The original God of War trilogy spanned the PS2 and PS3 systems and served as graphical benchmarks for both. Over the course of those three games Kratos was responsible for creating a housing surplus on Mount Olympus. In God of War, Kratos returns to bring his trademark wrath to the Norse gods. This newest version of God of War doesn’t just set a benchmark for graphics, it sets a benchmark for games in general and the way stories can be told through this medium.

a weary Kratos is left alone with his son Atreus who Kratos appears to have a genuinely heartfelt tolerance for

Starting Again

We rejoin Kratos living in Midgard, the land of the Norse gods. The game begins just after his wife Faye has passed away, leaving a weary Kratos alone with their son Atreus whom Kratos appears to have a genuinely heartfelt tolerance for. The father and son set off on a journey to scatter Faye’s ashes from the highest peak in the realm, a task that turns out to be much more complex than Kratos had anticipated.

god of war review
Who’s asking, hipster?

That is all that will be said about the story in this review, all information which was contained in the trailers released in the run up to God of War’s release date. The story of God of War is fantastic and spoiling any of it should carry a harsh enough penalty. The screenshots used in this review will also try to avoid spoiling the surprising and imaginative level design throughout the game, the game is full of awe-inspiring vistas, which are meant to be enjoyed in motion, as opposed to in a static image on a web-page.

Christopher Judge makes an excellent Kratos and his deep voice lends even more presence to the 6’6” rectangle of muscle that is Kratos

A Slightly More Mature Kratos

What will be discussed here is the strong character development and excellent story telling that occurs throughout the game. Kratos in the original trilogy, as a character, was an angry man/demigod with prodigious strength who yelled a lot and hit stuff with knives on the end of chains. Original trilogy Kratos could never have been accused of having too much depth and there was really no need for depth, he was full of rage and wanted a sort of general revenge on almost everyone in the Greek god roster.  In this iteration of the franchise Kratos now has a son that he is solely responsible for and we see him struggle to not constantly berate Atreus as violence and anger are clearly key components of Kratos’ happy place.

god of war review
I could crush you puny human

The motion capture and voice acting are mostly excellent here. Christopher Judge (of Stargate SG-1 fame) makes an excellent Kratos and his deep voice lends even more presence to the 6’6” walking rectangle of muscle that is Kratos. I am about to mention the only issue that I have with God of War, which is Atreus’ American accent, the voice actor did a fine job as Atreus with some great acting, but occasionally his accent took me out of the beautifully-created Norse fantasyland that Santa Monica Studios has created. Obviously, this criticism is the very definition of a nit-pick and at no point really hampered my enjoyment. But I’m struggling to think of any negatives here, so I had to go with it.

Kratos’ gruff monosyllabic dismissals of Atreus’ boyish wonder frequently raised a smile

god of war
God of War even has a unique take on fast travelling

Taking Responsibility

After the loss of his wife we see a Kratos that is clearly struggling not to succumb to the rage that had previously gotten him through his previous adventures. Of course, Kratos is still the furthest thing from warm and fuzzy that you could imagine but compared to the original trilogy, he’s mellow. As Kratos and Atreus journey together we see their relationship evolve but since Kratos is a demigod of few words, the game must show us this growth in other ways. God of War also has a healthy streak of humour running through it; Kratos’ gruff monosyllabic dismissals of Atreus’ boyish wonder frequently raised a smile and the interactions with the Dwarven merchants were well mined for laughs.

Atreus serves as a waypoint and tip system if the player ever feels at a loss as to next steps

Atreus; A Rare Welcome Sidekick

The character of Atreus adds a lot to the game as it makes clear the complex emotions that he stirs within his usually very stoic father. He also serves as a lore compendium for people less than familiar with Norse mythology. In battle Atreus is no slouch either, he offers great assistance by firing arrows at the enemies designated by the Kratos, as well as hopping on the back of enemies that get close enough and giving them a good stabbing. Atreus also serves as a waypoint and tip system if the player ever feels at a lost.

god of war review
Where to next, boy?

Immense Immersion

Throughout the 30 hours of gameplay God of War strives to sustain a feeling of engagement between the player and what is happening onscreen. Within the first 20 mins Kratos is giving instructions to Atreus about how to properly shoot a bow to fell a deer, the player feels like a necessary part of this event, allowing the player to take control of what would have been a cutscene in a lesser game. Every time Kratos starts to sprint the controller rumbles, this serves as a constant reminder of the sheer physical strength and power of Kratos. It’s so clear how well thought out every aspect of this game is, and the reward for the player is one of the most immersive gaming experiences on the market.

god of war review
Eat boot evildoer

The meat of God of War, just like all preceding God of War titles is the combat and it’s no slouch here. Since losing his knife blades at the end of God of War III Kratos now wields an axe imbued with the power of ice. In the original series I would argue that the perspective caused a degree of separation between the player and the action. Here the new behind the shoulder camera lends the combat a physicality that was not present in previous titles.

Every encounter is interesting and varied and partaking in the fluid combat on display here is always a pleasure

Never Stop Chopping

As Kratos gains experience the player will have access to a very comprehensive moveset, enough to deal with everything that the game flings at you. Speaking of flinging (what a segue!) Kratos can at any point throw his axe at a foe, or later in the game multiple foes and then recall it instantly. The moves that unlock later in the game expand on this ability and give Kratos the ability to unleash more damage on foes. Each piece of armour can also be enchanted, and Kratos’ Leviathan Axe can be fitted with two enchantments that give a variety to the light and heavy attacks.

god of war review
You’ve got something on your head mate.

A game with so much combat needs hefty enemy variety and God of War certainly provides that. Every encounter is interesting and varied and partaking in the fluid combat on offer is always a pleasure. As soon as enemies would appear I would start sprinting towards them, excited about the battle to come.

god of war review
Soon after this was taken Kratos attempted to kill the god rays

Yeah, it looks alright

During the last generation of consoles games were rightly criticised for their dreary colour palette, it’s such a relief we have made it through video games’ brown period. God of War is full of vibrant and rich colours, perfectly fitting its fantastical settings. God of War has made the move to semi open-world so there is some backtracking involved. The game does its best to justify this backtracking and it mostl succeeds. Stealing some tricks from Dark Souls, Kratos will open some quick routes back through levels which are definitely appreciated.

god of war review
Home sweet hovel

The visuals here are some of the best that I have seen on the PS4, and this reviewer is still slogging away with an original system. The framerate on the original system was overall solid, there were moments when the game was loading in a new area and there may be the odd stutter but it’s never enough to hamper enjoyment. The texture work here is brilliant, the rough wood of Kratos’ dwelling to the smooth otherworldly walls of the temples Kratos and Atreus journey through. From admiring the beams of light spilling through holes in ancient ruins to eerie fog lying over a magical lake to the particles, oh so many wonderful particles, this writer is quite sure that many players’ attention will be captured often by the intricate beauty present in God of War.

[Gaming editor’s note: PrimeVinister played God of War on two televisions. A mid-range 4K HDR that did a great job of showing the game’s immense visuals most of the time. The framerate was choppy in 4K mode, aiming for 30 frames and falling a few frames short quite often. This was bothersome enough to make me switch permanently to ‘performance mode’ where the uncapped FPS hovered somewhere between 40 and 50. This was much better even with some occasional judder as the engine throttled itself in certain areas.

I also tried the game on a mid-range 1080P screen without HDR, the game’s colouring and atmosphere naturally suffered but the solid 30 frames with supersampling was probably the most enjoyable experience for me.]

the texture work here is brilliant, the rough wood of Kratos’ dwelling to the smooth otherworldly walls of the temples Kratos and Atreus journey through

There was much made of the fact this game has no loading screens and can be played through straight. I felt a fair amount of scepticism about this and was convinced that on a few occasions that Kratos and Atreus would find themselves on the Norse equivalent of the Citadel elevator from Mass Effect, this is not the case. Since God of War flows so well, it is possible that hours will pass and the fact that you weren’t sitting reading tips while you waited for the next world to appear may very well pass you by. It’s important to note that even after dying the game is ready for you to hop in again straight away; it is a technical marvel in this regard.

god of war review
God of Warring really takes it out of you. Wrecked!

Standard Soundtrack, Deployed Perfectly

The impeccable voice acting has already been covered but the entirety of the sound design is excellent. The soundtrack delivered by Bear McReary, composer extraordinaire, is standard fantasy fare but deployed masterfully. The soundtrack knows when to swell for the many epic moments and when to withdraw to let the ambient noise fill the empty spaces of a forgotten cavern.

god of war review
Its difficult to capture in a screenshot but this roar sounded great

God of War is one of the best games this writer has had the pleasure of playing in years….maybe ever. Almost every aspect of this game is nearly perfect, and the other aspects are perfect. For this writer the physicality is the enduring element of this title. The sense of power communicated to the player while controlling Kratos is always present. The sense of excitement of where the grand adventure will go next and the fascinating relationship between partially reformed vengeance machine and his son make this an experience to remember.

Formats: PlayStation 4
Price: €69.99
Publisher: Sony Interactive Entertainent
Developer: SIE Santa Monica Studio
Release Date: 20/04/2018 
Age Rating: PEGI 18+

Review code provided by PR