God of War has no business being as good as it is.
For a franchise best known for its testosterone-fuelled murder-fests and lowpoly threeways, a solemn journey taken by father and son is an idea out of left field.
Taking Kratos and making him someone with pathos and an actual emotional core is tricky, but Santa Monica Studios has done so, spectacularly. Even the idea of adding Atreus to the game is a huge risk. Making God of War one-long escort mission could have failed miserably.
Instead, everything in God of War works. More than works, it excels. I can’t fault God of War, even if I wanted to.
It’s flawless and a testament to Santa Monica Studios and Sony’s trust in its first parties.
God of War Review
God of War is a story of redemption, of discovery and of parenthood. It’s about being so desperate to avoid repeating the mistakes of the past that all-new ones are made in their place.
In God of War, parents are forced to face their own mortality, even gods, as their children are destined to one day become them and eventually replace them. God of War opens with Kratos and his son, Atreus, dealing with mortality, after the death of wife and mother Faye.
Her final wishes, to have her ashes scattered from the highest peak in the realms, leads the two travel partners on an increasingly complex journey. The less a player knows about this journey, the setting and the plot, the better.
God of War’s story beats craft a rich tapestry that weaves in vengeance, betrayal, love, heartache and lots of violence. It draws on Logan, The Road and the best Clint Eastwood westerns. It’s a brutal and beautiful tale about a family.
Kratos is a man driven. And a man running. Both away from his past and towards the future he wants. Unfortunately, he should know better. The past never stays buried and the future can’t be written.
It’s Your Story Atreus
God of War’s story is an absolute triumph, but its gameplay is just as good. It contains just enough of the older games’ DNA that it feels part of the series, but it’s radically different at the same time.
Exploration is the key. Quiet moments of exploration, punctuated by the conversations between Kratos and Atreus are the glue that holds everything together. Their relationship is the single most important part of the game and everything serves to magnify that.
Instead of the fixed camera angles of the older titles, God of War’s is now free to roam. Rather than fighting dozens of enemies that may as well be standing still, God of War throws a moderate number of smart, reactive enemies your way.
Combat is one of the shining pillars that holds God of War aloft. Equal parts hack n slash and fighting game, God of War’s combat is leagues ahead of other games in the same genre. Simple on the surface, yet endlessly complex underneath, God of War is a game that’s combat is for all players.
You can play defensively, waiting for your enemies to strike before parrying their attack and hitting them while they’re stunned. Alternatively, you can play offensively, going in for the kill and using everything in your arsenal to rip the enemy apart.
Better still, you can play using a combination of both. Parrying, blocking, countering and using the Leviathan Axe as a boomerang, you can do it all in the violent, bloody ballet that is God of War’s combat.
Coming Back for More
In addition to the flawless combat and pitch-perfect story, God of War also includes a massive world, filled with things to see and do. As I said, exploration is key, but you can’t go everywhere right away.
That’s right, God of War is like an incredibly violent version of The Legend of Zelda. As you progress, you’ll unlock new weapons, new skills and new abilities that let you explore further and open up new areas.
I found myself making mental notes of all the areas and chests that were locked off. As soon as I had what I needed to get in, I was straight back to collect the goodies. It’s a thread that keeps tugging throughout the entire game. When the story and side content are both so good you’ll sometimes struggle to decide what to do next.
It’s a good Sophie’s Choice.
Also like Zelda, as the story progresses the world changes, giving you more options for exploration. God of War has taken inspiration from the best of the best in video gaming and used them as a launchpad to become one of the greatest games of all time.
It’s taken the best of The Legend of Zelda, Dark Souls, The Last of Us and Uncharted. While the latest entry in each of these series is amazing, God of War surpasses each and every one of them.
So much of my time in God of War was spent just exploring the world. It’s an incredible technical achievement and one that’s an absolute joy to be in. The more time I spent there, the less I wanted to stop playing.
Best of the Best
There’s so much to love about God of War that I could keep writing this God of War review for another 10,000 words or so. But, in all honesty, you should just go and play it.
God of War is a cinematic masterpiece, a masterclass in game design and the greatest adventure game ever made.
It’s the absolute peak of AAA gaming and the best merger of storytelling and gameplay I have ever seen.
It’s unlikely we’ll see a game that surpasses God of War in this generation and if we do it’s going to have to do something insanely impressive.
For now, I’m going to go back to the game and play until I physically can’t anymore. If you have a PS4, I implore you to do the same.
God of War was reviewed on PS4, using a promotional copy provided to PowerUp! by PlayStation.
Kratos' character development and relationship with Atreus - 10/10
Flawless combat and gradual gameplay additions - 10/10
Breathtaking audio and visuals - 10/10
Best Game on PS4 - 10/10
God of War is the best game on PS4. Hell, it is probably the best game of this generation. To take Kratos and a franchise about blood, guts, fighting and fury and make it so much more is an incredible accomplishment.
To make that same game one you never want to stop playing, one that never fails to impress and one that is confident in its achievements is even better.
This is a game that simply demands to be played and it’s a game that never falters. Not once.