Let’s talk about God of War shall we? Here is a game that many are calling the greatest ever! Not just the best of recent time, nor a shining beacon in the golden era of gaming we see ourselves living through at the moment, but the actual greatest collaborative achievement in all video game history. That’s one big ass statement and it’d be even bigger if the game actually lived up to it.
That’s a click-baity opening paragraph now isn’t it? So let me placate your outrage straight away. It’s a good game. In fact I’d go as far to say “great” even. It’s an amazing technological achievement with it’s continuous, never-loading, single camera tracking implementation being absolute genius along with it being a single-player, story-driven, trend bucker amongst a sea of multiplayer, streamer-centric wank-fests. God I hope that ends up as a poster quote.
My point is there’s a hell of lot to love about God of War but after ripping through it as fast as I could in order to write up this review there’s also an even amount that I did not.
It’s a very different God of War game for a start. This, I think, is one of the best things about it to be honest. We’ve got a new story where Kratos, the absent father, returns home after the death of his second wife to a son he barely knows, Atreus. The two of them set off on a journey to spread their lost mother/wife’s ashes and of course hilarity & hijinks in the form of larger than life God of War killing sprees and monster encounters ensues.
…it’s a single-player, story-driven, trend bucker amongst a sea of multiplayer, streamer-centric wank-fests.
Never before have I followed or really given a shit about the story in a God of War game. In fact I couldn’t really tell you the premise of any of them beyond that I’m playing as some jacked dude called Kratos whom the gods have wronged in some way or another and I’m going to kill as many loosely greek-related mythical creatures as possible to wrong them back. Oh and boobs. The franchise is as famous for some pixelised boobies as much if not more than it is for anything else.
In the new “God of War” it’s different. There is a story, a father and a son thrusted together, trying to make sense of their loss and their lives going forward. The father is completely out of his depth, the son desperately trying to earn his father’s approval. It resonates. Or at least it did with me and that’s because it has a substance to it that isn’t being force feed to you but grows as you progress.
It doesn’t hurt of course when it’s supported by some of the most incredible voice acting and an astonishingly vivid and dense new open-world. How all of that is coming together powered by O-G PS4 I have that no comprehension and credit is thoroughly deserved by the magic makers that are the dev team.
But just like a Kratos delivered chastising cry of “Boy!” the game falls victim to an indulgence of itself, drawing out its length and having to inject elements of its previous iterations to satisfy fans. The game is ripe with fat, and while fat can often be a good thing, just like the crackling on a pork roast, too much can often leave you feeling a bit sick.
The game’s too long as well. I’m not sure if it was an active decision to build it out as long as it is, but even powering through it in every spare moment I’ve had over the past month felt like a bit of a slog. Slower paced sections seem padded out to fill in the world with what can feel like a never ending series of frustratingly hap-hazard random encounters that I’d expect out of the likes of a Final Fantasy and not God of War.
I’d be lying if I said this was some revelation from playing through God of War because the truth is I felt the same way playing through Horizon: Zero Dawn and I dare say I will feel the same come the release of the upcoming Red Dead Redemption too. I don’t think it’s the game’s fault though, it almost has to be drawn out if it’s going to compete or sell at it’s triple A price point. With free or cheaper games out there taking up so much screen time it’s in a market where it has to appeal to longevity in order to gain relevance. Sadly in doing so the game suffers with awful pacing and long stretches of “fill” in what I personally found somewhat mindless combat in its new found semi-open world.
Of course being a God of War game combat is a big deal but things have changed a little – for the better, don’t worry. Say goodbye to your old friend quick time events! A legacy of the series the awkward, action stopping frustration fests have been replaced with in-game sequences keeping the action flowing. All a part of its new continuous shot aesthetic.
Beyond QTE’s removal however combat is more or less the same button mash-fest we’ve had for decades. It’s not that the combat systems aren’t robust its more that I felt I could just waggle my way through them by a general mashing of whatever and generally come out on top. I wanted it to give me more. I spent time studying each move as they were introduced or earned through the game’s expansive skill tree but when you’re in-game and the shit hits the fan you just muddle through with the same few moves. Of course I could’ve played on a harder level of difficulty but then at what cost? The slower grind and me sucking at it would only hinder the story’s progression, which is what truly held my interest, not the random encounters.
The game is ripe with fat, and while fat can often be a good thing, just like the crackling on a pork roast, too much can often leave you feeling a bit sick.
Despite over the top combat being one of the game’s biggest legacies it was the part that I felt was the most out of place in this latest release. It just didn’t seem to fit like it used to and unlike the grungy, desperate, survivalist combat within The Last of Us that fit the milieu, I would’ve loved there to have been even less but more intimate encounters in God of War. It was as if the franchise had grown up in so many ways but then like some rich, old, dude in his 60’s was buying a convertible and gripping onto his hair piece as hard as he was to his youth.
I wasn’t a massive fan of the game’s introduction of equipment merchants and their upgrades either. Despite fitting the narrative and filling in blanks on Kratos’ new axe equipped armoury it was odd to be flicking through a shop’s inventory looking at our hero wearing anything but his distinctive loin cloth get-up. I certainly didn’t expect to see some etherial glowing mesh with a couple of giant metal plates for nipple pasties as an option but there it is. The introduction of new RPG systems and weaponry again brought the game into a new age but weren’t truly committed to in hopes to satisfy a larger audience.
My point is, in a very round about and odd way, play this game. I know it may not sound like it, in fact it could dare sound like the complete opposite, but all I’m trying to get across is that despite it being absolutely brilliant, thrilling and a joy to play it’s by no means perfect. Is it the greatest game ever made? Well that’s a highly subjective, personal taste kind of thing but know for me it’s definitely not the case but it’s a damn fine (albeit long and overcooked) play that everyone should check at least try.