REVIEW: God of War

Ever since its official reveal at E3 2016, God of War has been one of those titles PS4 gamers have been dying to get their hands on. With its new take on the franchise, Santa Monica Studio has been working on God of War for the PS4 for over 4 years now and it’s about to be unleashed on the world with critical acclaim already coming in from early reviews. Does the title live up to these lofty claims and has Santa Monica Studio successfully re-invented one of its most iconic creations? Read on to find out in our review of God of War.     I want to start by stating that this review will be completely spoiler free, only what has already been showcased in promo videos and articles will be touched on but by no means will the specific details of the story be discussed. This game’s appeal, and one of its most captivating features is its story and to spoil it on anyone who has yet to play the game would be extremely unfair.

Story

As we already know from the many trailers and images, the main narrative arc in this game is Kratos’s relationship with his son Atreus. We’re introduced to them at an extremely difficult time in their lives but, due to an ‘unplanned event’, they are forced to embark on their journey much quicker than they had expected.  
  There’s no denying, the fraught relationship between this father and son reminds us of the relationship between Joel and Ellie from Naughty Dog’s The Last of Us. Atreus, like Ellie, is Kratos’s only hope of becoming more human and empathetic but it’s not without its struggles. Kratos is an incredibly stoic and disciplined individual and, given his own upbringing, it’s understandable to see why he’s this way. With Atreus’s naivety and compassion though, their relationship, and Kratos’s own view on the world starts to alter as the narrative progresses.

Gameplay

Pairing this meaningful and thoughtfully created relationship mechanic with the good old fashioned hack-and-slash combat that we’ve all grown to love from the God of War franchise, you’ve got an experience that’s not only thoroughly enjoyable but deeply human. That’s not to say the combat hasn’t been given its own overhaul either. One of the most notable edits is the introduction of Kratos’s new Leviathan Axe which is capable of extremely violent light and heavy attacks.
 
  One of the coolest features now that you’ve been bestowed with this magical axe is the ability to recall it once you’ve thrown it into an enemy’s chest, for example. With a tap of the triangle button, the axe flies back into the right hand with an satisfying thud. During the battle sequences, your son Atreus will also help you out with his trusty bow and arrows which he uses to stun and distract nearby enemies whilst you look for health. I’ll admit, I found it slightly confusing trying to not only focus on my own combat plan but to also utilise Atreus’s abilities as well but, after time, I learnt how to use him to my advantage more and more.  
  There’s also a comprehesive upgrade system in place for both your weapons and armour along with the ability to upgrade both your own and Atreus’s combat abilities as well. The menu system is little daunting at first (for me anyway) but once I got to grips with the location of each of the sections, I found myself becoming more and more tactful with how I spent my XP and silver. One of the most striking features of this title and something Sony Santa Monica should be extremely proud of is the fact they’ve manage to make it one continuous experience. What I mean by this is that there are no loading screens once you start the game (apart from when you die and must reload your last checkpoint.) Not only are there no loading screens, there are also no camera cuts as gameplay blends in and out of cut-scenes in one continuous take and it really is something special to see in action. It’s a fantastic way to keep you, the player, engaged and engrossed in the story and it’s only when you turn off your console and go about your daily life that the experience is paused.
 

Graphics

Having reviewed this title on a PS4 Pro and a 55″ Sony Bravia 4K HDR display, it goes without saying that God of War is one of the best looking games ever made. Both Kratos and Arteus are unbelievably well detailed and animated with something as inane as Kratos’s beard one of the most realistic digital recreations of human facial hair I’ve ever seen in a game! Then there are the environments.     The attention to detail is only matched by the likes of Naughty Dog but the sense of atmosphere and lived-in history is unparalleled. The colour palette used throughout the varying landscapes is also simply stunning and even the attention to detail on each of the enemies you encounter is fantastic.  
  Lighting and particle effects are also some of the best I’ve ever seen in a game with realistic light-shafts piercing through the many caves you explore and the gorgeous fire embers flying off your lava-filled foes look truly jaw-dropping when everything is in motion.
 

Conclusion

With its captivating story, satisfying combat and stunning visuals, God of War really is one of the best games available, on any platform, right now. Clocking in at almost 30 hours, you’re definitely going to get your money’s worth when you take into account the production quality and attention to detail each individual part of the game received. God of War is an extremely engaging experience and sets up what is sure to be the start of a fantastic new re-imagining of one of Sony Playstation’s most iconic franchises. Bravo, Santa Monica Studio. God of War is available this Friday, April 20th, and you can pre-order it now on the Playstation Store via this link here. A review code of God of War was supplied to TheEffect.Net from Sony Playstation Ireland and was reviewed on a Playstation 4 Pro system.  
John Reilly :John is Founder and Editor-in-Chief of TheEffect.Net. His favourite gaming series is Uncharted and his favourite film is Interstellar. He is also known to quote 'Father Ted' and Keith Lemon more than is normal. John@theeffect.net