Developer: Sony Santa Monica
Release Date: OUT NOW
God of War is great. In fact it’s better than great; it’s an essential play. During an era of gaming where some of the biggest selling titles are garage-built pixelated retro affairs or money-hungry mobile apps, God of War stands tall as a genuine, tent-pole blockbuster. Big of budget and beautiful to behold, this is an experience where the best in gameplay meets the best in cinema to create a powerhouse piece of entertainment that’ll rock your man cave.
The eighth game in Sony’s brutal action series returns to the unnumbered, non-subtitled God of War name, but it’s not a reboot: it’s a new chapter. Players jump back into the shoes of the mighty Kratos — albeit an older version — who has sought a new life away from the deeds of his past in the frigid cold of Scandinavia. We find him mourning the loss of a woman, mother to his son Atreus, and faced with preparing the young boy for the challenges ahead.
Those challenges are typically epic. While the trials he faced while playing through the worlds of Greek mythology are gone, the powers of Norse mythology have taken their place. And these titans of the north aren’t welcoming Kratos with open arms.
We won’t spoil the story, other than to say that the way it is told is sublime. The game segues in and out of cutscenes and gameplay so seamlessly you cannot spot the difference. While the dialogue and animations between father and son provide real emotional impact. The cinematography — helped by the incredible detail in the world design — also captures the series’ iconic sense of scale, with brutal encounters and jaw-dropping setpieces you won’t easily forget.
Combat also remains addictive and gory. Unlike previous games, the new God of War ditches the fixed-camera model, giving you more control over where Kratos is looking. For a brawler heavily relying on combos, this could have been a game breaker, but Sony has done a brilliant job of retaining the signature style of play.
Rolling and jumping in and out of enemies, linking your attacks into combos and getting up close for ruthless finishing moves flow from your fingers and thumbs with ease. There is a levelling-up skill tree and various weapons — and runes to empower weapons — to unlock as you go, adding an ever-increasing variety of strategies. Plus you can also take some control over Atreus in combat, ordering him to fire off his arrows to distract opponents or otherwise complimenting your attacks.
God of War is exceptional gaming. The new setting and style of play — which also includes far less reliance on quick-time events — invigorates the gameplay. But it is the story which will grab you by the guts and pull you in.
By Chris Stead
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