It’s been 5 years since the last God of War game, and 8 years before the last numbered sequel. We’ve been waiting with baited breath for the new God of War, to see whether Kratos’ move into the Norse mythology is successful, but moreso just to play as the ultimate badass in gaming. So is it any good?
As mentioned, God of War has switched mythology, from Greek to Norse, however this is a direct sequel to God of War 3. With that said, it’s not absolutely necessary to play the previous games, but I would highly recommend playing at least God of War 1 to 3 before playing this one as they are just so fun. Kratos is a little older and it shows in both the way he acts and looks. He’s calmer, wiser, and he has a child he’s looking after, and trying to teach to be better than himself. Without spoiling the story too much, you follow Kratos and his son as they head to the highest point in the land to scatter the ashes of his wife. You don’t ever see her, or know how she died, but this is the goal throughout the campaign. Unlike prior games in the series, this one starts off quite slowly and with a somber tone, but soon you will face some fights that help set the scene as you are eased into the Norse mythology and new bosses.
Sony Santa Monica has completely reimagined Kratos in this God of War. His weapon of choice is also different, an ice axe that once belonged to his wife, that has a very satisfying recall feature. The combat has changed as a result, Kratos can embue his Leviathan axe with runes and attack enemies with it, he can then call the weapon back to himself and continue attacking. One other major change is the camera angle. In previous games, you played in third person view or with a fixed camera angle, so you could see Kratos’ entire body most of the time. However, in God of War 4, you’re playing with an over-the-shoulder camera angle, similar to what you might see in the Gears of War games, but during combat it zooms out a little to increase the field of view. It works really well for the most part, but I found it took away from the ‘epic’ nature of the series. No longer do you get views of large vistas or unique camera angles that show off the scale of what you are doing, which is a shame.
A lot has changed, and new systems have been added, possibly too many. A loot system, armour, multiple weapon upgrades, runes and more. The game is designed fairly well and slowly introduces you to them, and it will take you a while to absorb all of it; from the moves to the lore. You unlock new abilities and weapons throughout the game, one in particular, improves the combat which lets you tackle more enemies at once. The early stages of the game you are getting familiar with the axe and the new controls. The face buttons are not used other than the square button to instruct your son Atreus to attack, and this is used in clever ways as the story progresses. The blend between exploration and combat has drastically changed. There are a lot more sections where you are solving minor puzzles, but the balance is perfect. You never feel there is too much of one or the other, although the travelling in the boat and the fast travel system is a bit tedious and blatantly used to mask load times.
The world is quite open, it isn’t as open as Horizon Zero Dawn, but allows you to either play the main story or dip out of it and go do a side quest. One criticism is that many side quests require the late game abilities to fully explore, so if you do decide to do them before completing the main story, you will find yourself becoming quite annoyed with back-tracking. This also means you will only get the best loot after you have finished the game, when it isn’t as useful. God of War is also quite long; focusing on just the story will take you around 15 hours, and then there are loads of side quests to complete as well as collectables. There’s easily 30 to 40 hours of gameplay here.
God of War touches on many points that the older games did not even glimpse at. Rather than just rage from start to finish, this time you will feel almost every human emotion at some point. From humour to regret, and everything in between. You truly connect with Kratos, and knowing his struggles in the past and what they have led to. With Atreus you even see the worst parts of your character reflected in his comments and actions. Kratos now has a responsibility as a father to try and correct his son even though he made those same mistakes himself. God of War is still true to Kratos’ character, he doesn’t become a soppy mess, but a man who has been through a lot, and a man of few words. Although when he does speak there is wisdom present, even though Atreus may not see it and it is masterfully achieved.
This is by far the best looking game out on any next generation console, it looks fantastic, even on a standard PS4. The environments look amazing, every area is unique and every enemy is well designed and polished. Kratos in particular has had a lot of time spent on him, the wrinkles in his skin give more realism to what is a completely unrealistic game. However, it isn’t perfect on the standard PS4, there are moments where the gameplay stutters and texture pop in is quite frequent, but nothing that takes you out of the experience.
On the whole, this is not only the best God of War game, it is the best game I have played this year. Though it is riddled with several tiny annoyances, many of which I wouldn’t point out in other games. This only amplifies how many things this game does in an exemplary manner. You must play this game, even if you are not a fan of the series. Imagine if God of War was designed by Naughty Dog, with elements of Horizon, The Last of Us, Uncharted and Darksiders and you will get a picture of how different this title is.
- Replay Value