In a series known for producing some of the most groundbreaking moments in gaming, the God of War franchise is now hoping to change the landscape of the multiplayer space. Sony Santa Monica's latest entry in the God of War universe -- God of War Ascension -- will usher in competitive multiplayer in what was strictly a single-player only experience.
Calling it "the next big thing in the God of War series," game director Todd Papy provided a glimpse of the competitive multiplayer during a hands-off demo. The mode that was demoed is called "Execution," God of War's take on domination, a staple in a majority of multiplayer games. Two teams of four battle AI-controlled adversaries in an attempt to control two points on the map. As soon as the predetermined points are controlled, the spirit of Olympus -- a powerful spear-like weapon -- plummets from the sky, granting the team that controls it an advantage over the opposition. The mode then morphs into an attack-and-defend battle as human-controlled players square off, culminating in a faceoff against an enormous Cyclops.
Though it's the franchise's first attempt at multiplayer, the gameplay remained true to the series. Gory individual battles sometimes culminated in disembowelment, revealing a creature's entrails in a gruesome scene that is a signature God of War moment. Timing an opponent's attack triggers a brief pause, giving the defending player an opening to counter attack.
But what would a viable multiplayer be without customization and upgrades? Ascension's answer to this is the Champions of the Gods, the progression system at the heart of multiplayer. You align yourself with one of four gods -- Zeus, Poseidon, Hades and Ares -- during your journey from unknown hero to god, similar to Kratos' story. From there you can customize your character. Anything from armor sets, weapons, specials, perks, magics and more can be tailored to your play style.
"This is the lifeblood of our multiplayer," said Papy, who also confirmed that Ascension will have a singleplayer campaign. "Everything that you do funnels through this system."
Whichever god you decide to pledge your allegiance to will grant you special abilities that is unique from the other three gods. Upgrades and unlocks -- a calling card to the previous singleplayer-only God of War titles -- will also play a role in Ascension's multiplayer.
Papy said the game will likely ship with five to seven multiplayer maps. He also confirmed that there will be no splitscreen option, players will have control over the camera to a certain degree (a first in the series) and there will be no female characters. The reason for the latter is characters are built off of Kratos' frame, which would lend to a very odd looking woman.
Though the demo was brief, there was a lot to like. The combat was what we expect from God of War, brutal, vicious and visceral. The enemy types had the scale and the maps had the scope of the previously acclaimed titles. But questions remain: What's the depth of the customization and weaponry? Will the combat attacks be precise and controlled like first-person multiplayer shooters? Will the combat be balanced and the modes allow for different strategies to come out on top? Expect more answers as this Triple-A title approaches its currently unannounced release date.