Review: God Mode for XBLA

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God Mode

Price: $9.99/ 800MSP
System(s): Steam, XBLA, PSN
Release Date: April 16th (Steam, XBLA) 23rd (PSN), 2013
Publisher (Developer): Atlus (Old School Games)
ESRB Rating: “Mature” for Intense Violence, Blood and Gore, Suggestive Themes, Partial Nudity and Drug Reference

“Do you like running? How about gunning?” these first two sentences of co-op third person shooter God Mode‘s online description are a fitting summary of what Atlus’ newly published game offers; frantic, retro game inspired, monster slaughtering carnage.

Developed by Old School Games, a subsidiary of Saber Interactive whose previous works include Inversion, TimeShift and Halo: Combat Evolved Anniversary, God Mode attempts to break the mould cast by previous games of its kind by adding random modifiers, customizable characters and weapons, and a RPG-like levelling up system which it claims will ensure that no two matches are ever the same. But is God Mode truly a divine downloadable gift sent from the heavens, or a deceitful false prophet hell bent on stealing our hard earned cash?

God Mode

God Mode leaves narrative at the door

Moments after starting a new game it becomes clear that God Mode‘s skeletal storyline was only included to add some sort of context to the monster shooting gameplay and Greek mythology inspired environments. Simply put, you and your co-op companions are the descendants of a divine bloodline banished from Mount Olympus by Hades, the ancient Greek god of the underworld. In order to claim your rightful place in the pantheon of the gods you must battle through hoards of monsters in one of the Hades’ five mazes.

Each maze is comprised of five or six different arenas with a boss at the very end and a room full of gold as the reward. Health and armour are counted numerically out of 100, as opposed to the regenerative health of most modern shooters, which must be topped up by collecting brightly coloured pick ups littered across the battlefield. What makes God Mode particularly interesting however are the “Test of Faith” modifiers which change the rules for each and every area.

Beyond God Mode‘s unforgivable experience system lies a satisfying shooter

God Mode is a strange pastiche of many popular games both old and new. In addition to the game’s title, which is itself a reference to the almost ubiquitous old school invincibility cheat, the general gameplay seems directly inspired by a combination of Serious Sam and Gears of War 2‘s Hoard mode. Also, the arenas look like they have been taken directly from God of War, the levelling up and item purchasing system is the same one found in many MMORPGs and even God Mode‘s sarcastic spirit guide narrator conjures up memories of Dungeon Keeper‘s unforgettable advisor.

Whether intentional or not, the result of this bizarre mixture of genres is a quirky and at times very intense co-op game that is an absolute blast to play through. The lack of offline split-screen co-op is however completely bemusing, especially considering how Old School Games describe God Mode as an retro inspired title, and how well its gameplay lends itself to couch based cooperative play. But this missed opportunity is nothing compared to God Mode‘s soul crushing item purchasing system.

God Mode

Most titles on Xbox Live Arcade are just that, easily accessible arcade games that are quick and easy to get into and enjoy, but for whatever reason Old School Games decided to offer no choice in weapons or abilities at the start of God Mode aside from the default SMG, double-barrelled shotgun and flimsy shield.

More weapons, weapon mods and special abilities can be purchased in God Mode, but only if the required level cap is passed and if enough gold has been collected from defeated enemies. However, the amount of time it takes to acquire enough experience and gold to purchase the first available gun is a couple of hours minimum. Forcing all new players to use the same ineffective starter weapons and abilities not only removes the opportunity to explore the interesting strategies that can be formed later on, but it’s just plain boring. This sort of excruciatingly slow acquisition of new gear is common in free-to-play games, but has no place in a paid downloadable title.

Those who are able to make it past God Mode‘s initial hours of tedious experience grinding will in fact find a truly satisfying, idiosyncratic arcade-style shoot ’em up with lots of variety and tons of character. Using shooter staples such as shotguns, machine guns, grenade launchers and plasma rifles against skeletons, cyclops, minotaurs and other mythological creatures is peculiar but at the same time enjoyably silly. God Mode‘s five mazes are large, varied and each feature some sort of visual spectacle such as one maze that revolves around a thunderous tornado, or another that features a gargantuan giant that watches the battle in awe.

Ultimately, God Mode‘s addictiveness comes in the form of its customisability and randomness. Once different abilities and weapons are purchased, players can create their own customised classes RPG-style which, when combined with those of other players, can lead to multiple different strategies being formed. For example, two players can use agility-limiting heavy weapons with a shield ability, while two other players back them up with healing abilities and light weapons for increased movement.

Certain game modifiers can also be activated prior to a match for experience boosts. These “Oaths” are disadvantageous to players, but can be balanced with particular combinations of abilities for maximum effectiveness. Despite pre-match preparation, the high number of “Test of Faith” modifiers that activate in each arena ensure that no particular strategy is ever fully waterproof. God Mode‘s modifiers range from total player invincibility to making enemies larger and tougher, giving players random weapons and even putting silly hats on every monster.

God Mode

God Mode makes retro relevant

The high level of weapon, ability, and “Oath” customisation makes for very interesting character creation and team strategy building, while the dynamic “Tests of Faith” keep gameplay feeling fresh although not particularly original. The main complaints from God Mode players will undoubtedly arise from the poorly implemented and completely tedious experience and gold acquisition, which make the game’s first few hours an unnecessary chore. While this issue persists later on in the game, it becomes more bearable once better weapons and abilities are purchased.

God Mode is a game that takes pride in its accessible retro-style gameplay, doing away with extraneous narrative and character development to offer a basic, yet visually pleasing arcade shooter that fans of games such as the aforementioned Serious Sam are very likely to enjoy. But those looking for more depth in their third person action are best finding their thrills elsewhere.

Official Site [God Mode]

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