8.0

God Mode review
Raise Hell in the Underworld. Bring friends.

The good:

- The Spirit Guide is hilarious and fun to listen to
- The gameplay is frantic and action-packed with dozens of enemies onscreen at any time
- The levels are well-designed and gorgeous
- Sizable amount of customization options

The bad:

- Lag is often an issue
- The customization feels shallow despite the wealth of things to choose from

Summary:

There's something gratifying about slaughtering figures from Greek myth by the truckload. It's just a fact of human existence. One day, you're killed in any number of depressingly funny accidents and sent to Hades. There, you learn that you're actually descended from a Greek god that was cast down and forced to become mortal, and that you have a chance to take his place in the pantheon. With the help of your macabre Spirit Guide, your friends, and a couple of guns, you set out to brave the worst of the Underworld and take your place as a god. This is God Mode.

Mass Effect 3 was... well, let's not open up that can of worms. However, few can dispute that its multiplayer was simply fantastic. A co-op based third-person shooter with an emphasis on teamwork and customization makes for a very rewarding experience, and that shows in God Mode. It's also a co-op third-person shooter with an emphasis on customization and teamwork, but it's got plenty of its own tricks to set it apart from the obvious and perhaps unfair comparison. You and up to three friends (and/or up to three complete strangers) battle your way through hundreds of enemies as you conquer one of six maps (known as Mazes) for experience and gold. Playing alone is possible and still fun as the game scales down the enemies to not overwhelm you, but nowhere near as enjoyable as having people with you. As you level up, you unlock more weapons, special abilities, heads, and pieces of clothing to spend your hard-earned gold on and customize your cadaver (with no RNG that decides what you get! YAAAAY!). It sounds generic, but the execution is what makes this title an entertaining experience.

The gameplay is described as an old-school shooter. My educational pedigree must not be up to snuff, because I'm not sure exactly which old school the developers are referring to. What you get is a third-person shooter with a handful of guns, non-regenerating health and armor which you replenish with randomly dropped pickups, a few neat special abilities, and, best of all, no cover mechanic. This game was not designed with hugging chest-high walls in mind, and that choice allowed the developers to make the gameplay infinitely more fast-paced, frantic, and fun by making most of the enemies melee-focused instead of wall-hugging lead dispensers. With dozens of enemies onscreen at any given time, you will get overrun, and you will love it.

There are 6 levels to play through - from fiery pits to the darkest parts of Tartarus and everywhere in between - and they're all gorgeous. The set-piece scenery destruction is just delicious to see in the background as you take on Hades' finest. The levels broken up into a handful of areas that your group fights through one at a time, killing ever enemy before proceeding a la a bad action game (cough Revengeance cough). In each of these areas, a random modifier called a Test of Faith is applied. These can be silly (enemies get party hats, the sound effects are messed with), helpful (a boost to experience, health regenerates at the cost of lowered maximum health), or just brutal (bigger and stronger enemies, health and armor and the damage thereto are spread equally among all players, bombs rain from the sky for no reason), and they help to ensure you never run through the same maze in the same way twice. They're surprisingly creative and the vast number of them shows just how much work went into making sure the game can mix things up. The enemies that spawn in each section also appear to be slightly randomized, further adding to the replayability.

There are three difficulties - bronze, silver, and gold. Bronze is the easiest and also easiest to find a match for. Silver is slightly harder than bronze and takes a bit longer to match up with. Gold is the hardest and most fun - you start with no armor, enemies are more damaging, etc - but expect to be sitting at the menu for a while waiting for a match. As the difficulty increases, so too does the experience you gain from slaying enemies, but the gain is marginal enough that more challenge will be and should be the only reason you put your big boy pants on and climb the difficulty ladder. As mentioned, connection is an issue. Connecting to a match is easy enough, but I often ran into a bit of lag - never anything to really write home about, but still annoying - and even got dropped from a few matches. However, being dropped still gives you all the experience and gold you had earned up to that point so none of your work is lost because of a finicky internet connection.

There are a good handful of weapons to choose from, ranging from the normal (revolver, shotgun, assault rifle) to novel (plasma pistol, crossbow, sawblade launcher). They're all fun enough to use, but the more normal ones feel somewhat generic and they're a little underwhelming. However, you can spend your gold on modifications such as increased accuracy or damage or shortened reload time, whatever floats your boat. It seems that the magazine capacity upgrade only upgrades how big each individual magazine is and not your maximum ammo capacity, so you reload less but still run out of ammo in the same amount of time. Since running out of ammo almost never happens anyway, it's not an issue, but it's still annoying. Purchase all the other mods and get to a high enough level, and you'll be able to get the ultimate mod for your weapon - the Olympian Upgrade. These are usually interesting effects - for example, the revolver's allows its shots to penetrate and damage multiple enemies. There are plenty of options to be had here, but they feel a little bland and blah in the end, and that applies to the appearance options as well. There are only a few torsos to choose from, maybe 4, and the different ones you buy are simply the same ones with more accessories, usually more armor. The same is true for the legs options as well. There are plenty more heads and plenty of hats to unlock and choose from, and it feels like your head is the most customizable part of your cadaver, and that's a bit of a shame.

Of course, the tone is set by the Spirit Guide's excellent black comedy. Each level begins with an intro where he describes a different laughter-worthy scenario that killed you, and he's the announcer of the Tests of Faith. The taunts he spouts at you when you die make being killed a fun and welcomed short break from the action. Whoever wrote his lines deserves a pat on the back. The mood is also aided by the soundtrack. It's good to listen to, doesn't get annoying, and does what it sets out to do, but is completely forgettable and a little hard to hear over the chaos of the game anyway. It's nowhere near a generic grand orchestral piece that so many of today's games are inundated with, but finding yourself humming a memorable piece of a track is just not going to happen.

At the end of the day, God Mode is a fun little arcade game. It seems to have taken a page out of Mass Effect 3's book and arguably the end result turned out better than Space Magic's multiplayer. It's frantic and enjoyable and an absolute blast to play, and you'll find yourself regularly coming back for more. It's by no means a fantastic, work-of-art game, but hectic mindless chaos is rewarding in its own way and its ability to entertain should never be doubted. God Mode quite handily justifies its low price tag. Try the demo and if the gameplay strikes your fancy, download the full game. If you like what you see even though the customization isn't present in the demo, you won't regret it.

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