God of War full review

For some time, one of the most highly anticipated games for PS4 was God of War. The game was said to be a complete reimagining of the franchise, and would step away from what was offered in 2013’s God of War: Ascension. While this made some fans nervous, Santa Monica Studio has produced what could be one of the best games not only for PS4, but of this generation of gaming.

We’ve spent some time slaying beasts in Midgard, and here’s our God of War review.

Availability and platforms

God of War is available to download around the world following a 20 April 2018 release date. Though if you were hoping to play it on your Xbox One, Nintendo Switch or PC, you’re out of luck; it’s a PlayStation 4 exclusive, with no word on whether it’ll eventually come to other platforms.

If you want to pick up a copy of the game, you can do so not only via the PlayStation Store (£52.99), but Amazon (£46.00) and GAME (£47.99) in the UK. Those in the US have similar options; you can download it from the PlayStation Store ($59.99), Amazon ($63.99) or Best Buy ($59.99).

God of War review

Kratos, the Ghost of Sparta and son of Zeus, has moved away from his ultra-violent, God-killing ways and has instead chosen to settle down far away in the realm of Midgard. He then met his second wife, Laufey, settled down and had a son named Atreus. Following the death of his wife, Kratos and Atreus are tasked with taking Fey’s ashes to the highest point in all of Midgard to be scattered.

But it’s not as simple as it seems; despite being Atreus’ father, Kratos and his son don’t have a very close relationship. Kratos was always out hunting, while Atreus bonded with his mother, listening to her tales about the nine realms and its’ inhabitants. Atreus is in the dark about his father’s true nature as a God, but also as a person. The story is as much about the blossoming of the relationship between father and son, as it is about spreading the ashes.

While that seems pretty deep for a God of War game, the story is told to absolute perfection. You see the transformation of Atreus as he learns more about his father, and you see the relationship between the pair grow as they face humans and Norse beasts alike. While Atreus doesn’t offer much in the way of help at the beginning of the game, Kratos and his son are a lethal killing team by the end, and it’s that sense of progression that provides an overwhelming sense of satisfaction, and even pride.

As for details of the campaign, we’re staying tight-lipped; the twists and turns of the campaign are best experienced first-hand, and won’t have the same effect if you know they’re coming. Just trust us when we say that it’s one of the most emotionally engaging campaigns we’ve ever played, and it’s a bit of a laugh at times too. Essentially, it’s as far as you can get from a traditional God of War game as you can get, and we love it.

It’s not the story alone that carries God of War though; the gorgeous and varied semi-open world is an absolute joy to explore. Rather than the daunting expanse you're faced with in most open world games, God of War's semi-open world feels more manageable. It's broken up into realms that you'll be able to freely traverse, but every path has an obvious end (be it a dungeon, treasure chest or the home of a Forest Ancient) and you'll know when you've fully explored the area.

While that may sound like an odd choice, it means that the developers can really enhance the exploring experience by putting specific obstacles in your way, and treasures to find. Imagine the tight, narrative-driven world of Uncharted, but where you’re free to stop the campaign and explore.

Beyond the captivating story, God of War is one of the most visually stunning games we’ve seen in 2018. It’s incredibly detailed, from the way that heavy snow moves as you trudge through it to the way that Kratos’ individual beard hairs move as he speaks. And don’t worry about facial animations; they are natural and detailed (no Mass Effect: Andromeda issues here!).

The environments are atmospheric with gorgeous lighting, and are made even more magical by the incredible scale of statues, mountains and even some of the characters that you’ll encounter throughout your journey. There are moments in God of War where you’ll be left for words – it was the case during our playthrough, anyway!

It really does push the capabilities of the PS4 and PS4 Pro to the limit. The issue is that sometimes it’s a little bit too much for the console, and we experienced an admittedly small number of sub-30fps frame drops during our playthrough. Don’t let that put you off though; though we experienced a framerate drop on several occasions, it was only temporary and was back up to speed within a few seconds.  

Combat is pretty close to perfection in God of War, and that’s because it has been completely reimagined. It’s hugely different to what gamers are used to; gone is the cinematic camera used in previous God of War games, replaced by a continuous third-person, over-the-shoulder free camera.

Giving camera control back to the player allows you to take on enemies from all angles, rotating the camera freely, though you can also lock on to your enemy if desired. The camera also opens up the ability to use your environment to your advantage. See a huge stone block above a troll’s head? Throw your Leviathan Axe to break the chains and send it crashing down for huge damage.

It’s much more than simply introducing a new camera though; Kratos’ weapon of choice is no longer the fiery Blades of Chaos used in previous titles, and instead wields the ice-enchanted Leviathan Axe. Following the Norse theme of the new title, Kratos can throw the Axe at enemies and magically summon it back to his hand with the press of a button, much like Thor and his hammer Mjölnir. It’s incredibly satisfying and, when used correctly, can cause double the damage – some on the way out, and some on the way back!

You’re not limited to a small set of moves and combos, either. You’ll start off with fairly basic attacks, but as you gain XP by taking down enemies and completing missions, you can buy new devastating moves that can really change the outcome in tough combat situations. Your stats and attacks can also vary depending on your armour – some favour strength while others favour defence, and so on. You can tailor Kratos depending on your style of play, and it works really well.

Don’t forget about Atreus; your son can, and will, help out in combat. You can get Atreus to fire arrows at enemies, stunning them for a small time, and later in the game Atreus will take on enemies himself. You’d be surprised how many times Atreus’ arrows have saved our lives in the campaign, and it’s well worth upgrading his abilities early on.   

Although it plays like a linear game, the semi-open world nature of God of War provides a plethora of things to do once you’ve completed the main campaign. You can unlock legendary armour that’ll make you more powerful, you can save dragons hidden throughout the realms or, simply, help out the residents (and ghosts!) that you come across as you explore the nine realms.

Favours aren’t simply fetch quests used to fill up the semi-open world either; each favour feels like a story mission, complete with engaging stories and (sometimes) an epic boss fight. With the promise of Hacksilver, XP and rare items as rewards, what’s not to like?

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