Posted on April 22, 2013 AT 04:13pm
A short-lived but fun ride through hell
In a world full of serious shooters, it takes a lot to stand out and avoid getting sucked into the myriad of average games that fill the genre. God Mode aims to rise above the crowd by taking the opposite route: keeping things simple and not taking itself too seriously.
As part of that pared-down approach, God Mode only features one major game mode, which sees you and up to three friends/online acquaintances/random strangers descending into the depths of hell for some minion-slaying fun. After a rather interesting opening cutscene that offers an overview of the the hell maze that serves as your map and a comical description of how you arrived there—my favorite being the one that involves your character trying to squeeze into jeans three sizes too small—you’re immediately thrust into the action.
While amusing, this approach actually feels a little disjointed. There’s no real explanation of what’s going on, or why you’re actually fighting all these minions. Nor is there any sort of tutorial to ease you into the action. A little more narrative purpose and care for new players would have been nice.
The action itself consists of taking on room after room of enemies. The basics of the gameplay are fun yet challenging, but once I tried to go it alone, things started to feel pretty overwhelming. Because the difficulty seems much more approachable with a group of four players, I suggest you stick to co-op.
Now, if this were a simple wave-based survival game, this review would already be over and the score would be very poor indeed. Luckily, this is not the case. As an added twist to each round, a random Test of Faith is activated, adding constraints that can make things easier, more difficult, or just more fun. Think Halo’s Skull system and you’ve got the idea. These tests include increased damage, bigger enemies, and one—a particular favorite of mine called the Hat Test of Faith–which makes all the enemies wear party hats into battle.
On top of this, there are also Oaths that can be used to modify the game. These are activated separately by each player and do not affect the other three participants. There are seven in total, and each makes the game harder in some way, shape, or form—but they also substantially increase the rewards for completing the map. If you’re looking to level up quickly, these are the way to go. Personally, I found the game to be a little too difficult with these activated, but that’s obviously the point.
Features may be all well and good, but they mean nothing if the gameplay is poor. God Mode doesn’t have this issue, with easy-to-handle controls and fluid movement. There are, however, a handful of notable issues. I found reloading to be a little unresponsive at times—and unlike most modern games, you can’t do it while sprinting. Dodging likewise feels a little clumsy and difficult to control. Several times, I went to dodge roll and ended up going in an entirely different direction than I’d intended. This also brings up another issue: hitboxes. Enemies frequently hit you when it seems like they should miss. I dodged several attacks, moving far enough out of the way that I should have evaded any damage, but I still got clobbered.
Now onto something that the game does completely right: maps. There are five in total, and each has its own individual look and feel—from the lava pits of Fire Lair to the towering arches of Ascension. The amount of detail in each map is quite impressive for a game of this scope, and they’d be right at home in any AAA title.
Littered around each map are health, armor, and ammo pickups, and obtaining those items becomes a sort of minigame in itself. While you’re working together with the other players, there are only a select amount of them available at any one time, leading you to fight with your teammates over resources. On more than one occasion, I ran out of primary weapon ammo and became a sitting duck until an ammo drop respawned.
There’s also the added fun of collecting gold—the game’s currency. Gold drops randomly when you kill enemies, and can be used to purchase upgrades, outfits, and new weapons. It’s also used as a fun little minigame at the end of each level, where you battle your partners in the final arena to collect as much of Hades’ Gold as possible. To make it more interesting, you can kill your teammates for XP, leading to an interesting dilemma. Do you keep a low profile and focus on collecting gold, or do you go on the offensive to stop your teammates from getting any? In practice, most people seemed to prefer to stay each other’s way and collect gold.
So what’s the point of simply running through the same five mazes over and over? God Mode has a leveling system that allows you to unlock and upgrade weapons, unlock new outfits, and access new abilities. Simply head into the customize menu and take your pick. Each item requires a certain character level and amount of gold to unlock, so repeat play is the key. The weapons range from revolvers to mini-guns, and each can be upgraded a total of six times, which then unlocks a seventh special upgrade (such as increased ammo). While the weapons are fairly well balanced—though relatively weak and flimsy before you start to upgrade them—I still found the default SMG to be the most useful, which is a shame.
The outfits, on the other hand, are wildly entertaining enough that you’re likely to spend a lot of time and money trying out different looks. There’s a Victorian Gentleman, an Undead Cowboy, a Psycho Clown (my personal favorite), and a whole lot more
Finally, there’s a player’s special ability. The default here is a shield that protects you from incoming damage, but as you level up, you can purchase other skills that open up new strategic opportunities, such as a healing wave that you can use to buff your teammates. As you might expect, each of these abilities can be further upgraded to increase their usefulness in battle.
Sadly, while the game makes a concerted effort to make repeat playthroughs interesting, it’s not quite enough to hold your interest for very long. Those five maps become tedious very quickly, and with only the one game mode, it’s difficult to avoid repetition. Sure the Oaths and Tests of Faith spice things up a little, but even those become boring after a while. I also found leveling to be a little on the fast side. Within a couple of hours, I was flying through the levels—and that’s without using the Oaths to increase XP gains.
Finally, there’s one other minor detail I wanted to mention: the in-game voice chat. On the PC version, there doesn’t appear to be any push-to-talk option, and the only time you can mute other players is at the lobby screen. I frequently ended up with annoying echoes coming through my teammates’ microphones, and after the match started, there was absolutely nothing I could do about it.
For its low price, God Mode offers a lot, and has more polish than some bigger-budget titles. There’s plenty to do in terms of character customization, and the gameplay is fun and fast-paced. The Tests of Faith and Oaths add some variety to gameplay, but there’s a good chance you’ll find yourself getting bored once you’ve played through all five maps multiple times. The gameplay and AI just don’t offer enough variety to keep things fresh for longer than a few hours. Still, the basics are solid, and there’s a lot to enjoy about the overall package. If you’re after an arcade shooter that offers a few hours of entertainment, then you could do a whole lot worse than this.
|Developer: Old School Games • Publisher: Atlus • ESRB: M – Mature • Release Date: 04.19.13|
If you’re looking for a fun way to spend a few hours on the cheap, then God Mode is a decent investment. The gameplay is solid, and there are plenty of little extras to keep things fun and interesting—though the meager selection of maps means there’s a good chance the game will become stale after a few hours.
|The Good||Lots of little features to keep you entertained for a few hours.|
|The Bad||Several bothersome bugs that can become very annoying.
|The Ugly||A complete lack of staying power.|
|God Mode is available on Xbox 360 (XBLA), PS3 (PSN), and PC (Steam). Primary version reviewed was for PC.|
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