God Mode review for XBLA, PSN, PC

Platform: XBLA
Also On: PSN, PC
Publisher: Atlus
Developer: Old School Games
Medium: Digital
Players: 1-4
Online: Yes

God Mode dropped on XBLA and PC platforms late last week, and hit PSN with the recent store update this week. Having spent some time with the XBLA version of the game, I feel safe in saying that it?s a fun co-op experience online, but only when it works, which doesn?t seem to be often.

God Mode is a four player co-op, third-person shooter. It has a handful of stages to pick from, and you advance through these stages taking on waves of progressively harder enemies that rush you in great numbers. It?s not unlike Serious Sam, and clearly takes a cue from both that and other classic PC shooters in the same vein.

god_mode_1 There?s some dark humor spread about the game, which actually works well and ends up being legitimately funny. The entirety of the game takes place in Hades, and each stage is introduced through a voice-over segment full of sarcasm and wit. There?s not much else to tie things together from a story perspective, but it sets a humorous tone to all the zombie, skeleton, and Cyclops slaying you?ll do.

When you begin the game you?ll feel especially fragile, and the difficulty can be quite high depending on your familiarity with similar games. Every enemy killed nets you experience, and there are occasional money drops that can be used to purchase upgrades for current weapons, new weapons, or new character skins. There is enough customization for characters to keep you satisfied, but with those options being locked behind both a level requirement and money cost, it will take a while for you to see and have access to everything.

god_mode_2The difficulty can be a little off-putting, but it?s more about learning how to play and manage large numbers of enemies than God Mode being overly punishing. There are three difficulty options to choose from at the start; Bronze, Silver, and Gold. Then there are a number of optional modifiers that can be activated, similar to the skull system found in Halo. Activating these options might cause enemies to deal poison when hit, or lower your available shield strength. But they also boost experience and gold gained in different percentages, and can be valuable if you?re able to manage the negative status effects.

One of the things that makes God Mode stand out from other arena shooters is the Test of Faith modifiers that pop up in between waves of enemies. There’s around 40 of these events, that can be beneficial, humorous, or downright tough. Some Test of Faith events will shrink enemies down from their normal size, making them easier to kill. Other events will just toss a party hat on every enemy in the game, while more events will see a reduction in shields but with a constant recharge to health. Other more dastardly events will eliminate pick ups, leading to ammo supply issues and no health or shield drops. It adds enough spice to what could be an otherwise repetitive game, and certainly keeps things interesting.

god_mode_4Each stage has a number of sections to tackle. Some end with a boss fight, while others seem to just incorporate harder waves of enemies. When a stage is finished, you?ll have the option of running through a section filled with gold pickups for about a minute and a half. Before starting a match you can change your weapon loadouts, allowing you to hold one primary and one secondary weapon. You can also change character appearance, and equip a single ability like extended shields or a healing power for your team.

The majority of God Mode is focused on online play. I didn?t have much trouble finding others online to play with through the quick matchmaking option, which was certainly a plus. But if you?d rather play the game alone, that can be done too. Simply create a match from the menu and you?ll boot directly into a game after selecting difficulty, stage, and modifier. The menu could probably do a better job of explaining this function as I began to think this was a co-op only game until I finally decided to try that option.

god_mode_3What really holds God Mode back from being a fun experience is the sheer amount of trouble you?ll have finding a solid online match that doesn?t bug out in odd ways. I?ve had a number of matches that involve enemies freezing in place, unable to be killed, and unable to kill me. It can be kind of humorous at first, but there?s no way around the issue without backing out of the match completely and reinitiating quick search. I?ve also experienced an issue where my character died and stayed dead throughout the match, despite extra lives being available for me to respawn. Other bugs pop up, including teleporting enemies, enemies suspended in mid-air, or enemies stuck inside of objects.

I assume most of these issues relate to some sort of lag or connection error, probably stemming from a player in the group that has a restricted NAT or other issue. But there isn?t a great way to tell, and if players start backing out of the current game it more often than not boots everyone else out. It?s a pretty big issue that will kill any potential momentum this game has garnering an online community if it doesn?t get fixed quickly.

There?s enough to God Mode that it can stand apart from similar shooters in the same vein, and there?s certainly not a lot of games like it available on Xbox Live Arcade. But with online play being a huge focus, and with most players not going the route of system link for co-op, the online side needs a bit more attention before I could justify recommending God Mode to anyone. Provided something can be done to fix these problems, it?s worth the $10 asking price. But until then, buy at your own risk.

Grade: C-