Easily one of the most anticipated games of the year, let alone the month, God of War sees the return of the deity-killer Kratos in a new adventure which takes a detour from its Greek roots and delves into Norse mythology. While Kratos himself is a brash and brutally-tragic hero, it’s safe to say that this version of the beloved character is handled with a level of meticulous detail that the franchise had yet to have seen, resulting in one of the best games in the series.
There’s no denying that after six previous God of War games, the button-mashing frenzy, while fun, needed a shake-up, and Sony Santa Monica delivered exactly that, with everything from the story, combat controls, player perspective, and milieu of the entire series undergoing a substantial makeover. Gone are the trademark Blades of Chaos, constant grunting, and bombastic moments, with a more sombre and tactical approach being applied to the franchise’s formula – this game looks like a God of War game, walks like a God of War game, and even talks like one – but it is essentially something new entirely.
One of the most obvious changes from the past GoW framework is the addition of a secondary character. While the God of War games have traditionally been lone-wolf affairs, this time though, the adventure revolves around Kratos’ relationship with his son, Atreus. The admittedly-rocky dynamic between Kratos and Atreus is an interesting and often heart-wrenching affair, as players who are familiar with Kratos’ past and demons get to see the toll it has taken on him, and how he projects that onto his son, for better and worse.
Gameplay-wise, it’s clear that Sony Santa Monica wanted for players to feel the intensity of Kratos’ fights; the perspective has shifted to a closer, over-the-shoulder angle, which does a great job at showcasing the scale of some of the encounters. While combat in past games relied heavily on speed and quick manoeuvring, things have shifted to a more clinical approach. The revamped control layout (which now rest primarily on the shoulder buttons) does take a little getting used to, and the combat isn’t as fast and ‘slick’ as previous titles, but it’s an intentional move, as striking enemies with Kratos’ new viking-esque war axe, the Leviathan, now feels powerful and strategic, emphasising Kratos’ appreciation of refined combat – something he attempts to pass onto his son.
Thanks to the huge boost in hardware power with the jump to the PS4, along with the new throwable axe weapon, puzzles and obstacles are far more intuitive, requiring the player to observe the densely detailed environments in order to find a solution, rather than more obvious solutions like in past games.
God of War takes an introspective look into the character of Kratos, becoming more of a character-piece than a fully-fledged slash-a-thon, and the game is elevated to new heights because of it. Kratos’ rampaging, bloodied past is addressed and explored upon, while still leaving more room for some outrageous monster killing, and that’s something we’ll always get behind. God of War is a must for any PS4 owner.