Back in the day, DOOM, Unreal Tournament and Serious Sam popularized the run-and-gun shooter. Beautiful in their simplicity, anyone was capable of jumping into the fray with guns blazing and have a great time. There’s been a resurgence of the genre with developers attempting to recapture the thrill running around like a madman/woman, circle strafing and rolling while holding down the Fire button. The thing is, though, shooters have evolved since those early days and I can’t help but wonder if there is worth in recreating a genre that has taken a backseat to evolved modern shooters. This is a thought that ran through my mind while playing God Mode, an online shooter developed by Old School Games. It feels like a product of an earlier time. Traditional in its design, God Mode is straightforward and bland shooter that loses any sense of thrill after the first few rounds.
God Mode has no story. After bypassing the title screen, a flamboyant disembodied voice welcomes the player to Hades (“That’s Hell in a toga”) but offers no reason for your being there. Loading screens offer snippets of a plot that doesn’t venture too far from “You’re in Hades, go shoot stuff." Lacking any sort of single player campaign, God Mode is strictly an online cooperative shooter that pits a team of four against an undead horde within five different arenas in a Greek underworld. Borrowing character customization features from a laundry list of shooters, players will have the opportunity to upgrade their character’s appearance, unlock additional weapons and upgrade them to boost effectiveness in battle. Taking a note from Halo, an Oath system allows the player to set negative effects upon themselves in order to boost the gold and experience payout at the end of the round.
The flow of God Mode is quite simple: Joining or hosting a game will put you in a queue with three other players (although if a full group cannot be obtained, the game will launch without them). Before the match begins, each player is given the option to vote on which map (self contained battlegrounds designed after Ancient Greece) they want to play. After a brief cinematic introduces the level, the game properly begins as the team is besieged by all manner of mythical creatures and undead monsters. The map is broken up into several smaller arenas and in order to advance to the next section, all enemies and bosses in an arena must be destroyed.
What makes these gameplay sections interesting are the random game-changing effects that bestow bonuses to both the party and enemies. Dubbed “Test of Faith,” these effects range from useful (random invincibility and infinite ammo), tricky (halved health, friendly fire and tougher enemies) to pointless (all sound effects are pitched higher). These effects will remain in place until all enemies in an arena are cleared and a new Test of Faith takes its place. Eventually, the players will reach the final section of a level where they will either confront an end boss creature or survive a particularly tough gauntlet. Once a map is complete, players are warped into a gilded hall filled with gold pickups and have two minutes to collect as much money as possible. Friendly fire is activated at this time and players are encouraged to engage one another and deny them riches. With the match over, scores are tabulated, experience is earned and cash can be used to unlock customization options and gear before heading back to the lobby to wait for the next match. Wash, rinse, repeat.
God Mode sounds pretty entertaining in writing. Reading over the summary above, how can it be that I found such an experience to be so boring? It's because combat just isn’t fun, and while arenas are often large and filled with enemies, the process of killing them is not very satisfying. For low-level beginners, the initial weapon types are not very powerful (even after upgrading them) nor are they particularly fun to shoot. When I think about it, while Painkiller offered the same brand of mindless action, it was the game’s weapons that made it stand out and a heck of a lot of fun to play. The armaments in God Mode are the typical modern warfare-style shotguns, machine guns, chain guns, revolvers and rifles. Players can unlock these weapons along with special abilities (team healing, personal shields, etc) as they reach new levels. You’ll never have to worry about running out of ammo as levels are filled to the brim with respawning ammo, health and armor pickups while each enemy kill fills up the special ability gauge. I mentioned character customization options earlier and I can tell you that they are a complete waste of money and effort. Spending coin will open up various clothing and head designs as well as non-essential accessories. These items are superfluous as they do not affect the character in any way and given the breakneck speed of the combat, who’s really going to stand around and admire another player’s character model?
God Mode is a game that’s fun for about an afternoon, if that. Because of how dull the game is, there’s no real incentive to play for long stretches of time. There are only five maps to play and there’s a certain degree of annoyance associated with having to replay a stage you just completed because someone else in the party voted for it. Additional difficulty modes and Oaths does mix the gameplay up but for me, it isn’t enough to create a compelling shooter experience. Furthermore, the level and money requirements needed to unlock weapons and upgrades turns God Mode into more of a grind than it should be (unless you're actively using Oaths). Those looking for fun multiplayer experiences can easily find something better.
Librarian by day, Darkstation review editor by night. I've been playing video games since the days of the Commodore 64 and I have no interest in stopping now that I've made it this far.