God Mode, as the name might comically imply, is not some invincible shooter immune to the snarky assessments of buyers and critics. Just the opposite. God Mode takes the unrelenting havoc of a Painkiller game, alters the supernatural arsenal, and blends in random gameplay mutators in the vein of Halo’s skulls. That sounds like an attractive downloadable package, but as you get to know God Mode over several hours, the gameplay becomes vulnerable.
You control a custom civilian that, instead of transcending to higher plains above, has been transferred to hell. Why? The deities banished your ancestral bloodline from Mount Olympus centuries ago, though God Mode skimps on the details. (I ascertained that summary from the loading screens.)
Meanwhile, your self-proclaimed spirit guide is more than keen to relay the amusing events of your passing. I hope squeezing into a pair of jeans three sizes too small was your dying wish, because those pants cut off circulation to your overweight legs. Or maybe you should have thought about the consequences before you overdosed on 36 burritos and rode your farts to oblivion. The narrator’s tone reeks of ridicule and repartee, and I laughed along with the more inventive gags.
I remember circuses being way more kid friendly.
Still, the narrative remains flaky, and players are given one goal: survive their Tests of Faith and return to the pantheon of gods. That task proves no small feat. The developers divide the Mazes of Hades into sequestered arenas, whose rules change with each playthrough (more on that later). Every Maze suits the underground hellscape quite well. Flaming torture chambers, swirling tornadoes that engulf the level, and excessive halls celebrating the greatness of the gods sell the underworld motif (in case your decrepit character had not done so already).
However, several hundred skeletons, gladiators, harpies, and phantoms stand between players and godhood, and whether the enemies appear idiotic or suicidally inclined, I am not entirely sure. Opponents hurry to their demise wielding spears and swords, which seems all the more foolish (their weapon choice and tactics) after I slaughtered dozens with my railgun and revolver.
God Mode mixes an arsenal that is sensible and sci-fi. While I began with an SMG and shotgun to my name, several hours later, I acquired the plasma pistol, crossbow, and grenade launcher. Upgrades are the sole form of reward here, though the motivations to keep playing – after conquering the five Mazes – are not sufficient when so few people return for more.
Unlike God of War: Ascension, this cyclops loiters for show, nothing more.
Finding a match takes several minutes, and even then, lobbies remain subject to jarring lag spikes and disconnects. God Mode crashed nine times within six hours, predominantly when server issues surfaced, yet you may find yourself exiting games sooner when players turn their headsets on. You cannot mute other competitors, a real disaster when all teammates sound like their microphones have been left in the washing machine during a rinse cycle. Worse, the constant mic reverb and background noise exacerbate the already irritating effects.
Those problems really hurt God Mode, because the uncontrolled action could be a notably fun time sink with three players. The more weapon upgrades you buy (and the more friends you have), the higher the difficulty you could tackle. Silver offers a greater challenge than Bronze for anyone just beginning, but even Gold will bow to your experience eventually. On that topic, experience points do not ration between players. That means newcomers will have to fight for their kills, knowing they have little chance of ranking up until allies with superior firearms reload.
At least the real difficulty varies from match to match, depending on the Tests of Faith. These modifiers alter the parameters of the current arena. Some aim to crush you, supercharging enemies with size and strength. Other Tests aid you, offering random invincibility or infinite ammo. Several more are simply for laughs, dropping bombs from the sky or putting party hats on minotaurs. Furthermore, Tests may appear on one difficulty and not another. On Gold, an aura surrounds contestants. Venture too close to teammates and the rings will drain health, whereas on Bronze, those rings become healing circles for injured allies.
Jim takes gardening very seriously.
Sadly, not allowing players to choose the Tests of Faith for private games was a mistake. Instead, Oaths similar to Halo’s skulls boost the difficulty, paying out more experience and gold, but decreasing the efficacy of health pickups, imbuing hostiles with poison damage, etc.
Good thing the shooting holds up remarkably well, no matter one's input. Mouse or gamepad, aiming is smooth and responsive, though that does not change the fact that 90 percent of the combat is spent backpedaling while skeletons give chase. At least abilities are somewhat useful then. Being able to conjure a shield or summon a lightning strike from Zeus can be a lifesaver, just no more than extra ammo.
God Mode continues this spring’s long line of curio titles likely to be lost beneath a pile of triple-A releases. This third-person, Painkiller-esque shooter holds cooperative promise with clever Tests of Faith, but as you fail to find a match for the tenth time – between the game’s constant crashing to your desktop – you may wish God Mode remained buried.
Developer: Old School Games
Release Date: April 19, 2013
Number of Players: 1-4 (Cooperative)
Platforms: PC (Reviewed), XBLA, PSN