Published on May 7th, 2018 | by Luis Acosta
God of War review: A stunning reinvention that will forever mark the day that Kratos made his long anticipated return to the Playstation Console.
When the original God of War was released 13 years ago for the PlayStation 2 it successfully combined fast-paced, combo-based combat with excellent platforming and puzzle solving. It soon became a fan fave.
A sequel followed and was equally well received, expanding upon the mythos of Spartan warrior Kratos who, by this time, had become the eponymous God of War. The gameplay was very similar to the first and hack and slash fighting was still order of the day.
Come the PlayStation 3 and God of War III continued the speedy action game mechanics, albeit with a graphical boost thanks to the beefier power of the console. But, even at this time, frantic, button-mashing was becoming a dated concept. When it finally appeared in remastered form on PS4, it was clear the series needed more than a lick of paint to make it relevant
Hence, God of War. While not a reboot in the style of Tomb Raider, it is a very different game to what has come before. It is grown-up, layered, clever and a perfect fit for the current, super-powered generation of gaming.
It was always going to look more spectacular thanks to the technical achievements of the PlayStation 4 and, especially, PS4 Pro, but also plays like a modern game. It is better paced than ever before, adds depth, customization, emotion and role-playing elements while retaining much of the technical combat traits of its predecessors. It is, in short, a God of War for a new generation. While still maintaining an ever so constant memory of the series. In essence, it’s pure genius.
After the end of the original trilogy, with Kratos’ thirst for revenge against the Greek gods finally quenched, he retires to the realms Norse mythology in order to live a quieter life. He is older and a father of a young son, Atreus.
This is a different Kratos to before, and the game is much richer for it. Hate and anger are still there bumbling under the surface, but the responsibility of fatherhood changes his motives and, therefore, gameplay attributes.
He is also different in presence on screen. Not only is he better defined thanks to greater graphics hardware – up to checkerboard 2160p on PS4 Pro – our view of him has changed, literally. The action is now viewed in an over-the-shoulder 3D perspective and it makes his hulking body and every muscle in it, all the more impressive than ever before.
Some might disagree with the artistic decision to move camera angles from what has come before, but it works wonderfully. Even with much of the screen taken up with pale muscle mass, you still get to see some of the most beautiful scenery ever rendered in console video game history.
Midgard and the other realms of Norse myth are jaw-dropping in their detail and when you get to some of the other realms around five or so hours into the game, you will be pleasantly surprised at the stunning environments. They are also some of the best showpieces for HDR tech we’ve ever seen in gaming: bursting with color and vibrance. If you don’t own a HDR TV already, here’s the excuse you’ve been waiting for.
The Norse theme doesn’t stop there! Costumes too are inspired by Nordic warriors and legends. There are no horns on helmets here, but plenty of fur-lined leather and tattoos. Which I know will be a great pleasure for my Gay Bear community.
It’s not just aesthetic either. Alternative armor combinations, along with customizable weapons, are a big feature of this God of War. Enhanced armor styles can be purchased or found and upgraded throughout the game, for both Kratos and his son. This not only makes the adventure more exciting, it adds a flavor of strategy and thought that previous games in the series only touched upon.
Wearing improved armor not only looks good, it increases your stats: strength, runic, defense, vitality, luck and cooldown. The same is true for your son’s stats, which is vital as he’s not just an emotive plot tool but, an essential ally in most if not all battle engagements.
While you start with the Leviathan Axe – which works a bit like Thor’s hammer, returning after a mighty throw – your son is equipped with the Talon Bow and can be instructed to rain arrows on opponents as you beat them into submission with your melee attacks.
Utilizing both Kratos and his son leads to many of the game’s excellent combo opportunities, which can be improved and expanded further through a deep skill tree system and add-ons in the shape of runes. You can also level up just about every item you wield or wear, making for even more tweaking throughout the game. I know many of you out there love this type of combat upgrade style and it will definitely make a great opportunity for many of you to show that amazing skill set You know that one that costs you hundreds of game time hours to find the perfect combination of skills, runes, etc. That ultimately will create a Kratos worthy of the hundreds of game time hours you have invested. In the end, all that focus and dedication will ultimately lead to organic, fast-flowing, varied fights that suit your play style. Are are and engaging site to see!
Finding the bonuses and power-ups are part of the fun of God of War. Although the game has a definitive plot and mission structure – you must travel with Atreus to scatter your wife’s ashes at the top of the mountain – there are many side quests you can opt to undertake too. (Side Note: Really they say opt! You and I both know that we are going to go through every single side-quests not only for the PS Achievements but to show everyone else how awesome we are!)
Indeed, much of the game is sited on large open-world maps that guide you to your main objective but also feature hidden areas and secrets. When traveling you should always keep an eye out for a little, off-route passage. It will likely feature a chest with a helpful item or Hacksilver – the in-game currency that you can spend on new armor or weapons. If Sony had any sense they would offer in game purchases to really get us going!
In fact, we (my faithful video game companion, Ellie) found ourselves spending hours just meandering around, finding side missions to complete and taking on optional bosses. So much so that by the time we encountered a difficult enemy on the story trail, we’d already beaten a similar enemy in a secret task when lesser powered. We knew what to do without any handholding, even though the dialogue barked by Atreus effectively told us what we already knew.
Even without the optional boss battles there are plenty enemies to take part during the main plot. And you’ll find the excellent, intuitive combat system a great help. Naturally, like many games, including previous God of Wars, bosses are generally beaten through learning specific patterns or weak points to exploit. It doesn’t make them any less fun and lets not forget the sheer thrill of wielding the Leviathan Axe makes every fight a joy.
This God of War also intelligently guides you through tutorial levels at the start without them feeling as a nagging never ending introduction to the game that won’t let you just get a move on! By the time you meet your first boss, you should have the skill set to defeat him. Not only that but as each boss gets progressively harder, your talents with a gamepad should be greater.
It also helps that a lot of combos end with spectacularly powerful moves, so you shouldn’t find things too tough until late into the game, and by then you should be so well prepared that defeating enemies will be like “cutting through melted BUTTER”. It’s a masterfully, well thought out and impressive game design and even those not accustomed to action-adventures of this type should be able to play GoW without struggling too much. (Well….Maybe?)
To reinvent such a well-known game series is brave, but this new God of War is both a modern masterpiece and a love letter to all of us fans who fell in love with the God of War Series and Kratos struggle. It brings the combat system up to date while slapping on a dose of some of the best visuals we’ve seen in this generation – especially in 4K HDR on PS4 Pro.
Then, of course, there is the relationship between a father and his son, which completes the entire experience and has the emotional impact of some of the best Oscar winners in movies today. The fact that the parent is none other than former rage-filled brute Kratos, and that somehow Kratos can still pull at our heart strings is nothing short of magnificent.
If you haven’t played any of the God of War games, this is the time to jump in. I can’t imagine this will be the last in the series. Sony has broken the mold of future gaming with this masterful adaptation to a video game classic. Don’t miss out on what must be a contender for game of the year.