God of War PlayStation 4 Review

Kratos returns in the epic series that has always been a staple of the PlayStation console and a game that has been extremely well received over the years. Can God of War continue its amazing legacy or does it need to reinvent itself?  Absolutely it can, and it does it with ease.

Gameplay

As I sit here and write my review I must say that I’ve always been aware of God of War but have never actually played any of the original titles over the years.  This is my first God of War experience and there is certainly no rose tinted glasses, no love for the characters and no preconceptions in my mind before I begin. 

God of War is set in a mythology inspired world, developed by Santa Monica Studio and published by Sony Interactive Entertainment exclusively for the PlayStation 4 console. God of War is based on the Norse mythology as opposed to previous titles being based on Greek mythology. 

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God of War begins by introducing you to Kratos and his son Atreus, otherwise known as ‘boy’ throughout the majority of the game.  The opening sequences paint a sad scene where Atreus mother has passed away and her wishes are to have her ashes spread at the highest peak of the nine realms, and so your journey begins.  The first few hours of God of War set the scene and slowly introduce the games mechanics to you.  In fact, it does it quite well, however most of the first few hours is around setting the scene for the rest of the game as well as bringing you along on a new journey.  God of War does not start with a recap of all the past games, you’re characters legacy, nope.  For that I am grateful as this is a new experience and one that doesn’t require you to be a God of War connoisseur in order to enjoy what’s on offer here.

As you begin your journey towards the mountain that you can see in the distance you immediately feel the depths and lengths the developers Santa Monica Studios has gone to ensure the world feels ever so real, vibrant and full of life and dangers.  From the details in your small wooden cabin, to the cliff faces, mountains, pathways and caverns, it’s all incredibly beautiful right down to the last stone or shrub.  As you begin, your son otherwise known as “boy” aids you in your adventure.  At first it seems like the relationship is incredibly strained and it becomes clear that Kratos doesn’t really have any form of emotional bond with his son as yet, or at least doesn’t show it.  Maybe that’s the way it was with the Gods back in the day, but by today’s standards I could see there was something there.  Did Kratos truly not love his son or was he unable to show emotion, perhaps fearful of doing so? Is Kratos protecting his son? I think it may have been a combination of both perhaps, but I could clearly see that Atreus was very close to his mother who taught him many things from hunting to reading symbols and language present in this world for which Kratos did not seem to understand.

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Together Kratos and Atreus will need to work together to explore the lands and reach their ultimate goal, as well as fight together and solve puzzles and challenges together, and hopefully they can build a stronger bond along the way.  It’s a great concept and one that pulls at the heart strings as you go along your journey.  Atreus at first seems to think he is ready for the world ahead but clearly he is not.  Kratos whom is not one to show much affection and love, tries to ready his son for battle on a rather condensed time frame to boot.  It’s a great concept that see’s you work together in a great way, one that’s often failed in so many other titles where your sidekick feels grossly underpowered and not relevant, however here that is not the case.  Atreus can assist you with his bow and arrows during combat.  With the press of the square button, Atreus can stun your enemy with a quick bow attack, allowing you the opportunity to get in close and inflict some massive amounts of damage.  Although this perk is not unlimited, Atreus is limited to two arrows before having to recharge, however this can be upgraded down the track as you begin the skill tree upgrade process.

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Kratos is absolutely no slouch when it comes to fighting and the battle scenes in God of War are truly incredible.  Aside from the sheer scale of the enemies you will encounter, the way the boss fights are laid out mean you just can run in and mash the attack button till your enemy drops, it simply doesn’t work that way and resulted in quite a few early deaths for me.  The trick is timing and avoiding attacks.  Some attacks simply wipe you out, so it’s best to not be on the receiving end.  Moving around, dodging attacks and working with Atreus to stun your enemies is a great strategy to help you through your battles.  The animations as well are brilliant with some final finishing moves that can rip the horns off an enemies head and crush their skulls into oblivion. 

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And what better way is there to defeat your foes aside from your hands?  Kratos new weapon is the Leviathan Axe which is one serious axe.  It swings and hits like any old axe, except when thrown it can hold open switches and doors, and can return to you at the push of a button as well.  So it’s great to throw at distant enemies, engage in some fist fighting and then return to you for the finishing move. Of course there are a host of weapon upgrades that can be made along the way to improve its strength and attack power/speed. As you progress through the game, the various XP that you collect can be used to upgrade your skill trees as well.  What I like about games such as God of War is not to be overloaded with too many weapon choices, it’s great to keep it simple in many regards and less complicated in terms of which weapon works best with which enemy etc.  Aside from upgrading your weapons, God of War allows you to upgrade both Kratos and Atreus’ armour, including chest pieces, wrist and waist items.  Further you can use the various rune magic that you collect to upgrade things such as cool down rates, attack speed etc that can make each battle that little more easy.

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As you continue along your journey there is always a good reason to wander off the path a little as this is generally where you can find a host of random chests to crack open or gold sitting next to adventurers that have since fallen.  There are a host of collectible’s to seek out and find and should you miss any along the way you can replay various chapters to find any remaining items which is a bonus. These items can help you level up your character and upgrade your weapons quickly, so there worth seeking out. Sometimes wandering off the beaten path can result in meeting some rather overpowered opponents. At first I wasn’t sure why I was dying so quick, perhaps my health was not at 100%.  Then I realised I was dying with one hit and simply chose not to engage in that battle. Generally your enemies will have a purple health bar denoting the fact that they are overpowered, so tread cautiously.

Graphics & Sound

Visually God of War is a masterpiece.  From the smallest pot that lay on the ground, to the largest mountain, no item is left looking flat or bland. Every part of the environment is full of detail which is extremely noticeable when playing games on 4K televisions, suddenly every little detail matters.  Santa Monica Studios has done a fantastic job here and not just with the environment and the world, but with the various enemies and Kratos himself.  Even little details as to how the armour or fur moves independently to that of the character is amazing.  The lighting was also extremely well executed as even the darkest of caves shone bright with minimal lighting and never once did I struggle to find my way or have difficulty seeing what was ahead of me. 

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God of War runs at an acceptable 30 frames per second which in all honesty is absolutely perfect for a game of this pace.  The trade-off for the 4K visuals means that the frames per second were reduced, however the difference is hard pressed to tell,  unless you are performing a technical breakdown analysis and if you’re doing that you are missing the point here with God of War.  PS4 Pro users do have an option for graphics here with the ability to “favour resolution” or “favour performance”.  The favour resolution mode will target 30 frames per second, whilst the favour performance mode unlocks the frames per second to 60.  God of War does also use checkerboard rendering to achieve its 4K visuals as well.

The music score was adequate also for the title and most impressive where the sounds of your weapons clashing against your opponents bones. However you’d be forgiven for not taking a huge amount of notice at the audio score here as the visuals are where God of War truly shines.

Overall

God of War was a game that I had no real expectation for and for that I am glad.  God of War drew me in to its world and its story which kept me wanting more.  It is a beautiful journey that see’s Kratos go from a God slaying machine to a father and a warrior is truly spectacular. There is plenty of value here as well with its campaign running in excess of 25 hours.  Beyond that you’ll definitely want to revisit God of War just to enjoy the journey and the world that has been presented to us all by Santa Monica Studios.  The love and passion here is second to none, and truly deserving of your time, any day of the week.  A must buy!

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Thank you to Sony for providing a copy of God of War for review purposes.

Written by

Paul Barbara

I've been an avid gamer since I was 5 and owned almost all systems possible in that time. I love podcasting, having produced over 280 episodes over the last 7 years and I get a real buzz out of discussing all this gaming news with other gamers. So tune in!

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