Platforms: XBLA, PSN and Steam
Reviewed On: Xbox 360
Developer: Old School Games
Multiplayer: 2-4 player co-op
“Do you like running? How about gunning?” This is the beginning of the official description for God Mode, and it pretty much sums up the entire game in just two short sentences. This is a self-contained Horde mode in which the developers want you to have fun simply blasting things into oblivion. In name and action it’s a nod back to the simpler days of games, and that quickly proves to be its biggest strength and its worst weakness.
In keeping with the overall simple design of the game the developers haven’t wasted much time or resources on creating a narrative. The essential gist of things is that you’re descended from some ancient god whose entire bloodline has been banished from Olympus, and after having died in some horrific way you find yourself in the Maze of Hades, given a chance to avoid a eternal damnation and reclaim your place among the gods. To do this you your way through the maze in a third-person perspective, using guns to blast away at the legions of skeletons, minotaurs, zombie things and other monstrous things. Or something like that. What little story exists it is mostly delivered through the loading screens. It’s a paper-thin premise, and that’s absolutely fine because it doesn’t really need any more than that. The fact that games have progressed to include riveting tales and lifelike characters is utterly fantastic, but not every game needs to become tangled up in creating a complex narrative web. In this regard and in it’s straight forward approach to gameplay God Mode harkens back to the likes of Doom.
Helpfully goading you along is the disembodied voice of narrator who cheerfully insults you as you go and gleefully tells you in what horrible manner you died this time at the start of each level. Whoever is behind the scenes supplying the narrators voice did a great job and he’s genuinely funny to listen to, though he does sadly begin to repeat himself pretty quickly. This repetition is a theme that runs throughout the game, though.
Let’s get down to the gameplay, then. The idea is simple: you and up to three other people enter one of the game’s five beautiful looking levels and make your way through the five or six arenas that make up each level, slaughtering every enemy that gets in your way. Your health isn’t some bar that regenerations, it’s good old fashioned number that depletes as you get shot, so you’ll need to grab the health pickups strewn around. Armor can also be acquired, again through pickups.
Should you and your friends, or the people you just met on Live that refuse to work together, make it through to end of the level your reward is a room full of Gold pick-ups and a timer – you’ve got until the timer runs down to grab as much Gold as you can. The catch, though, is that friendly fire is turned on, leading to some epic last-minute betrayals, or even beautiful moments when team members simply stand aside to let others grab the loot.
It’s also worth mentioning that the game can be played solo, but it’s not very good at adjusting itself for just one player. It’s definately a co-op orientated game, but solo players can still complete entire levels on the Bronze difficulty, which is the lowest of the three settings available, with a little bit of effort. Much like Mass Effect 3’s multiplayer mode I have no doubt that there will be some players out there that enjoy attempting to defeat the game alone on the hardest settings.
There’s also a couple of twists to the core gameplay. Upon entering each arena in a level you’ll activate a Test of Faith, which act as modifiers, mixing up the gameplay by doing things like making it rain bombs, spawning monster allies near the Altar, giving you Infinite ammo, making the enemy wave tougher, turning on friendly fire and even changing player’s weapons ever few seconds. These help bring some much needed variety to a game that is otherwise inherently repetitive. You can also start up a game with various Oath’s active which act as difficulty modifiers, but also increase the experience and gold you earn in return.
Sounds good so far, right? Well, yes, but I do have some serious issues with the combat. For a game which describes itself as run and gun, and also mimics older gameplay styles, your default movement is surprisingly slow and heavy, which is irrating when you’re dealing with massive waves of enemies who can all run at a fair lick and that like to charge you head on. The slow movement means there’s no dancing and weaving through the horde, no displaying your stick-skills as you obliterate them – you just back-pedal and hold down the trigger until they’re dead or you are. There’s a dodge button, but again it’s unresponsive and the move itself is so slow that enemies attacks will still often hit you, unless you manage to predict the attack before the enemy actually begins to make it. and finally even the mellee attack feels strange. When you use it your character stop dead and deliver a painfully slow strike, leaving you open to swarming enemies. These are considerable flaws, and leave the combat feeling servicable, but far from good.
Still, the rewards for persevering are experience and Gold, which feed into the obligatory levelling up system that most shooters feel the need to have these days. Again, though, I’ve got a serious issue here. You see, at the very start of the game you have zero options when it comes to outfitting your character: you’ve got to make do with the SMG and sawn-off shotgun that the developers have given you, both of which are largely ineffective at dealing with the hordes of enemies awaiting you. I just don’t see why you aren’t given at least the choice of a few basic weapons at the start so you could play the way you like, rather than being forced into close range action. Experience and Gold come so slowly that you’ve got to be willing to invest a good few hours just to unlock the next weapon, a revolver, which still isn’t all useful to you. There’s your usual assault rifles and stuff to be found, but to get to those you’ll need to sink a lot of hours in to God Mode, and frankly the core combat and gameplay mechanics are good enough to justify doing that. Being stuck with two boring, inneffective guns really hurts the game, and makes the first few hours frustrating. The very nature of a game like this is that it works best played in short bursts so you don’t get bored, and the leveling up mechanics should reflect that. The rate at which you acquire stuff here feels like something out of a free-to-play game that wants me to just give up and buy stuff using real money.
However, you can upgrade your gear as you go, including your SMG and shot-gun. The sawn-off never becomes that good, but the SMG can at least be upgraded to become servicable in combat, although be prepared to meet players online who have sunk countless hours in who have far better weapons that will leave you feeling a bit useless. You see, in a bit of a strange move for a co-op game only the person that strikes the killing blow on enemy actually gets XP, so even if you were the one that put two whole clips into the giant mutant thing you’ll get nothing if somebody comes along and pops a single round into it. It’s a stupid move, and means that those with the higher level weapons who can demolish enemies far more effectively than you are rewarded with even more XP, while lower players struggle to rank up and gain access to anything of note.
At least other areas of the game encourage a small degree of teamwork. Pick-ups are limited, so on higher difficulty levels you’ll need to communicate with your team to ensure that health, armor and ammo go to those needing it. Good luck finding players willing to communicate using Quick Match, mind.
There’s a small amount of unlockable stuff, at least. it might take you a long time, but the upper tiers of weapons include a plasma gun and a vicious saw-style weapon. However, considering the actual premise of the game and the insanity of it all the creativity on display within the weapons section is…limited. How about crossbows that fire explosive arrows? A broadsword? Or even a gravity-gun? With all the mythology they’ve packed into God Mode in the form of the enemies there could have been a hell of a lot more done with the weapons. There’s just nothing to really aspire to, nothing to keep you playing for hours and hours to get your mitts on. From a character customisation point of view there’s some apparel for you to purchase with Gold. A good bit of it is just slight variations on other gear, but if you’re willing to sink a lot of time into God Mode you should come out with a fairly unique looking character. I was personally a fan of being a pirate-clown. Again, though, it’s surprisingly mundane stuff for the most part.
Speaking of customisation, I do have another complaint to make. This one is a nit-pick really, but it still feels worth mentioning. Why do I have to go through the Quick Match or Create-A-Match menus to get to the customisation menu? Why can’t I just sjump into character customisation straight from the main menu? As I said, this is a small complaint, but it’s just a strange oversight on the developers part.
If you can struggle through the initial few hours, though, and don’t mind the grind, a fun arcade shooter does start to reveal itself. There’s a good amount of enemy variety on offer to keep you on your toes, and the game looks bloody beautiful, able to stand up to many full retail titles. Though there are only five levels to choose from, they’re gorgues to look at at and feature such awesome visual sights as a huge giant watching you fight in awe, or massive troll-things operating machinery while you battle the mythological monsters that are intent on kicking your arse back to where you came from. The key to having fun here is really getting together with some friends for the co-op action, although I’m not sure this can be listted as a positive point for God Mode as practically any game is more fun with friends. It’s not the game going out of it’s way to make the co-op good, because frankly it doesn’t really encourage teamwork very much, it’s just playing with your friends that’s making the game feel better.
And speaking of playing with friends, the lack of a split-screen mode feels like a missed opportunity. This game could have gone down well with a few mates and a crate of beer.
Ultimately God Mode’s biggest strength is, as I mentioned back at the start of this, is also it’s most prominent flaw: simplicity. The straightforward slaughter-fest design has an awesome old-school feel to it, but it also means there’s just not very much to game. Even after just a few completed rounds the gameplay was beginning to drag for me. It makes you appreciate how far we have actually come. As a result this is very much a game which should be played in short bursts, so that you can enjoy the mindless mayhem to its fullest. Play for too long in one session and it’ll just tire you out, and possibly give you a whopping headache.
So, God Mode is flawed fun in an arcade package, a package that I’d recommend picking up on sale rather than at full price, unless you’re simply looking for a blastathon for you and your mates to kill some time on, in which case go right ahead and pick it up. There’s fun to be had here, but there’s also a lot of frustrations and problems. However, a hefty patch that bumps up the default movement speed and the rate at which you rank up could do wonders for God Mode, bringing the score up by a 3, I’d reckon. Add in some more interesting weapons and arenas and you’d have something great on your hands.
Don’t just take my word, though, it is an Arcade game so go ahead, download the trial and see what you think.
+ Straightforward blasting.
+ A fair amount of gear to unlock.
+ Looks good.
+ The narrator.
– Slow movement speed and unresponsive dodge.
– Stuck with the SMG and Shotgun for a while.
– Gets old pretty quickly.
The Verdict: 2/5 – Okay
If you just want mindless violence to pass a bit of time then God Mode is for you. It’s fun in short bursts, but it gets old fast and some fairly big flaws let it down in the end. Pick it up on sale and you won’t regret it.