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God of War review

Boy!

God of War
© Sony Interactive Entertainment / Santa Monica Studio

Over the last thirteen years there have been six games in the God of War franchise on various PlayStation platforms, including the PlayStation 2, PlayStation Portable and PlayStation 3. There was also a seventh game that appeared on mobile phones. The first game, simply called God of War, arrived on PlayStation 2 back in 2005. It followed the story of a Spartan soldier named Kratos and was set against a backdrop of Greek mythology. Kratos was originally in service to the gods of Olympus before joining their ranks as the God of War.

The latest release, also called God of War, is something of a reimagining of the series. Set many years after God of War III, this new game is set in the world of Norse mythology. Players again take the role of Kratos but he’s now older, complete with an impressive beard, and living with his estranged son Atreus.

Following the death of Faye, his second wife and the mother of Atreus, the pair must bond as they go on an epic journey. They want to fulfill a promise made to Faye to scatter her ashes on the highest peak of the the nine realms. It’s an interesting setup that gives the game a slower start than I was expecting.

View the God of War launch trailer below:

 

Kratos loves his son but struggles with how to be with him as Atreus was much closer to his mother. He’s very protective of him but likes to address him as “Boy” and often tells him to “Be better”. Atreus seems to be a disappointment and Kratos pushes him to test and teach him. The developing relationship between the two characters is one of the stand out features of the game.

The action in God of War is viewed from a new over-the-shoulder, one shot camera. This makes everything feel a lot more intimate and it just works wonderfully. It’s surely set a new standard for this kind of game and I’m sure we’ll see plenty more games using a similar setup in future.

There’s four difficulty levels to tackle and I found the second to be about right for my first playthrough. If the game is too hard or too easy you can change the difficulty on the fly, as long as you’re not playing on the hardest one. You’ll spend most of your time in God of War fighting the many different enemies and bosses that you encounter on your 25-30 hour journey. That’s a lot of combat but it’s so well implemented that you relish each and every battle.

God of War

© Sony Interactive Entertainment / Santa Monica Studio

The combat is brilliant and so satisfying thanks to the Leviathan Axe that Kratos wields as his main weapon. It’s a bit like Thor’s hammer as you can throw it at distant enemies and recall it at the touch of a button. It will even hit enemies on its way back if they get in the way. The Axe can be used for light (R1) and heavy (R2) melee attacks but when thrown it can also freeze whatever it hits. Throughout the game the Axe can be upgraded with new abilities which just serve to make it even cooler.

Combat requires more than button mashing and you need to adapt your tactics to each enemy. Rolling out of the way is important to evade attacks, especially when surrounded by multiple enemies or taking on the many superb boss fights. One essential thing to master is the Guardian Shield. It sits hidden on the left forearm of Kratos but unfurls with a tap of L1. Timing is key to use the shield for defense and to parry attacks.

When Kratos stuns enemies you can get in close and literally rip them apart with his bare hands. Dishing out damage slowly fills your Rage bar, and once full you can unleash your Spartan Rage ability. This lets Kratos deal extra damage using just his fists and is great for getting out of impossible situations.

God of War

© Sony Interactive Entertainment / Santa Monica Studio

Tapping the Square button calls on Atreus to assist you. If you’re looking at an enemy then a tap of the button will get him to fire arrows to distract them with his Talon Bow. As Atreus grows in confidence he’ll also jump in and help out with melee attacks and you can also upgrade his abilities with XP.

Similarly, you can spend XP to upgrade the abilities available to Kratos. On your journey you also obtain various crafting resources which can be used to create or upgrade armour. Usually the choice when choosing armour, other than it’s aesthetic, is whether you want to improve your strength or defence stats.

Once you’re done with the very generous main story, God of War still has plenty to offer. It’s possible to revisit locations and there are many quests to conquer, items to collect and enemies to defeat. If you want to do everything you can expect to find at least an additional 15 hours of content. This really is one huge game.

View some God of War screenshots in our gallery:

Graphically, God of War is easily one of the most impressive titles I’ve ever seen, even on a standard PS4. There’s incredible detail on everything from the main characters to the enemies and the world around you. The audio is just as stunning with brilliant voice acting and a memorable musical score from Bear McCreary that really enhances the entire experience.

Since launch, the latest patch has added a new photo mode to the game and it’s fantastic. Here you can pause the action and then move the camera to get the angle you want. Next you can add a bunch of effects and filters such as sepia, black and white or even borders. You can also change settings such as the depth of field and focal length to create that perfect shot. Finally it’s possible to remove characters and even modify their facial expressions. There’s hours of fun to be had slapping a beaming smile on Kratos.

God of War is an incredible achievement and as close to perfection as I’ve ever played. It’s a technical marvel with a fantastic story and endlessly satisfying combat. A true masterpiece that belongs in the library of every PS4 player. Roll on God of War 2.

God of War was reviewed using a digital code supplied by the publisher.

Publisher: Sony Interactive Entertainment Developer: Santa Monica Studio Release Date: April 20th, 2018 Reviewed On: PS4

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