God of War PS4 First Impressions | A Fantastic Start To A Phenomenal Game
The wait is over, after what felt like a decade, God of War is finally here. I haven’t been this giddy about a game since The Last of Us back in 2013, and with the rave reviews, the game has been getting, who wouldn’t be? God of War has been getting 10/10’s, 5/5’s, and damn near-perfect scores across the board, currently sitting at a 95 on Metacritic, making it the highest-rated game on the PS4. It’s unbelievable!
Over the past few days, I had the chance to play God of War and I have to say, Sony Santa Monica might have made the most rewarding single-player experience since The Witcher 3 in 2015, I haven’t been this blown away by a game since then. A couple of hours in and the game feels so polished and refined, something that I personally think that many developers take for granted when it comes to single-player games.
The first thing I’ll say right off the bat is that I won’t give away too many story details in this post aside from what has already been said in trailers, interviews, etc. The most obvious reason is that I don’t want to spoil the story for somebody who plans on playing it, as God of War can be easily spoiled by a single gameplay feature or cutscene. But it’s also because the story is really something that needs to be experienced first hand, me simply telling you what I witnessed really doesn’t do the game’s story justice at all. Yes, God of War’s story is so good that you need to see it for yourself to believe it.
The Story So Far...
The basic premise as most of you know by now, is that Kratos and Atreus are on a journey to take Kratos’ wife/Atreus’ mother’s ashes to the highest peak of the Norse realm. Their journey starts as soon as you boot up the game. The couple of hours I played shows that Kratos and Atreus don’t have the best father-son relationship, Kratos tries to teach his son how to hunt to prepare them for their trip to the mountain, but at every attempt, Atreus makes it hardly pleases Kratos. That’s as far as I’ll say about the story so far but just know that the two don’t really see eye to eye, a bit sad considering their circumstances. I’ve also had the chance to meet a bunch of the supporting characters, namely a witch who lives inside of a tree, and most notably a pair of blacksmith brothers who are at constant odds with each other. I also got a glimpse of the “alleged” main villain, who puts up a pretty entertaining fight, I can’t wait to see how they play in the grand scheme of things.
I should also mention that you don’t need to have played the previous games to understand the story, there are some hints to Kratos’ old life but from what I’ve seen, the game does a pretty good job of conveying it that even newcomers can understand it. God of War feels like a quasi-reboot of sorts. Technically it's a sequel as it keeps all the events of the old games’ canon, but it's also a reboot in the sense that it’s a new chapter starting at the dawn of whole new mythology.
How Does It Play?
From the get-go, God of War completely overhauls the design choices made by the previous games. Within the first 15 mins or so, you get put into the game’s first fight that teaches you the basics about combat. It plays very similarly to something by FromSoft (Dark Souls, Bloodborne) in that you use the shoulder buttons to attack, block, parry, and use the face buttons for dodging and other contextual stuff. A drastic change from the old hack n slash style combat, which I think was long overdue. This change in combat brings a stronger sense of skill, in that you can’t simply mash buttons to win a fight. You’ve got to think about which enemy to take out first when it's right to pull off a combo when to parry and so forth. The closer over-the-shoulder camera drives this change forward because your field of view is smaller, you can’t see everything happening around you, leaving you open for attacks. So it requires you to stay vigilant and keep track of enemies.
Combat feels heavy, when Kratos swings his axe into a Dragur, you can feel how weighty it is. You can also throw the axe to hit enemies from far away or freeze them in place, opening them up for some stun attacks. Let’s not forget Atreus of course, as he’s integral to surviving some of the tougher fights. Hitting the square button makes Atreus shoot an arrow depending on where you look, aim the camera at a specific target and Atreus will go for them. He’s pretty useful for crowd control or singling out enemies, and you’ll want to keep using Atreus a lot in combat because some fights Kratos can’t handle on his own like the old games. One particular boss fight constantly spawns smaller enemies that’ll make the fight much harder, using Atreus to handle them made the fight much easier.
God of War also brings a great deal of customization, simply put the game is like a full-blown RPG. You gain XP that you can spend on different moves and abilities, there are various runes you can find throughout the world that provide an extra kick to your axe such as an AOE blast. You can craft different types of armor for Kratos and Atreus by finding resources littered throughout the game, there’s even a leveling system that determines how strong your build is and so much more. What I like about this RPG-style system is that it isn’t too complex, nor is it too simple, it meets right in the middle and I think it's perfect for this kind of game.
Technically this game is not an open-world adventure, about an hour or so in you get introduced to the game’s main hub world, The Lake of Nines. Using a boat, Kratos and Atreus can travel across the lake to find different missions, a gigantic bridge in the lake acts as a transporter that will take you to different Norse Realms. Can’t go into too much detail on that but its function is to basically take you to other worlds, you start off in Midgard which is the Norse myth equivalent of earth. So if you’re familiar with Norse myth then you might have an idea of where the game will take you. There is a fast travel option however you can only travel to specific points that you find throughout the game world.
What’s The Presentation Like?
Graphically, God of War is beautiful. This is easily the best-looking PS4 game out right now, from the individual hairs on Kratos’ beard to the woodsy landscapes of Midgard, the game is so intricately detailed. What left me in awe, however, was the game’s use of colour. One of the realms I visited blossomed in vibrant reds and purples, befitting of a place that is meant to be an otherworldly environment. God of War’s claim to fame is that the entire game is presented as one continuous shot a la Birdman. From start to finish, there are no loading screens or fade to black transitions from cutscene to gameplay, the only exception being when you die but other than that it's one continuous journey. It's such a cool feature, sometimes the transition isn’t so obvious that I found myself questioning whether I’m still in a cutscene or not.
I should mention that I am playing on a base PS4, and I did occasionally run into some frame rate drops but nothing to the point of game-breaking however it is worth mentioning. You’re also limited to what visual options you have, such as running the game on HDR or playing in 4k. But still, the game looks great and runs well. But if you are one to favor graphics and resolution, then you might want to consider playing on a PS4 Pro, there are more graphical options available and if you are a graphics hound, it might be a must. Especially playing in HDR because it really makes those colours pop.
All in all, I’m really enjoying God of War so far. It’s very rare that we get a well-polished game like this, I can’t wait to see what the rest of the game offers me and from what I have seen so far, there seems to be a lot more in store! Based on these first impressions, it seems like God of War might be the epic journey Playstation needed.