God of War Review: Growing Up, Kratos

Has fatherhood truly changed Kratos or is this God of War as everyone remembers it? Our review.

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For adults that may be reading this, it's safe to say no one was the same person they once were when they were younger. Life changes, things happen, everyone meets people or experiences the kind of events that reshape their perspectives on life, society, and their outlook on existence. In short, people tend to grow up.

God of War appears to have a reached a crossroads. People remember the series for wanton violence, vulgarity, and an unbridled rage towards the world as a whole. But this new entry to the main series from Sony Santa Monica stars a Kratos who has clearly grown up, while hanging on to the root of what made him such a badass character. It's the former that makes this one of the best stories I've seen in a Triple-A game in a long time, while the latter makes it a whole lot of fun.

Sins of the Father

It'll be tough to tiptoe around the story of God of War, because honestly, there are a lot of twists and turns that should be experienced first-hand. But anyone who has followed the development of this new chapter is familiar with the central premise. Kratos is suddenly a single father, raising young boy Atreus and bringing him along on a dangerous journey across a world full of monsters, both alive and dead.

The Kratos at the start of the game isn't the Ghost of Sparta that everyone remembers. He's very much settled into family life, but circumstances see him suddenly embark on this adventure through the Norse land of Midgard with Atreus. What follows is a dive into the question of fate, maturity, and the ability to choose one's own path. Is it possible for people to change who they are? Or are they destined to always go down a certain path, especially when people judge them for past actions?

For Atreus, this theme also affects him as someone who's looking to stamp his own place in the world. Without spoiling the finer points of the Kratos/Atreus dynamic, God of War proves to be a fascinating look into what it means to be to try and be better, knowing they won't always be perfect, but that they have the means to sincerely endeavor to live on their own terms.

Bonding Exercise

The God of War combat formula returns, but with a greater degree of complexity. The biggest addition is the Leviathan Axe, which is basically Kratos' answer to Mjolnir. The Axe can be used as a melee weapon or flung at enemies in the distance. Kratos has multiple ways to fight, both with weaponry and bare-handed, with each style offering numerous upgrades and unlockable attacks.

Atreus can fight, too, but he's mostly off at a safe distance. For the most part, he can't be harmed, though I did bump into a few fights where he could be left momentarily incapacitated. Those are the difficult ones, because Atreus' help can be invaluable. His arrows can be upgraded to cause significant damage or cause a valuable distraction. The little guy will even jump into the fray himself, trying to strangle enemies and giving Kratos an opening to tear in with a combo.

As much fun as it is for Kratos and Atreus to fight together, there were also several moments in the game where they noticeably bonded through certain activities. There were a couple of instances in the game where Kratos would teach Atreus how to hunt with the player directing his arrow while proud papa kneeled over his shoulder or Atreus would get boosted into an unreachable area and solve a puzzle for his father. I particularly enjoyed these moments and thought more of them could have been incorporated into the story. As it was, I came to appreciate the two learning to fight together, especially when hitting the final set of boss battles.

Speaking of which, I remember citing during my preview in March that I barely noticed any quick-time events. That's much less the case with the rest of the game as a whole. Quick-time events are indeed here and while they feel less intrusive than past God of War games, they did start to feel unwelcome at certain point.

Father/Son Camping Trip

While past God of War games felt noticeably linear, God of War's PlayStation 4 version is very much not that. While the first couple of hours feel like Kratos is going down a set path, the world soon opens up in a huge way. It's not even just the main map, either, as players soon get a chance to check out multiple worlds, each with numerous puzzles, hidden areas, and collectibles.

If I have a criticism for God of War, it's that it sometimes feels like there are too many minor collectibles. There are multiple currencies, lore pieces, tokens, and the like, all of which contribute to different things. Some are used for customization at a dwarf shop, others are used to fill out Atreus' journal, and others just feel like collecting for the sake of collecting. For example, I don't feel the need to take out 100 ravens and it's hard to imagine anyone who would.

But many of the divergent side paths feel worthwhile. While some players will explore hidden temples to scoop up legendary items for Kratos, these will also contain ample challenges. Those who think the main game is too easy will dig these extra puzzles and battles.

Boyhood to Godhood

God of War was never the deepest experience, especially with what feels like limited enemy types. But the PlayStation 4 makes up for this in spades with an incredibly vast world and a heartwarming story. Beyond Kratos and Atreus, the game is filled with some surprisingly lovable characters. On top of that, finishing the main story doesn't truly feel like the end. While previous games made it feel like treading old territory to find everything, the post-game in this God of War makes it feel like the world has truly opened up.

God of War feels like a breath of fresh air, thanks to a reimagined world and some deeper customization features. But at the root of the game is the classic God of War combat, slightly less gory but only slightly less grisly. Tearing monsters apart bare-handed is just as much of a rush as it ever was. And that's good, because even if it's time to grow up, it's okay not to change too much.


This review is based on a PlayStation 4 download code provided by the publisher. God of War will be available on PlayStation 4 and the PlayStation Store for $59.99 on April 20. The game is rated M.

Senior Editor

Ozzie has been playing video games since picking up his first NES controller at age 5. He has been into games ever since, only briefly stepping away during his college years. But he was pulled back in after spending years in QA circles for both THQ and Activision, mostly spending time helping to push forward the Guitar Hero series at its peak. Ozzie has become a big fan of platformers, puzzle games, shooters, and RPGs, just to name a few genres, but he’s also a huge sucker for anything with a good, compelling narrative behind it. Because what are video games if you can't enjoy a good story with a fresh Cherry Coke?

Review for
God of War 2018

9

Pros

  • Deep, visceral, and intuitive combat
  • Heartwarming and complex father/son story
  • Memorable characters
  • Vast world to explore

Cons

  • Too many minor collectibles that feel inconsequential
  • Quick-time events aren't as numerous as in past GoW games, but can still feel bothersome

From The Chatty

  • reply
    April 12, 2018 12:01 AM

    Ozzie Mejia posted a new article, God of War Review: Growing Up, Kratos

    • reply
      April 12, 2018 4:46 AM

      I need to get this game.

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      April 12, 2018 5:12 AM

      Absolutely enthralled and enamored with the character Kratos. Looking back on God of War 1 through 3 I always thought about them as phenomenal games that I had a huge amount of pleasure playing and adored the grandness of the combat, but I never considered them to be on a list like my top 5 games of all time. They were great...just not in the way that games like Breath of the Wild, Super Metroid, or Last of Us hit me.

      Seeing the change to the series never worried me at all and in fact was something I embraced! So, it's obvious to say that I can not wait to play this game and feel the rumble of the Leviathan Axe hitting my palm.

      I can not wait to experience the scope and adventure everyone has been speaking of and I can imagine that I'll be able to finally say that God of War is one of my favorite games of all time.

    • reply
      April 12, 2018 6:06 AM

      i was gonna wait on this, but hard to ignore the reviews and my love for the earlier games.

    • reply
      April 12, 2018 6:20 AM

      Greenmangaming.com has it for 10% off

      https://www.greenmangaming.com/games/god-of-war/

      • reply
        April 12, 2018 6:26 AM

        You got my hopes up that there is a PC version. :[

      • reply
        April 12, 2018 2:35 PM

        Amazon doesn’t have the standard disc edition available?

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          April 12, 2018 3:01 PM

          It bugs me how unreliable Amazon is getting for Day One shit. I’ve gone almost completely digital though for video games.

          • reply
            April 12, 2018 3:03 PM

            I wanted to use my prime preorder discount. I’d be more about digital on consoles if the price wasn’t frequently higher than the disc plus loss of resale.

    • reply
      April 12, 2018 7:40 AM

      So pumped for this. I know at least one shacker worked on this and I'm glad that it looks like it's living up to the hype.

      • reply
        April 12, 2018 4:53 PM

        One review said the vanilla version plays better than the pro enhanced modes

    • reply
      April 12, 2018 8:15 AM

      How is the performance on a vanilla PS4?

    • reply
      April 12, 2018 8:24 AM

      The reviews for this are sterling. Some are even calling it a masterpiece. I may break down and buy a PS4 Pro just for this game. Damnit to hell. Or should I say hades?

    • reply
      April 12, 2018 9:09 AM

      Wow, look at these scores.

      https://opencritic.com/game/5434/god-of-war

    • reply
      April 12, 2018 9:09 AM

      Had no idea this was coming out. Hopefully it works fine on the regular PS4

      • reply
        April 12, 2018 1:33 PM

        It should be totally fine. All of the stuff from last E3 was on a PS4 Slim and I reckon most of the promotional material has been pulled from one.

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          April 12, 2018 1:49 PM

          Why on earth would they not pull promo material from a Pro?

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            April 12, 2018 4:23 PM

            I'm sure that they have. I am saying that I don't know what's been pulled from a Pro while I know that everything from last E3 was pulled from the Slim

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      April 12, 2018 9:35 AM

      not reading reviews, but can someone give me a one liner on ps4 pro performance? I assume 30 fps locked and 4k checkerboarding yes?

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        April 12, 2018 9:36 AM

        (is there a 1080p 60fps option?)

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          April 12, 2018 9:42 AM

          there's both a resolution and a performance mode. performance doesn't hit 60 but its still real smooth.

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            April 12, 2018 9:54 AM

            Http://arstechnica.com/gaming/2018/04/god-of-war-2018-how-to-reinvent-a-beloved-series-without-ruining-what-works/2/

            CHUGGING ALONG
            God of War's Norse myth-infused world looks great on a PS4 Pro, especially in screenshots. It looks worse in motion, though, with the frame rate constantly and noticeably chugging and sputtering below 30 frames per second during crowded scenes. This problem was frequent in the game's "prioritized resolution" mode. It's still sometimes present even in "prioritize performance" mode, where the PS4 Pro struggled to keep a consistent frame rate even at 1080p.

            The stuttering took me right out of the wonderful environments whenever it happened. I'd gladly trade some detail in the graphics for more solid performance.

        • reply
          April 12, 2018 9:43 AM

          The Resolution mode targets a frame rate of 30 fps, while the Performance mode unlocks the frame rate with a cap of 60 fps. (The graphics mode option is grayed out if you’re not using a PS4 Pro.)

          it says unlocks. Nothing about achieving 60fps target or frame times. Hitman has an unlocked framerate in performance mode and never hit the 60fps and was actually worse than 30fps.


          https://www.polygon.com/2018/4/12/17227946/god-of-war-ps4-pro-60fps-4k-1080p

        • reply
          April 12, 2018 9:46 AM

          I saw this last night, might be better ones by now: http://www.ign.com/videos/2018/04/12/god-of-war-graphics-comparison-ps4-vs-ps4-pro

          The smoothness of the performance mode looks like the winner to me, that extra fluidity looks helpful.

    • reply
      April 12, 2018 10:16 AM

      Curious what you thought about the change in camera view (didn't see that mentioned in the review).

      I was wondering if it affected the gameplay much (seeing more of Kratos, from a different angle than we usually see in the previous games).

      Does the camera ever pull back quite a bit to show the epic set pieces (one of my favourite things from the old games)?

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        April 12, 2018 10:41 AM

        That's one thing I'm interested in as well. When I started seeing previews/trailers/pictures of the gameplay of this new GoW my first though was, fuck that camera is way too close.

      • reply
        April 12, 2018 10:59 AM

        The camera doesn't quite pull back all the way during combat. Think something closer to Horizon Zero Dawn. But in-between battles, the game will revel in its set pieces.

    • reply
      April 12, 2018 10:39 AM

      In anticipation of this, I finally went back and beat GoW III which I had never done. I picked up the Remaster on the PS4 a while back and knocked it out over a couple of weekends. Damn that was a great game and I'm kind of pissed at myself for waiting so long to beat it. I'm way excited to the new one, especially now seeing the reviews. The trailers gave it a Last of Us vibe with the kid around, and I know how that turned out.

      • reply
        April 12, 2018 10:42 AM

        Same! God Of War III was the last game I finished, a few weeks ago (after owning the original for the PS3, only playing a few hours of it, and then getting a cheap used PS4 copy a few weeks ago). I finished it off in a 3 days.

        The story was silly, but the game was glorious.

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        April 12, 2018 2:56 PM

        hmmm Im sure I saw that in the used bin at the video game store last time I was there for like $10 perhaps I should go grab it. Never played it before.

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          April 12, 2018 2:57 PM

          If you have a PS4 you should get the remaster and play that instead.

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            April 12, 2018 3:02 PM

            yeah thats what I mean... saw it in the used bin last time I was digging through

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        April 12, 2018 3:28 PM

        How long did you punch at the end of 3?

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          April 13, 2018 8:09 AM

          Hahaha.. I let it go a good 5 minutes.. :)

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      April 16, 2018 4:02 PM

      GOD OF WAR!!!!

      (i am so taking an entire week off to platinum this game)