Credit: Sony Computer Entertainment America

Kratos has never been one to play nice with others, so maybe it’s no surprise that the God of War series has so far avoided multiplayer. But that all changes with God of War: Ascension, the PlayStation 3 prequel that was first announced earlier this month. Sony revealed Monday that Ascension will contain multiplayer modes in addition to a single-player campaign. EW got to see some of the ancient Greek gameplay in action and talked to director Todd Papy about how multiplayer will work in the God of War universe. Here’s what we learned:

— Kratos will not be playable in multiplayer. Instead, you control armor-clad warriors who look, yes, quite similar to our brute protagonist. “Everybody is built off the Kratos [character design] rig because Kratos has something like 2,600 animations,” Papy told EW. “Redoing those animations would be a painstaking process, and we wanted to make sure that we could really focus on the gameplay and spend that time animating new weapons, new kills, and new specials.” This also means that there will be no female characters in multiplayer since, as Papy told an audience full of reporters, “female characters on Kratos’ rig do not look pretty.”

— You will be able to customize your character by swapping six different items: boots, skirt, chest piece, shoulder pads, gauntlets, and helmet.

— Multiplayer will feature up to eight players. We saw a four-on-four match (more on that later), but you could also play one-on-one, if you so desire.

— Multiplayer will feature five to seven maps, and there will be multiple game modes, though developer Sony Santa Monica is still figuring out which modes to include. “We’ve talked about Capture the Flag, Deathmatch, and Team Deathmatch,” says Papy. “But it’s one of those things where we want to bring our spin to it and make sure it oozes God of War.”

— The one game mode we do know will be included is a Domination-style battle. We watched two teams — one red (Troy) and one blue (Sparta) — pulverize each another in an attempt to gain access to two control points. Once a team dominates both points, a weapon called the Spear of Olympus falls from the heavens, which the team can use to ultimately kill the Megaclops (that friendly looking giant cyclops pictured above) and win the match.

— Multiplayer will have a training mode called “Champion of the Gods.” When you first start up multiplayer, you’ll find yourself in a situation where you’ll have to yell out to the gods to save your life, essentially selling your soul to one of four choices — Zeus, Hades, Poseidon, or Ares. “You get taken up to Olympus and get to choose which allegiance you want to go with,” says Papy, “You can try out Zeus, or try out Ares, and fight against enemies while trying out different weapons. You get to choose which one suits you the best, and then go back down and really start your multiplayer session.” You’ll also have the opportunity to change your selection at a later point, though Papy and his team haven’t yet figured out how that option will be integrated into the game.

— And God of War purists, don’t fret, the single-player campaign will remain Sony Santa Monica’s main focus. Papy wouldn’t discuss the details of the single-player mode except to confirm that it is a prequel, and that the game will push the PS3 to its limits. “It was a conscious decision not to go with God of War IV,” says Papy. “This was a way for us to step back and separate ourselves from the trilogy. We’re always looking for ways to grow our fanbase.”

As someone who adores the God of War trilogy, I can understand how some gamers might be apprehensive about any potential changes to the franchise. But what Sony showed us looked mighty impressive. Multiplayer ran as smooth as silk, and the kill animations were on par with something out of Pixar — if Pixar was in the business of animating warriors getting sliced in half from head-to-toe. Suddenly I recall playing GoldenEye 007 as a kid and hearing my older brother voice his disapproval: “The violence is so disturbingly realistic.” Bro, you ain’t seen nothing yet.

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