Tuesday, February 5, 2019

850th Review! God of War (PS4) Review

It's a special occasion here at SuperPhillip Central--well, a MORE special occasion. It's the site's 850th review! Join me as I take a late look at one of 2018's best games, God of War for the PlayStation 4. Here's SuperPhillip Central's full review.

God of Wow

I've made it no secret that despite enjoying the God of War series in the past that regardless of the "M" for "Mature" rating these games have, they're anything but mature. However, like Kratos's arc in the latest in the series and the first on the PlayStation 4, simply titled God of War, the franchise has gone a long way to grow up and mature. What we have now is a more mellowed out Kratos, less motivated by hate, no sacrificing innocents to get through puzzles, no awkward and borderline offensive sex scenes--now we have a God of War that is actually for adults and not edgy teenagers.

But that's giving God of War's PlayStation 4 debut feint praise. The game does so much more than just present a more mature, more heartwarming story than past entries in the series. Now, Kratos is in Norse world, and he has a son, Atreus. The two recently lost someone special to them, Kratos' wife and Atreus' mother, and they seek to spread her ashes on top of the highest mountain in the land. I felt compelled to see the journey through, and like Kratos and Atreus, my motivation was to see this journey through. The levels of emotion displayed throughout the story and the evolution of the father and son dynamic in God of War are some of the most heartfelt I've seen in gaming in quite a while.

The past God of War games were tasty "junk food", but not this God of War.
It's still tasty, but is a lot more thought-provoking and engaging than past entries.
God of War not only does away with the infantile story and characterization of past installments prior to this PS4 masterpiece, but it also does away with the camera angles that originated in very first game in the series. Now, the player is directly behind Kratos in an over-the-shoulder perspective, and perhaps the most impressive part of this is that God of War's world is both interconnected and open, as well as taking place in one continuous shot. There are no loading screens to speak of between visiting new areas, and every story beat occurs with the player in Kratos' shoes. The only cuts in the action take place when Kratos dies and the game needs to reload to previous checkpoint or when you warp from one area to another via fast travel--which unlocks relatively late in the adventure.

No doubt you can believe that the new camera perspective presents a much more cerebral experience when it concerns gameplay, especially combat. Kratos' main weapon in God of War is the all-powerful Leviathan Axe. It's not just used to carve up enemies both small and behemoth-sized, but it also is used to solve puzzles. The axe can be chucked away from Kratos, and with the press of a button, it can be called back to his hand, slicing through any enemy that stands in its way in the process. As players gain experience from defeated enemies and completed quests alike, Kratos and his axe can be upgraded to enable more combat abilities and advantages in battle.

Want to be put out of your misery, you nasty-looking foe? Then, just "axe"!
Of course, Kratos isn't by his lonesome this time around, as Atreus is always nearby. While the game could have been one large, engaging escort mission, instead Atreus holds his own in battle and in puzzle thanks to both his smart AI and his near invulnerability. You can call on Atreus to fire arrows of various elemental properties at enemies to stun them or whittle away at their health to help out Kratos in battle, all the while being cognizant of the cool off period Atreus has to fire more arrows. The two are a force to be reckoned with, for certain.

As if the God of War series hasn't proven this multiple times already,
size really doesn't matter when you're up against Kratos.
Battles are engaging experiences due to each enemy being worthy opponents--and this goes for your typical human-sized encounters as well. There are seldom a time when an opponent will just stand there and take your attacks without countering back. Smart use of Kratos' Leviathan Axe, abilities, moves, and Atreus' assistance make the difference between an easygoing encounter and one that results in a sloppy execution, if not death.

Kratos and Atreus might not always get along, but when push comes to shove, they're one formidable duo.
While the fights against grunts and other ordinary enemies are thoroughly enjoyable and stand out on their own merits, it's the boss battles that the God of War series is known for--with their immense scale and high stakes--and this God of War continues that tradition superbly. The only real gripe I have with the boss fights in the game is that there simply aren't enough of them, but every other part of God of War lends itself so well to the overall game that I can't really complain too much. After all, what bosses there are indeed make for a riveting and explosive experience.

Yikes. I'm glad Kratos isn't MY dentist!
When they're not in battle, Kratos and Atreus explore the Norse worlds. As stated before, the game is open and connected--though not an open world in general. Areas seamlessly transition between each other without any loading screens or cuts, and the amount of exploration and chances for discovery in God of War's world is absolutely tremendous. The central area in God of War is the Lake of Nine, and this stellar and splendidly designed hub of sorts branches out between all of the other regions in the game. As you progress, the Lake of Nine's water level drops more and more, revealing new areas to visit and venture.

Just playing through the story and going to the mandatory sections of the Norse world will take about 20 to 25 hours or so. However, if you engage in the high number of side quests, optional areas to explore, and nonessential boss battles, you'll find yourself adding another 10 to 15 hours to that playtime. There is a lot to experience and enjoy in God of War, and all of it is rewarding and worthwhile--whether you're finding out a solution to a puzzle, discovering a well hidden treasure chest, or uncovering a wholly new region in the game world by accident.

Possibly the greatest game of 2018? We'll cross that bridge when we come to it.
God of War is a jaw-dropping game graphically. The character models impress immensely in their own right, but combined with the drop-dead gorgeous landscapes, environments, and areas that ooze with personality, God of War is astounding, mind-blowing game to look at. Performance is relatively sound, though the atypical 30 frames-per-second--at least for an action game--might put some players off. Still, with only a handful of truly off-putting (but rare all the same) frame-rate drops throughout my time with God of War on my launch PS4 system, the game is a remarkable one on the technical side of things.

Those giant icicles here were formed by my frozen-over drool while viewing this graphically gorgeous game.
Like Kratos himself--away from the anger-motivated, woman-using, hate-filled caricature that was presented in past games in the series--God of War as a franchise has finally grown up and matured. This astonishing new direction for the franchise is more than welcomed, offering a deep and highly satisfying story, as well as delivering a wonderful amount of character development within its main cast, especially the father and son dynamic between Kratos and Atreus. Battles are more compelling and cerebral than ever, exploration is absolutely delightful, and God of War as a series has never been better. It's more than a great game in the series--2018's God of War is a masterful piece of design and storytelling that reaches magnificent heights as one of the best games of both the year and the generation.

[SPC Says: A]

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