Welcome to Hades
This was not what I expected. Going into God Mode, I knew it was an action-style third-person shooter which, to me, generally means there's going to be some streamlining going on. Less of the fluff you might find in bigger-budget productions, and more time spent doing what you're here for: shooting demons in the face while slowly walking backward.
Dropping all sense of a narrative outside of a seconds-long setup about you being the fallen descendant of a god who must battle through Hades for greater glory, God Mode throws you straight into the action. By comparison, the likes of Serious Sam, Painkiller, and the original Doom games feel bloated with their comparatively far-reaching storylines.
Bringing this point home, there is a single-player mode, but it functions exactly the same way as a round of multiplayer would, minus the companions. You literally "create a match" when playing alone and, a quick load screen later, you're in. No real fanfare. It was something of a shock early on, but thousands of demon corpses later, I've come around to developer Old School Games' approach.
God Mode (PC [reviewed], PlayStation Network, Xbox Live Arcade)
Developer: Old School Games
Release: April 19, 2013 (XBLA, Steam) / April 23, 2013 (PSN)
MSRP: $9.99 / 800 Microsoft Points
The danger in having such a stripped-down game is that what is on display can be easily picked apart; flaws become that much more obvious when you're repeatedly playing through the same five stages. Thankfully for God Mode, the gunplay itself is enjoyable and what content did make the cut is well-made.
The starter weapons, an SMG and shotgun, pack a satisfying punch, and character movement is quick when it needs to be. Since this is a third-person shooter, rest assured knowing there's a roll move and the ability to run forward in that familiar hunched-down fashion. Even though you'll be forced to fight against a sometimes unreasonable amount of hellspawn, combat encounters don't tend to feel frustrating. Especially not when you've got co-op partners at your side.
Enemies aren't the brightest. Ranging from minotaurs that will charge predictably, to skeletons that act like skeletons probably would, to these disgusting harpy things that are admittedly annoying, it's their overwhelming numbers that will do you in. There are a fair amount of melee-only creatures, which is ideal in a game like this. It's set up to make you feel like a badass as you sidestep swings and make demons explode with ease.
God Mode's stages are broken up into segments. You'll enter a room full of health, armor, and ammo pick-ups, allowing you to stock up and scope the place out before the cannon fodder arrives, which happens once you activate a Test of Faith by simply walking up to a special statue. These are randomized challenges which can help or hurt you, such as turning all but one player invincible, awarding infinite ammo, or making enemies larger (and more difficult to kill).
As you can imagine, Tests of Faith add much-needed excitement to environments and enemies that will become familiar given the not-significant amount of content on offer in God Mode. Despite running into some repeat tests every so often, there's enough of them to keep things interesting. A personal favorite of mine gives everyone, including enemies, the ability to kill with a single successful hit. Talk about an adrenaline rush.
After clearing out the room you're in, a portal will appear to whisk you away to the next area. Some of the stages wrap up the action with a rudimentary boss fight, but they all climax in a final round where players run around to collect gold pick-ups that respawn every so often. This goes on for a few moments and although you can technically kill your co-op "buddies" here, in my experience, no one really cared to be that guy.
Gold can be spent on upgrading your weapons' usefulness, getting new ones, and buying extra powers and outfits for your character. Many of the purchases are locked until you reach a certain level, which serves as the primary motivation to get back into the trenches. I would have liked to see more cosmetic options available, and as for the weapons, even with the more outlandish or futuristic ones later on, I still found myself wanting to stick with the maxed-out starter gun.
I've danced around the advice until now, so let me be frank: You shouldn't buy God Mode if you have no intention of playing with other folks. The overall design is almost entirely built with multiplayer in mind; simply put, it's not nearly as fun solo. While it is difficult to judge whether or not the community will stick around, for now, there actually are people playing the Steam version of the game. Get in while you can or bring friends along for the ride.
As mentioned earlier, God Mode is the type of game that grows on you. The biggest complaint I have is a lack of variety, which is to be expected of a budget title. What Old School Games did include in this straightforward, arcade-centric shooter shows promise of a more fleshed-out project. There's also a hint of personality with a goofy narrator, but the execution isn't quite there. God Mode is an easy recommendation to make for those who want relatively mindless entertainment -- just don't go in expecting much more than that.
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