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Review

God Of War Review: Out With The Old, In With The New

  • First Released Apr 20, 2018
    released
  • Reviewed Apr 17, 2018
  • PS4

The power of myth.

The God of War series has, until now, stuck very close to the standards set in the original 2005 game. More than a decade (and many games) later, it makes sense that Sony would want to mix things up for the aged hack-and-slash series. Like so many popular franchises that have reinvented themselves in recent years, the new God of War dips into the well of open-world RPG tropes. It also shifts its focus to Norse mythology, casting off the iconic Greek gods and legends that provided the basis for every previous game.

These major shifts don't signal the end of God of War as we know it, rather they allow the series' DNA to express itself in new ways. There are many reasons why the structural transformations are a good thing, but it's what's become of Kratos, the hulking death machine, that leaves a lasting impression. A furious, bloodthirsty icon has transformed into a sensitive father figure. Part of him retains the old violent tendencies that made him a star long ago. However, with his young son Atreus to protect and guide, we also see Kratos take a deep breath and bury his savage instincts in order to set a positive example.

Watching Kratos take care in nurturing his child's sensibilities does feel a bit jarring at the start, but thanks to the natural writing, fitting voice actors, and flawless animation, it's easy to get sucked into the duo's journey and buy into their mutual growth. Though he is a teacher, Kratos carries a mountain of grief and self pity that only the innocence of his son can help him overcome. And Atreus experiences his own ups and downs that might have set him down a very different path if not for Kratos' guiding hand.

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Atreus was raised in isolation from the dangers of the wild world around him, and rightfully fails to grasp his place in it when confronted with the realities of a land protected by and under siege from gods. It's the death of his mother prior to the start of the game that thrusts Atreus and Kratos outward; her dying wish was to have her ashes spread atop the highest peak in the land. As if wild predators and ghastly fiends weren't obstacles enough, representatives from the pantheon of Norse mythology arise in an attempt to disrupt their mission, establishing the amplified stakes and the clash of impressive forces that you expect from God of War.

And like its predecessors, God of War is a technical and artistic showcase. It is without a doubt one of the best-looking console games ever released, with every breathtaking environment and mythical character exhibiting impressive attention to detail and beautifying flourishes aplenty. The vision behind all of this is evident in Kratos' meticulously grizzled physique and weathered equipment, in the atmospheric effects that transform believably rustic environments into the stuff of dreams, and in the overall design and structure of the world itself.

The majority of the journey is set in the realm of Midgard. At its heart lies a wide lake that you can explore by canoe, with a coastline dotted by optional puzzles, formidable opponents, and entrances to the map's primary regions. Your mission will carry you through to most of these places, and along the way you'll likely take note of inaccessible pathways and glimpses of sealed treasures. There's always ample room to explore off the main path and good reasons to give into curiosity regardless, but these teases in particular spur you to re-examine previously visited areas as your capabilities expand.

With the boy fighting by your side, firing arrows or choking unsuspecting enemies, you will team up against corrupted cave trolls, face towering beasts, and fight hundreds of intelligent supernatural warriors during your travels. Kratos prefers to use an axe these days, which functions very differently than the chained Blades of Chaos he's known for. This comes with the very satisfying and cool ability to magically summon your weapon to your hand (like Thor and his hammer), a move that never gets old.

And really, neither does combat in general. The new over-the-shoulder camera brings you directly into the fray, and consequently limits your view. You can't see enemies from all angles at once and must be on guard at all times. By default the game provides proximity icons to alert you of incoming attacks, but it's worth tinkering with the UI for a more immersive experience as you get the hang of how fights flow.

It's rare that you can actually spam combos without putting yourself at risk, and this emphasis on mindfulness solidifies God of War's graduation from the traditional hack-and-slash doldrums. The realities of fighting with an axe also makes skirting away from harm an exacting process. But when variables align and you get to lay into an enemy, Kratos' dexterous axe handling allow him to hit hard, and give you the opportunity to flex his might with a bit of style.

The basic set of close-range combos and weapon behaviors can be expanded by pouring experience points into a skill tree and by activating magical rune abilities that bind to your two attack inputs. There are a lot of options to consider and tactics to learn, including skill trees for fighting empty-handed. There's a wonderful rhythm to be found when switching from axe to fists, and then into Kratos' satisfyingly brutal execution moves, all the while ducking and rolling out of harm's way.

God of War's combat is already great at the start, but it gets better as it steadily introduces one new layer after another. You can absolutely stumble into incredibly punishing enemies that are made easier with adept timing and mastery of every available skill, but you can also succeed at any level so long as you've mastered the art of parrying and dodging incoming attacks.

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Atreus can't be configured to the same extent that Kratos can, but there are still a lot of ways to tailor his capabilities to your liking. The arrows he fires can be laced with different types of magic, with multiple elemental and functionality upgrades, and he eventually gains the ability to summon spectral animals that can harm and distract enemies, or collect items. Thanks to the smart button layout, it's actually very easy to both attack and defend as Kratos while also commanding Atreus. God of War gives you plenty to do in any given moment and makes you feel like an experienced warrior in the process.

The armor that Kratos and Atreus wear can influence a range of character stats, elemental affinities, and may include slots for enchantments that grant further bonuses. Armor can be purchased or crafted using the few resources scattered about the world, and can be upgraded by the game's two blacksmiths: two dwarven brothers constantly at odds with each other. There's Brok, the foul-mouthed blue dwarf, and Sindri, a far more gentle yet tragically germophobic fellow--a gag that is usually funny, though occasionally pushed a bit too hard.

As enjoyable as those two can be, it's Mimir that ultimately steals the show. The horned, one-eyed sage accompanies you and Atreus for the majority of the game, serving as your guide to Midgard, and an inside source into the ins and outs of Norse politics. Mimir and the blacksmiths have strong individual personalities, as with every other character you meet during the course of the game. We're keeping other identities vague in general to avoid spoilers, but regardless of who you bump into, God of War's cast is strong, convincing, and oddly enchanting. But the real accomplishment is how, even though there are just a handful of characters to interact with, their big personalities color your adventure with tantalizing anecdotes that draw you into the world and imbue the land with a tangible sense of history.

If there's any piece of the overarching mission that feels like a letdown, it's the final battle against the primary antagonist. He's great from a narrative standpoint, unraveling in a manner that changes your perspective, but it's the fight itself that leaves you wanting. There are plenty of big boss battles and tests of skill throughout the course of the game, yet this fight doesn't reach the same heights, and feels like it was played a little safe. It could be an effect of configuring Kratos and Atreus just so, or it may just be too easy to begin with. Thankfully, that's not all the game has up its sleeve.

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Two optional areas in particular seem designed with the endgame in mind. The first, Muspelheim, offers a series of battles in arenas surrounded by lava flows and scorched earth. Some trials are merely fights against strong enemies, while others require you to defeat waves in quick succession--if even one enemy remains alive, it only takes a few seconds for others to resurrect automatically. The other realm, Niflheim, is randomly generated every time you visit, but it's always filled with poisonous gas. The goal there is to survive for as long as possible while racking up kills and collecting treasure, and escape before the poison takes hold. Both locations offer tense and rewarding pursuits that are only accessible if you play at your best.

And odds are that you'll be so hooked by the story's pacing and procession of events that there will be plenty of other side activities left in Midgard after the credits roll. God of War isn't set in a massive open world, but it is stuffed with secrets and quests. Where most games with long and diverse quest opportunities tend to run a bit stale by the end, God of War has the opposite effect. It's far longer than it needs to be, though you hope you never run out of things to do.

In many ways God of War is what the series has always been. It's a spectacular action game with epic set pieces, big-budget production values, and hard-hitting combat that grows more feverish and impressive as you progress. What may surprise you is how mature its storytelling has become. Like Kratos, God of War recalls the past while acknowledging the need to improve. Everything new it does is for the better, and everything it holds onto benefits as a result. Kratos is no longer a predictable brute. God of War is no longer an old-fashioned action series. With this reboot, it confidently walks a new path that will hopefully lead to more exciting adventures to come.

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The Good
Impeccable presentation
The father-son dynamic enhances combat and makes Kratos surprisingly relatable
Convincing writing that humanizes the extraordinary supporting cast
Kratos' agility and deep repertoire of techniques make him more fun to control than ever
Midgard is fantastic to look at and filled with worthwhile side quests
Expertly transforms and builds upon the series' established gameplay
The Bad
N/A
9
Superb
About GameSpot's Reviews

About the Author

Peter completed God of War's story in roughly 30 hours before writing his review. He's eagerly continuing his search for greater treasure and more powerful opponents. GameSpot was provided with complimentary copies of the game by Sony.
895 Comments  RefreshSorted By 
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Poorgamer

The major retailer of Sony products in Fiji islands still sells this for 250 dollars brand new. Just wanted to tell people living in overseas how lucky u guys are. It is cheaper in a shop in another city but that's a 3 to 4 hour drive from where I live

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francesca1211

Is this game too hard for a really bad player with slow reflexes? A lot of games are too hard for me even on easy...

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Poorgamer

@francesca1211: playing easy it's not that hard unless you take on the valkyries. They not part of the main game so not a problem the.

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ahmetxca

When I first purchased the game and started the adventure, my first taught was "This is not God of War"... "Meeh..." "The combat is slow"... Etc.

I am 40 years old and I ve been playing video games for nearly 30 years now. There is very little to surprise me in the games now and very few game "wows" me... I have seen nearly every kind of story twits, every kind of gameplay mechanic etc.

The older games (except ascension) were masterpieces in their own terms and a genre defining games.

But this is not a game... THis is a Journey

This is the God of War.

More Mature, More Father,

More Monster…

THis is not a game that you can understand from a review or something that explainable, but a journey that you must live for yourself.

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Berserk8989

@ahmetxca: Exactly.

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_Devastator

God of War's review score should indicate that it's closer to 10 than 9.

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RaveNRolla

(WARNING! this comment does not contain any pointless whining about review scores)

good game, good challenging gameplay, good exploring, good character development, mostly boring bosses (definitely compared to older god of wars) apart from the valkyries which were the best bosses i fought in quite some time, as they just seem very balanced.

two things disappointed me:

- Your overall level number matters way more than it should (e.g. you get a cool axe pommel early on that gives all stats +5, but it only counts as level 2, so using a level 4 pommel, that only gives one stat +2 will make you deal more damage and receive less damage and make it possible to block and parry previously unblockable/unparriable enemies, because your overal level rises when you equip it. this applies to all equipment. very poor design choice in my opinion.)

- Kratos' journey from Greece is never explained, apart from "i needed a new start", which i found very sad. Kratos has sunk Greece into ruin in gow3 and i sure would have loved some anecdotes about that.

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Vodoo

@RaveNRolla: That's the one thing I wanted to know... how did he end up there? There's no mention of that at all, nor any story on the mother (besides the ending). It's like it just skipped the fact that he decimated the Greek Gods and civilians alike. How was he even able to travel to that area?

Otherwise a fun game. Killed it twice already, but limited replayability.

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RaveNRolla

@Vodoo: it comes back through Kratos and his facial expressions when Atreus asks him stuff like "WHY do you hate the gods so much?!" and that was very well done. but yeah, i would have loved some story telling from Kratos' side. they could have very well used the boat rides for this where Kratos tells stories about random characters. he could have instead talked about himself (anonymously in the 3rd person) how he killed his own family, what the consequences of him killing the gods were and what he learned through those experiences to teach Atreus. it would have been more personal for the player.

i agree about the limited replayability. i'm on my 2nd playthrough (gof of war difficulty) and it's exactly the same as before (enemies have new buffs and rise in level if you leave them alone for too long but that's it). on top of that a lot of stuff seems pointless right now, like beating the valkyries, muspelheim and niflheim for better gear FOR WHAT? the story endgame is easy. you either beat the valkyries 1st to do the trials or the other way around. it's a shame there isn't much to really use that top level gear on, because aquiring the gear IS the hardest challenge in the game.

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Sagittarius476

@RaveNRolla: well hopefully NG+ will change that, one of the reasons it is very necessary because most players ended up with high level gear at the very end and have no use for it.

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Codybur2

Reading the review, I was getting ready to see a 10 for the score. Then I see it's a 9, so I look at the "bad" section: N/A. So why is this a 9 again? I've been using gamespot for a long time because I like how they're usually tough on reviews and don't give out 10s easily, but this just seems silly. Most review sites I've read say this is one of the best games of this gen, and nothing in this article says otherwise. Seems like you're giving a lower score just for the sake of it.

I myself have yet to play it. The review/comments have definitely convinced me to pick it up tomorrow though.

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Poorgamer

@codybur2: I stopped looking at review scores a long time back. These are people reviewing these games so each opinion wud differe

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CRAPCOM1926

Its an 8/10 maybe even a 7.

I platinum the game yesterday, at first i was like " wow this game is amazing and epic, totally a masterpiece" but i began too 100% the game the flaws began too rise, one of my major complains is the bosses, the bosses boring and not very memorable except for Baldur, this is the most boring adventure that kratos had ever had, there is not epic quest or journey to find a mythical artifact to defead a god like in the 1st trilogy but thats fine, it was getting old, this is more personal and i liked that is just isnt EPIC and i dont know why people keep saying that it is, when is not but thats a nitpicking, the combat starts restrictive and opens up depending on the player...

If you explore a lot you find new equipment and runes for your Leviatan axe, half way in the game you get a new weapon and is there when the combat Finally goes Overdrive and gets a lot of fun. This game could have been much more oh and those climbing section are pointless i still dont understand why developer keep doing that, is just move the stick foward and press Circle from time to time.

BTW The final Vakyria Fight its INSANE EVEN ON EASY so be FREAKING PREPARE, THE BEST FIGHT IN THE GAME so you may want to do a back save to challenge her again

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Cetra79

@CRAPCOM1926: you would give only 7-8 for this game? Wow i love to see what your 9-10 games are. Must be something out of this world.

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Vodoo

@CRAPCOM1926: I think the climbing areas are for loading, so it seems like it's seamless open world, yet loading in parts like that. Either that, or it's to artificially lengthen the game. I know for certain the World Tree is a loading area. You can sit in 1 place as soon as you enter and the door will eventually pop up right in front of you.

Also, it kinda sucks that you revisit the same areas of the lake 3 times, every time the water drops. It's the same areas that you already went through, now you do it again until you reach the opened up part of the area.

I think it would've been better if they made more realms available instead of dropping the lake 3 times.

I platinum'd it and did 100% of every area on my first playthrough. My second playthrough I was able to go faster because I knew what to get and wasn't concerned with getting all the artifacts and birds.

This game would be great with NG+, so you can start with the great armor and upgraded weapons.

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Berrlett

Finished it last night, one word to describe it... EPIC.

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bentleyj10

@berrlett: how many hours did it take?

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Berrlett

@bentleyj10:

Story campaign on normal difficulty and about 30% of favors (side quests) and a couple of Valkyries about 35-40 hours.

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Batusai4Ever

almost finishing the game and the kid is SOOOO ANNOYING I wish I could kill him or dump him in the lake forever

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KiriharaZro

I still remeber when Cory Barlog complain about the changes in the combat system in GOW Ascension, and now look what he's done.

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muchdoge

Finished the game, 10/10. It is perfection.

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videogameninja

@muchdoge: It really is one of the stand out titles of this gen.

-STAND-OUT NINJA APPROVED-

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Ride_Tha_Tiger

If you’re going to give this game a 9, then that needs to be explained at least in bullet point in THE BAD. This game is a solid 10. It could even be the best game of all time.

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COK3Y5MURF

@Ride_Tha_Tiger:

It's a 9.5 for me because of weird controls. R1 as the main attack button was weird, and I kept mixing up L2 and L1 for aim and block. Of course, this is just my opinion.

Also, as much as I liked the combat system, I preferred the original God of War series combat system slightly more. The axe swinging is a bit slow for me. Especially the heavy attacks with R2 I never even used because of how slow they were.

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xXDartherXx

@Ride_Tha_Tiger:

It IS the best game of all time.

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COK3Y5MURF

@xxdartherxx:

It's definitely not better than The Witcher 3.

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Cetra79

@cok3y5murf: hmm sry no. I got sick of chasing that girl. Story sucks. I deleted the game halfway through.

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freddy_diggler

@cok3y5murf: Shoot..... Good point. Well, no one's saying they both can't be perfect!

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PCPS4XB

@cok3y5murf: the only thing the witcher 3 has going for itself is the fact that it's Big and looks Beautiful. That's pretty much it. I know alot of people that played it and most didn't finish it because they got bored after about 15-20 hours... Including myself. Every time I play GOW i have a blast and cant put it down. IMO it blows witcher out the water.

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Cherub1000

@pcps4xb: I thought it was just me haha. Played the Witcher 3 for about 20hrs until it became obvious that I was forcing myself to keep playing. The start was absolutely awesome! Ok so a several very dull side quests but the red baron and the witches were fantastic... but then it seemed to regress into tedium? Not that I'm comparing it to god of war as they are vastly different but I can't put the controller down at the moment! Different games, different tastes I guess. I know there's at huge fan base of the Witcher and great they all love it so much. Just ain't my bag really.

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PCPS4XB

@cherub1000: I don't disagree with anything you said

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xXDartherXx

@cok3y5murf:

Yes it is. Witcher 3 is overrated with simple and boring combat

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MaccMosley

Anyone saying this game isnt a Masterpiece hasnt played it all the way through,it gets better and better. The combats amazing,reminds me of Batman meets GOW 3 I have zero complaints about this game,ive put in 35 hours and still not done,its superb.

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PCPS4XB

@maccmosley: very true. Exploring never felt so fun. Its a masterpiece!

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HollywoodJ

@maccmosley: I agree with your Batman assessment as that too was in soft focus plus that combat also had training wheels.

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vortec40

If you don’t think this is “essential” your smoking dat goooood crack

God of War More Info

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  • First Released Apr 20, 2018
    released
    • PlayStation 4
    God of War is coming to the PlayStation 4.
    9.3
    Average Rating402 Rating(s)
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    Developed by:
    SCE Santa Monica
    Published by:
    Sony Interactive Entertainment
    Genre(s):
    Action, Adventure
    Content is generally suitable for ages 17 and up. May contain intense violence, blood and gore, sexual content and/or strong language.
    Mature
    Blood and Gore, Intense Violence, Strong Language