The simply-titled God of War marks the return of Playstation‘s now-iconic deity-killer Kratos in a whole new adventure which takes a detour from the franchise’s Greek roots and dives into the bearded-world of Norse mythology. While Kratos is a brutal, violent, and tragic character, we finally get to see another side of him and the toll his previous bloody adventures have take on him, resulting in one of the best games in the series.
The God of War games are known for their button-mashing gameplay loop; and while they’re unrelentingly fun, there’s no denying that the series needed a little bit of a shake-up to the formula. Sony Santa Monica have delivered exactly that, breathing fresh life into everything from the story, combat controls, player perspective, and theme of the game. The ultra-violent, fight-first-questions-later approach has been peeled away, with a more sombre and tactical approach being applied to the franchise’s blueprint – 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.
The most notable changes from past GoW titles is that Kratos now has a son – Atreus – who isn’t just a plot-point, but a sidekick and semi-playable character throughout the game.
On the story-front, the admittedly-rocky relationship between Kratos and Atreus is an interesting and often heart-wrenching affair, as players who are familiar with Kratos’ past and demons will see how he projects them onto his son, for better and worse.
God of War games have always been visceral experiences, and this time around, you can feel the strength and brutality of Kratos to an extra degree, thanks to the perspective-change to a closer, over-the-shoulder angle.
The way in which you fight has also seen changes. While past games relied heavily on speed and quick manoeuvring, things have shifted to a more strategic 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 clinical, emphasising Kratos’ appreciation of refined combat – something he attempts to pass onto his son.
With the series now making its first yet inevitable jump to the PS4, the game really benefits from the power-capabilities of Sony’s current console. Along with the game being breathtaking to look at, the larger and more detailed environments allow for the new throwable axe weapon to be used for clever, intuitive puzzles. This requires the player to observe the densely detailed world in order to find a solution to the hazards and traps presented in the game, rather than the more obvious solutions like in past games.
To not recommend God of War as a must-buy for PS4 owners would be a crime. Newcomers will be introduced to something unlike they’ve played before, while long-time fans will love it even more, finally getting an introspective look into the character of Kratos and how his rampaging, bloodied past has changed him. That said, there’s still a whole bunch of outrageous monster-killing, which is something we can always get behind.
God of War is available exclusively on PS4.