God of War (PlayStation 4) Review

By Albert Lichi 30.04.2018

Review for God of War on PlayStation 4

In the eighth console generation, a new trend in major releases known as a "soft reboot" in long running franchises has arrived. This is when the powers that be deliver something that can be best described as a sort of half-hearted attempt at making a sequel, yet downplay all connecting threads to previous entries to make this new product stand on its own merits as much as possible. All of this is in service to make this valuable and recognisable brand more marketable to a new audience, while trying to placate long running consumers of the respective brand. Oftentimes, this will resort in a very confusing title with no numeral or sometimes may or may not have some kind of embarrassing colon subtitle. There have been tons of soft reboots this generation; some have been incredible successes, like Resident Evil 7, Doom 2016 or Prey (2017)... but there have also been some really terrible ones, too, like Thief (2014) or DmC: Devil May Cry. Now, God of War has hit this soft reboot button, giving the entire core of the franchise a make-over. From the combat, to the tone and story-telling; the ghost of Sparta's story continues in a new Norse myth-inspired journey of father and son.

Depending on who is asked, the God of War games can mean different things to different people. Some recall this series as a button-mashing brawler with high spectacle set-pieces. Others may refer to these as high-energy fun that pays homage to the ancient Greek myths with a ton of visual panache. Typically, many people would recall this series as shallow, yet above all: fun. Who doesn't want to play as a blood-thirsty warrior who fears nothing and challenges the most powerful of deities? The God of War series really was one of Sony's ultimate guilty pleasures that inspired other developers to follow suit with action games that featured outrageous feats. The first game was the inspiration for Bayonetta and while Platinum Games refined that foundation to craft a game that was more focused on having a high skill ceiling, God of War consistently kept the combat mechanics very simple and easy to use for general players, relying more on Quick-Time Events for huge attacks. With God of War, the sequel to God of War III, Santa Monica Studio ripped out almost all of its old pages from the play-book and looked to other action game contemporaries to fill it up.

Screenshot for God of War on PlayStation 4

Anyone going into God of War won't have too much trouble understanding his character. Very early on the story portrays him as a figure that has a history of violence, has committed atrocities, and is now old and tired. He obviously loves his son but is constantly afraid to show him affection because he hates his own emotions. Kratos as a character is executed in an interesting manner here, but anyone who is truly familiar with him from past games may find how the story constantly tries to make him seem sympathetic somewhat off-putting. The fact is that Kratos was, and still is, Murder-man McPsychopath, and his core concept was to be a deconstruction of Greek myths. He himself is a composite of several Greek legends and the point of his being was to illustrate how messed up these figures would be. In short, Kratos is not a good person and would be the first one to admit that he is a monster. Even throughout the adventure of God of War 2018, he acts very selfish and is always in a bad mood. This is fine in itself, but it's just perplexing to see this try to get anyone to muster any feelings for this clearly bad guy because he reaps what he sows. There are some genuinely sweet moments of Kratos bonding with his son. The way their personalities play off each other is the whole reason why the story is worth the ride.

As par the course with PlayStation 4 exclusives, God of War is a looker. This is easily one of the best looking action games ever made, and when in performance mode on a PS4 Pro, it is one of the fastest running. The wide range of locales and sweeping vistas give this quest a truly epic feel. The trip through the various realms are so lurid and vibrant with their own denizens, with so much land mass to trek and battle on, it's staggering how much the designers packed into this one product. What is not cool is when the game ends there is quite a bit of unfinished business that is obviously being held hostage in a future sequel. In the original God of War, as the title suggested, players were promised a battle with Ares, the God of War, and they got that. In God of War 2018, certain characters are built up and the expectations would be to engage them in combat at some point. Sadly, this does not happen. There are a few hopes that are not fulfilled as the story progresses that were staples to the series... like a certain mini-game. This new entry takes itself too seriously to have fun like that.

Screenshot for God of War on PlayStation 4

It has become a laughable cliché at this point in games media to compare any videogame to Dark Souls. It shows the author is lazy and creatively bankrupt. In the case of God of War, it is so blatant it is hard to fight the compulsion, though. The boys at Santa Monica Studio love From Software. Who doesn't? However, in the case of God of War, it came at the cost of its own identity. There are lots of visual cues that are taken from Dark Souls, like the way the corpses of knights are looted and even how one scenario involving a dragon is played out that will instantly give flashbacks to the Undead Burg. On its own, God of War actually manages to pull off these inspired-by moments extremely competently and the game is great for it. If the developer is going to rip off something, thankfully it is ripping off from some of the best. Even how Kratos handles clearly stems from From Software's winning formula: the right shoulder buttons are the light and heavy attack, and a face button dedicated to side-stepping or dodge-rolling. Keep in mind; up till this entry, the franchise had a fixed camera that automatically tracked Kratos, and the combat was mapped to the face buttons, and the right stick was used for dodging. This was a staple for the series and made it unique amongst its contemporaries. It is a little sad to see Kratos give up what was his signature gameplay style for ten years across six games in favour of what is popular from another competing franchise.

God of War's combat is not totally unoriginal. Santa Monica Studio definitely agonised over many of the intricacies that make up how Kratos moves and negotiates his enemy encounters. When fighting, Kratos still fights like the Spartan he is known as. His aggression and ferocious hate is felt with every swing; the power in his muscles flexes and twists, exuding god-like might as they bulge as Kratos rips an elf in half with his bare hands. It all feels so raw and savage, yet utterly satisfying. Fighting as Kratos still taps into the animalistic part of our brain - the ancient part of us that acts on instinct for survival. Still, it does feel like that the camera is a bit too close to Kratos at times. It is obvious what the developer was going for by having the perspective so intimate with the player-character: to emphasise the brutality of the battles and make things feel tenser. This does work for the most part, but it also gets to be a pain when Kratos gets cheap-shotted by off-screen enemies. There are various counter-measures to alleviate this from happening too much, thankfully, like how Atreus will shout a warning, or the somewhat deceptive on-screen indicator. It takes some getting used to since this is borderline a first-person brawler due to how close the camera is to Kratos' point of view.

Screenshot for God of War on PlayStation 4

This is a pretty long action title where the pacing has its rises and drops to great effect. The older releases were full of set-pieces where the action was constant and trying to one-up itself, but here there is more effort to create highs and then to gradually build back up to it. The only drawbacks are, shockingly, the side-quests. The thing is with the side-quests here is that all of them are padding and doing them will make Kratos absurdly over-powered for the main quest. They just were not implemented in a way to make them compelling since much of them are just doing errands or doing a variation of a reoccurring puzzle.

Doing Zelda-style puzzles as Kratos just feels weird - like Spider-Man taking a taxi. He just doesn't seem like the type to solve a puzzle to open a gate or chest... he'd probably just smash it. On their own they are okay, but ultimately feel forced in what could have been a very tightly paced action affair. This can also be said about the completely unnecessary RPG mechanics. Why is Kratos contemplating armour types and crafting gear materials? To him, this is like a baby's toys. All of the upgrading and point distributing feels like something for some other non-God of War outing and having it here really bogs down the action. It is already annoying as it is to have collectibles in this, which only have the purpose of being sold for more money to buy more nonsense Kratos can use to augment his stats when the game should be more about players using their wits and reflexes. Some of the relics that grant abilities are acceptable, like one that has a witch-time dodge offset, but what the team should have done is make these purchasable skills that get added to a move-set, rather than some passive ability that is tied to some trinket Kratos must equip. He is a demi-God, not a Witcher.

If there were things that could be added to improve God of War, it would be New Game+ and maybe some kind of variation of the "Bloody Palace Mode," where Kratos can just fight increasingly harder waves of enemies and has to survive for as long as possible. These kinds of additions would greatly add value to an already fine action romp.

Screenshot for God of War on PlayStation 4

Cubed3 Rating

Rated 8 out of 10

Great - Silver Award

Rated 8 out of 10

God of War is an exceptionally solid action game that delivers the epic scope the series is known for, but in a new way. While many of the plot elements are a bit forced at times, the characters themselves are well written and performed very naturally. Don't expect to feel for Kratos much, no matter how hard the game tries, because he is just too much a monster. The real star is the fluid combat, realistic visuals, and the rousing set-pieces. It is unclear how far the PlayStation 4's architecture is being pushed, but it wouldn't be surprising if God of War is pushing it to its absolute limit because there is never a moment when it does not look stunning. There is a so much to like that the weaker aspects get drowned out and easily ignored and pulling that off is no easy feat.


SIE Santa Monica




Action Adventure



C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  8/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  0 (0 Votes)

European release date Out now   North America release date Out now   Japan release date Out now   Australian release date Out now   


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