God of War Review Roundup: Respect The Past, Embrace The Future

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While the gameplay mechanics are incredibly polished and unreasonably addictive, God of War's greatest asset is its storytelling, which took me by surprise.

God of War isn't just a game that I'll be thinking about for a long time, but playing and replaying as well.

In God of War's case, the increased resolution isn't worth the frame rate trade-off.

There has been a particular focus on the way the game looks. If you've played some or all of the games from the PS2 and PS3, you'll notice occasional hallmarks of the series - like chests and enemy juggling - but not a lot has stuck around for the ride. Its world is one rich with lore that makes up many journal entries and exciting finds, but its story of compassion and family is what's driving Kratos and his son forward. It's always a risk when developers reboot popular franchises from the past but any concerns appear unwarranted as God of War has proven to be a master class of mixing the old with the new, keeping the large-scale action and settings but adding more emotional depth.

Impossibly large temples of stone and precious metal, brilliantly glowing crystals and magical effects, and technically mind-boggling set-pieces that your brain will struggle to comprehend all suggest a game that would have been impressive on next-generation hardware. 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. It is only because he is wary of what the Norse god's interest in him might portend for his son that he has Atreus accompany him. We can consider his introduction as a catalyst to Kratos' shift. This is still the same, brutal Kratos we've met in the past.

As you can imagine, you don't get an aggregate score of 94 without a number of 10/10 reviews, and God of War seems to have those in spades. As with Kratos' moves, Atreus' are also upgradeable and new techniques and powers become available as the game progresses. A fast-moving wraith dodges Kratos' swings but a fast shot arrow from Atreus stuns it long enough for you to get up close and personal.

The latest "Major Update", the firmware 5.50 has brought many new features such as the system of Supersampling, UI of the improved library, custom wallpapers via USB stick, management of game time and improvements to the notification system. The start of the game will make a strong impact, and it'll be sustained by the way your journey unfolds. This God of War is slower, less gory, and less angry.

SIE Santa Monica Studio  Sony Interactive Entertainment via Polygon
SIE Santa Monica Studio Sony Interactive Entertainment via Polygon

But is it still violent? Yes. God of War is, in a single word, holistic.

This is a story about the sins of the father - a central theme wrapped around the experience like a flaming chain and mirrored in the characters you meet. What is surprising, however, is how well it all works, not just the change in setting but the ambitious writing and more involved combat. Certain enemies are resistant to axe damage, meaning you're encouraged to adapt on the fly, running into the fray to rip open stunned enemies before beckoning your axe back into your palm. For the most part, he can't be harmed, though I did bump into a few fights where he could be left momentarily incapacitated. Atreus, then, is the ideal companion. While not flawless and sometimes prone to making mistakes, Atreus usually knows what to do in certain situations.

On a mechanical level, the control scheme has been changed so that light and heavy weapon attacks are mapped to the controllers' right triggers instead of its face buttons. You can tell him which enemy to target with his arrows. The addition of Atreus helps that and Sony Santa Monica uses this new character to pull players deeper than ever into the narrative and themes of the game successfully. He even warns you of incoming attacks which is great if you're overwhelmed by enemies.

"A lot of what goes into God of War feels as though it was cherry-picked from the modern gaming zeitgeist". There's a chance that all the changes in this game would cause polarizing opinions, especially for purists of the game.

If a player chooses the "Give Me God of War" difficulty, they will be in for a significantly different gameplay experience.

God of War comes with all the trappings of a video game released in 2018, letting you loose into a small open-world, filling it with sidequests, and layering it in light RPG elements, but it's such a handsome, awe-inspiring landscape that even simply exploring is enjoyable.

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