updated 2/26/2013 5:21:43 PM ET 2013-02-26T22:21:43

With the long-awaited prequel "God of War: Ascension" set to hit both stores and the PlayStation Network in two weeks' time, Sony has released a new single-player demo of the action game, which players can try out now free of charge.

The demo, which takes up just under 3 GB of hard drive space, tells the opening story of Kratos, whose adversaries trick the warrior into murdering his family, sending him into rage and despair. Picking up a pair of chain swords, he vows to spill the blood of those responsible.

The demo picks up midway through the story, with Kratos held captive in the Prison of the Damned, chained to the walls. When an old adversary appears to slap him around, Kratos breaks free, and players spend most of the demo fighting through the labyrinth-like prison, fending off insect-infected prisoners and chopping away at large beasts with Kratos' weapons. [See also: " God of War" Bundle Features Special Red PS3 ]

Those who play the demo will find that Kratos' wicked combat style remains intact, as he can chain together combos that will leave enemies reeling until they're defeated. In addition, with his new grapple ability, the warrior can grab onto foes from afar and either beat them to a pulp up close or hurl them like projectiles – something that proves quite useful when he is surrounded.

And, as in previous titles, "God of War: Ascension" has a strikingly beautiful visual style that brings Kratos' devastated world to life — ranging from large, hideous beasts to exquisite interior and exterior locales the character can explore. The opening sequence alone is worth viewing, showing the world through Kratos' eyes as a spider-legged foe abuses the hero.

In addition to about an hour's worth of gameplay, the demo features a tie-in special with the forthcoming History Channel series "Vikings," which makes its premiere next Sunday on the cable network. Like Kratos, these guys pack a punch in combat, with unrestrained ruthlessness.

The "God of War: Ascension" single-player demo is available now, and you can check out the full game, complete with both single- and multiplayer content, on March 12th.

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