in the main series. So, what the heck happened to them? Oh, that’s right—you take them into multiplayer.

Yes, here comes my obligatory statement on that segment. I did indeed try every mode several times and poured a half dozen hours into the experience, leveling up my character and maxing out several pieces of equipment. Early on in the game, while Kratos is escaping his prison, you come across another prisoner who’s thrilled—at first—to be freed by Kratos. But elation sooner turns to fear, as the chaos Kratos has unleashed begins to wash over him. But before this random NPC can pay the ultimate price, he’s magically teleported to Olympus and becomes the basis for your avatar in multiplayer, where you’re tasked with choosing a god to champion from Ares, Zeus, Poseidon, and Hades (based off the four elemental powers Kratos acquires in single-player). Depending upon whom you choose, your powers and buffs change.

After a quick training session with your chosen abilities, it’s off to the arenas—and it’s nice to see familiar series backdrops here, as iconic locations like the Labyrinth Cube from God of War III are reimagined. You also have theGod of War take on your standard smattering of multiplayer modes like Deathmatch, Team Deathmatch, Capture the Point, Capture the Flag, and even a wave based co-op mode. Some of these play better than others, though, as the arenas are smaller (for the most part) in an attempt to jack up the encounter rates, since every battle is hand-to-hand. This works well in Deathmatch and even Capture the Point, but Capture the Flag is a mess—a team that works well together can win a match in only a couple of minutes with the flags so close together. The small teams—maximum 4-vs.-4—also put a limit on what could’ve been some truly chaotic-yet-fun multiplayer action.

Really, this multiplayer isn’t anything we haven’t seen before; it reminded me of BioShock 2’s in many ways, as it takes modern designs and conforms them to the God of War theme. But the gimmick wears out quickly, and I found myself bored far too often. It’s not a bad add-on, but for as much as it’s been hyped, it’s not something that was really necessary, either—and I doubt many players will put more than a couple of semi-enjoyable hours into it.

God of War: Ascension is a highly polished action-adventure game—and probably one of the strongest we’ll see from a  technical standpoint this year. But the soul of what made this franchise great is lost here, as this ultimately feels like a last-ditch attempt to squeeze in one last Kratos appearance this console generation. In the end,Ascension will be remembered as if Kratos’ legendary rage and anger simply faded out as an exasperated sigh of resignation.

Developer: Sony Santa Monica • Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment • ESRB: M – Mature • Release Date: 03.12.2013
7.0 A clear example of a studio going to the well with a franchise one too many times. Although highly polished and still entertaining for fans of the franchise, Ascension lacks the soul of its predecessors as it scrapes the bottom of the Greek-mythology barrel to try to deliver on a franchise that’s clearly run dry of fresh ideas.
The Good More elaborate combat system punctuated by a refined Rage meter.
The Bad The story is easily the weakest of the series.
The Ugly A parasite-infected Hekatonkheires.
God of War: Ascension is a PS3 exclusive.

Get Over Here!!

Something that has littered much of the Vita’s launch has been ports of popular games from last year that could easily make the transition. And fighting and racing games are typically the easiest of the easy for the bunch. So, I admit, when I heard Mortal Kombat was coming to the Vita, I just shook my head and figured “here we go again”.

But Ed Boon didn’t want that. And seeing an opportunity to play around with some new technology, wanted to make sure that there was something that made this version of Mortal Kombat a little special and differentiated it from it’s console brethren from a year ago. So at GDC, we were able to go hands on with Mortal Kombat for the Vita and the handful of new features were just enough to actually make the short list of Vita titles I’ve been excited for.

A lot of what made last year’s console Mortal Kombat great in the first place remains like the tight combat and story mode. But now there are special Vita-centric challenge towers that utilize the touch screen, like a fight where blood splatters on the screen with each hit and you have to wipe it away to see, and special new mini-games modes to go along with classics like Test Your Might. We were also told of an expanded ‘Krypt’ to show off some behind the scenes of the development of the Vita version.

The challenge tower was the first thing we looked at and to go along with the blood splatter mission, there was also a mission where you had to catch falling ‘koins’ by tapping them before they hit the ground and a juggling contest where you would tap missile launchers to bounce a falling ‘kombatant’ around and keep them from hitting the ground. The promise of even more missions and another challenge tower promises a lot more longevity to this new game. Not to mention one mission where you can play as Shao Khan…

The next thing we looked at were the two new mini-games: Test Your Slice and Test Your Balance. Test Your Balance takes advantage of the Vita’s built-in gyroscope and has a character balancing over a pit filled with blades, acid, or some other instant kill trap. Not only must you balance your character for a certain amount of time, but random body parts from previous balancers who failed will be thrown at you, trying to knock you into the pit below and adding an interesting challenge to this game that was a lot of fun.

But what was most surprising was Test Your Slice, which is basically Fruit Ninja, but with a Mortal Kombat flair. Instead of cutting fruit, you’ll be slicing apart brains, hearts, and skulls just to name a few body parts. There are also a few characters’ heads with special abilities, like Sub-Zero’s freezes the stage, thrown in as well. Just make sure to avoid the bombs. This, too, was a lot of fun and made great use of the Vita’s touch screen.

The most impressive part of the game though may have been the local connection we ended up trying out. Not a hint of lag with the inputs impressed me more than any other multiplayer feature for a Vita game to date as I used my preferred Sub-Zero to best my opponent’s Noob Saibot in three rounds. And what was really phenomenal was I then pulled off Sub-Zero’s classic beheading/de-spining Fatality by using the touch screen. Yes, Fatalities are easier than ever now as with a quick simple rubbing of the screen back and forth over my opponent and his head was my latest trophy for my wall.

All in all, this was easily the most impressed I’ve been with a Vita title to date, as even though it’s a port, it offers enough new features to keep old fans happy and hopefully brings in even more newcomers with its portability. And we can’t forget that it also features PS3 exclusive roster character Kratos and all the DLC characters as part of the package so I can’t wait to really put this fully through its paces when it releases sometime this Spring.

And if you want, the reveal trailer is embedded below for your convenience. FIGHT!

Originally Published: October 25, 2010, on ClassicGameRoom.com and NationalLampoon.com

As a part of CGR Undertow, I had the chance to review God of War: Ghosts of Sparts for the PSP from Sony.

Originally Published: March 16, 2010, on Lundberg.me, NationalLampoon.com, and Sportsrev.TV

This week I reviewed Batman and Robin #10 from DC Comics and God of War III for PS3. My British Invasion hot chick theme also continued this week with Lucy Pinder as my hot chick pick of the week.

Originally Published: March 12, 2010, on 1050ESPN.com (now ESPNNewYork.com)

Those are the first words you see, emblazoned in a bold gold color, when you look at the back cover of one of the most anticipated video games of all time. God of War III is the epic conclusion to Sony’s exclusive Greek tragedy worthy of Homer himself. And epic is the perfect way to describe this game.

SPOILER ALERT: I just want to mention that if you have not played the first two God of War games, this review will come from the perspective of someone who has. If you haven’t played the first two, go pick up the God of War Collection for PS3, catch up, and come back later because there are spoilers of the first two games ahead.

God of War III takes place immediately after the conclusion of God of War II, with Kratos on the back of the Titan Gaia as they continue their climb to the summit of Mount Olympus for the final confrontation with Zeus. It wouldn’t be much of a game though if there weren’t some strife and anguish for our anger management challenged protagonist. Zeus will pull out all the stops to ensure that the Titans remain where he put them, below his almighty heel, and will send Kratos there with them if he is not careful. Some of the most famous gods from Greek Mythology will join Zeus’ cause in trying to stop Kratos and the ensuing battles may cause more chaos and mayhem than humanity can stand.

I can’t talk about the plot much more without giving away any more spoilers, but the adventure is something worthy of a Greek epic and God of War III fleshes out exactly where Kratos falls in the grand scheme of things amongst the great Greek heroes. Just like the previous games in the series, God of War III expertly weaves its story through infamous locations from the Greek pantheon that interconnect throughout various points in the game, all the while making reference to the history established in the previous two games. Of course, not knowing about Greek mythology doesn’t hurt your gaming experience, but it sure does it make it that much sweeter.

So, the plot is spectacular as expected, but a big question coming into this game was how could they improve upon the gameplay in the God of War series after the leaps and bounds made from the first installment to the second? Well, just think of the gap between PS2 and PS3 and then increase it tenfold. The new “soft-body collision” system that allows Kratos to walk and climb along the Titans and other moving platforms adds an entirely new element to the gameplay. It can give traps and level hazards the ability to come from completely new directions as well as changing the entire scope of the level with one swing of a colossal arm or rotation of a platform. One second you’re on your feet, the next you’re hanging upside down. Include even more boss battles and button prompt sequences, mountable creatures to use against your foes, and brand new weapons and the gameplay has been taken to another level all over again.

Along with the amazing new “soft-body collision” system, the game is almost completely glitchless. The only glitch I saw was after upgrading my weapons in the pause screen, like in the previous God of War games, when coming back to the main game, the game froze. And not just lagged, I mean completely froze. I waited for five or six minutes before finally having to restart my PS3 and it happened several times. Maybe that “soft-body collision” system stressed the PS3 more than expected.

Aside from that glitch, the game is flawless. The graphics are absolutely stunning and take full advantage of the PS3’s capabilities by flooding the game with as much detailed blood and guts as possible. The carnage you can wreak on your enemies, from using weaker drones as battering rams against other foes and disemboweling some of the larger enemies, to ripping out a Cyclops’ eye like in God of War II, is all awesomely gruesome and detailed in ways you never imagined.

And the peripherals are phenomenal all around when you hear the tremendous audio. The original orchestrations that convey Kratos’ inner turmoil and the tension between Kratos and his godly foes are unbelievable at how well they set the mood. The SFX are spectacular from the clang of Kratos’ blades against concrete to a duller sound as they tear through rotted flesh. The greatest part of the sound though was the voiceovers. A star-studded cast came in to lend their voices to help flesh out some of the most famous faces in Greek Mythology. I won’t spoil who they play, but Rip Torn, Malcolm McDowell, and Kevin Sorbo (you can probably guess who he plays) all lend their voices to the returning cast of the first two God of War games including TC Carson as our infamous Ghost of Sparta, Kratos.

For the most part, everything about the game is top of the line, but it does lack in one area. Once you beat the story mode, I feel that there just isn’t a lot to bring you back for more. The story is so engrossing and takes so much out of you, that I don’t see a lot of people going for a second playthrough once you unlock “very hard” mode unless you are a trophy hog. The challenges might bring you back for a couple more hours, but they lack the depth to keep God of War III in your system once you complete this great gaming epic and so replay value is the only real sore point I see in God of War III.

Even without a lot to bring you back, if you are a fan of amazing storytelling, solid gameplay, and gorgeous peripherals, then you would have to be insane to not pickup God of War III. I would recommend, however, that you play the first two God of War games before popping in this installment.

Ratings are based on a scale of 1 to 10 with 10 being the best.

Graphics: 10.0: Blood, guts, and seamless textures makes this possibly the best-looking game I’ve ever seen. You literally need to see it to believe it.

Audio: 10.0: A tremendous, completely original, mood-setting score combined with spot-on SFX would automatically give this great marks, but when you take into account the amazing voiceovers (something that is all too often taken for granted nowadays) from an all-star cast and this game is a treat for your ears.

Plot/Plot Development: 10.0: A perfect conclusion to the trilogy, God of War III is a quintessential Greek tragedy and would make Homer jealous that he hadn’t thought of it himself.

Gameplay: 8.5: The “soft-body collision” system is revolutionary in how seamlessly in changes your perspective in the middle of fighting hordes of enemies without an ounce of lag. Unfortunately, this might put a constant strain on the system because several times when I tried to return to action after upgrading my powers, the game would completely freeze and it happened far too often. This major glitch is the only thing that keeps this from getting a perfect score.

Replay Value: 6.5: Only a barely passing score for the replay value because God of War III offers you a couple of incentives to bring you back, but not enough to make it a necessity. Several challenges out of the main game and an unlockable “Very hard” mode are nice, but not really enough to make my mouth water at the thought of playing this game again.

Overall (not an average): 9.5: Amazing peripherals, compelling characters in this tremendous finale to one of the most epic trilogies in gaming history, and revolutionary gameplay makes the wait for God of War III well worth it. If you thought the jump in quality between God of War I and God of War II was unbelievable, you’re head just might explode with the jump between God of War II and God of War III.

God of War III will be available for PS3 on March 16th, 2010.

-Ray Carsillo