Review

Review: God of War (PS4)

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There is no reason to be coy, God of War is one of the finest games I’ve ever played. (SPOILER FREE REVIEW)

At a Glance – 10/10

Everything you could want from a game is here, and done spectacularly well. I honestly could drone on forever about this game, but the simple conclusion is that every other game this year is going to have a tough time competing with this title for Game of the Year, and it has earned an easy spot in my Top 5 games of all time. Even after rolling credits I simply can’t stop playing the game, and it stands as a testament to the power of the entire gaming medium.

This is an absolutely must play experience for anyone who loves games, one that is worth buying a PlayStation 4 for it alone, and will be a masterpiece we remember for years to come.

I’ve always been a huge God of War fan, and have defended Kratos’ adventures against those who felt they were too one note. My argument was simply one that revolved around Greek myths and legends, they are typically parables that are one note, designed to highlight some valuable lesson. For Kratos, that lesson was that vengeance often costs much, and never provides the relief one is looking for. Ultimately it was a game designed around the 90s, all machismo and over the top gore, but I felt it fit well within the Greek pantheon.

However, Kratos did things on his quest for vengeance that made him a villain in many regards. I don’t judge his actions for destroying the Greek gods, they had all done pretty heinous stuff, but he also killed many innocents. As such, many people whole heartedly disliked Kratos, and Sony Santa Monica could have easily wiped the slate clean and started over. Instead they embraced Kratos’ flaws, and decided to tell a story about a man changed by being a father, and ashamed of a past that he clearly regrets in many ways.

It is this decision that gives everything a dramatic weight to the game, and that allows Kratos to seek a path of redemption through a child he hasn’t bonded with previously. As he finds his way on an epic journey that is fit for Norse mythology, he must also navigate truly being a father and not just a provider, and the many challenges something like that brings. I’m not going to discuss the story details any further, as playing through it and discovering it on your own is a sheer joy, but know that this is one of the best narratives in video gaming.

This narrative is backed by phenomenal performances by every actor, making you care for each and every character within the game. The director of the game had stated he didn’t want any character to just be some side note you didn’t care about, and he accomplished his goal; I found myself drawn to find out everything I could about every character in the game.

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One of the ways they draw the story in and make it more personal is due to the new camera that God of War uses. The entire game takes place from one camera shot, without large pan backs or cuts. This means you experience all of the story close up and personal, with the camera hovering close to Kratos’ shoulder. Everything feels more visceral and real, with violence and drama given new depth and meaning thanks to the camera. In order to accomplish this they couldn’t cut to load scenes, and so the loading is cleverly hidden, even during fast travel. This makes for a game that never pulls you from the action, and deepens immersion in doing so.

The camera leads a new weight to the redesigned combat system as well, that brings a tactical tilt to every encounter in the game. You have a heavy and light attack you can interchange, along with runic attacks that you can mix and match to your liking. However, the real star of the show is the Leviathan axe, and your ability to throw it at enemies, and then press a single button to call it back to you. This becomes one of the most satisfying mechanics in all of gaming, the sound, art, and gameplay design of the weapon combining to make it feel truly special. It also provides a ton of options in combat, as throwing away the axe doesn’t leave you helpless.

Once the axe is gone Kratos has hand to hand combat he can employ, complete with an awesome telescoping shield, and provides a new avenue of combat that causes stuns more easily. Stunning enemies can be imperative, because it opens them up to a brutal finishers similar to previous games, though the game never dwells or revels in the violence as it did back then. Rather, Kratos is after the most efficient ways to destroy his foes, and juggling these different options feels at once simple, but also incredibly deep. Never once in the game did I sigh as an encounter took place, eager to get on with the story. Instead, every new fight was a chance to test out new strategies, try out new runes, or just revel in destroying my enemies.

Atreus provides another avenue of strategy to you as well, each press of the square button will see him firing an arrow at an enemy. At first these are extremely limited, but can still be used to help you stun enemies quicker. As the game goes on Atreus grows in power in a way that makes you feel the epic journey you’ve gone on, and sees how his experiences has shaped him. Tying this to gameplay is extraordinarily clever, and there will never be a moment in the game you’ll ever feel that you are simply escorting Kratos’ son.

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Unlike previous games there are new RPG aspects that have made their way into the premiere action game, and it is entirely welcome. As you fight you’ll gather materials that will allow you to craft armor and weapons for both the father and son, and you’ll uncover runes you can slot into those weapons and armor. These runes add to your stats, provide static boosts, or give you new powerful runic attacks that replace the previous magic.

Those runic attacks can be swapped out at any time, giving you a unique set of abilities to employ at will. As you unlock more of these it allows customization of combat depending on how you typically approach it, and enriches the entire experience. Skill trees are available from the main menu as well, with every new ability for you and your son providing welcome powerups. I never felt I got something from the tree that was unnecessary or unusable to me, which happens so many times when skill trees are involved in games.

Everything within the game is tuned to a fine polish, including amazing looking visuals that truly boggle the mind how they created without significant load times. Small annoyances from other games are completely absent here, things you might not even think about typically, but are a huge boon to be absent. Things like never really having to trek back to a shop, instead the dwarves that assist you in your crafting always seem to arrive just when you might need them, complete with story reasons for their ability to do so.

Sometimes you can be having a conversation with another character that in any other game could be cut off by your action, but in God of War they say they will finish the story at another time. After this they seamlessly continue it later, complete with a conversational segue at that time. There are no missable trophies within the game, you can continue playing after you’ve completed the main story, the pacing is phenomenal, and the story’s climax is both satisfying as well as sets up a possible sequel.

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Everything you could want from a game is here, and done spectacularly well. I honestly could drone on forever about this game, but the simple conclusion is that every other game this year is going to have a tough time competing with this title for Game of the Year, and it has earned an easy spot in my Top 5 games of all time. Even after rolling credits I simply can’t stop playing the game, and it stands as a testament to the power of the entire gaming medium.

This is an absolutely must play experience for anyone who loves games, one that is worth buying a PlayStation 4 for it alone, and will be a masterpiece we remember for years to come.

Final Score: 10 out of 10

 

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4 thoughts on “Review: God of War (PS4)

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