God Of War:
The God of War series holds a special place in my heart. Kratos’ first outing was also my first game on the Playstation 2, and one of my first forays into the hack and slash genre after the 3D boom revolutionised it.
As such I went into the latest God of War, reborn on the PS4 and rebooted into the Norse mythology (Kratos kind of killed everyone worth mentioning in the Greek pantheon, after all), with a fair amount of healthy trepidation.
This, I thought, is not my God of War – and indeed it wasn’t. This is an entirely new beast – and that’s not necessarily a bad thing.
For the first time in… well, pretty much forever, I was hooked on this God of War primarily for story purposes. That should send up the appropriate warning signs to diehard fans such as myself immediately, and indeed it’s a focus that returning vets are going to have to wrap their heads around. The hack and slash action gameplay is still here, but it’s never mistaken for the star of the show. This is a character study into a man haunted by an incredibly bloody past and a serious identity crisis, and his strained relationship with a son he doesn’t know how to interact with.
It’s actually a really interesting hook, with some stellar voice acting setting a new bar for just how low and gravelly an action hero’s voice can go. Watching Kratos and Atreus – his son – hesitantly get to know each other makes for some engaging and terse conversations. As we explore their tense chemistry we’re also exploring a whole new world that’s incredible to discover. The scene-switch makes for fascinatingly fresh stories, full of an entirely new cast of Gods to meet and get on the wrong side of.
God of War is a paradigm shift when it comes to gameplay. Whilst at face value this game is still a hack-and-slasher, it’s a much more reserved – even safe – one. Serving as a sort of soft series reboot, Kratos’ newest adventure trades the insane and challenging combat-centric gameplay for a slower paced walking sim, interjected with fights that ask a lot less of the player. Gone are the hundred hit combos, the huge array of choice when it comes to weapons and attacks, and the frankly ludicrous amounts of gore. God of War still loves visceral kills and blood and guts, but it’s used far more sparingly now, opting to serve its grounded story with a more restrained sense of violence.
This might be alarming to read, especially from a series that used to pride itself on just how toe-curlingly-wince-inducing it could make each and every kill. Honestly, I missed the massive challenge the series used to throw up and the huge array of bloody options I could utilize to dispatch said challenges. I wasn’t a fan of the watered down, slightly inane combat of this new flavour of God of War.
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