You are not ready for “God of War” on PlayStation 4. I certainly wasn’t.
Maybe you’ve seen the trailers, or read our review? Or maybe you’re only vaguely aware of a PlayStation 4 reboot to the long-running “God of War” franchise? Maybe you’ve never played a “God of War” game! Maybe you’re a veteran video game journalist who was expecting a 10-to-12 hour hack-and-slash game?
Turns out, we’re all in the same wobbly boat as Kratos and his son Atreus, the game’s heroes. It’s hard to imagine someone being adequately prepared for the sweeping epic that is the new “God of War.” It’s not just a really good game – it’s an absolutely massive blockbuster that’s full of surprises for even seasoned, cynical video game nerds like myself.
Allow me to explain:
1. It’s incredibly fun to play.
At its basest level, “God of War” is a fun game.
I don’t mean that to sound reductive – the minute-to-minute gameplay of “God of War” is thoroughly enjoyable. Whether Kratos is taking on groups of enemies, toppling massive mythological creatures, solving puzzles, or just exploring, the simple act of playing “God of War” is a delight.
Best of all: “God of War” has that “just one more” quality shared by the best games. Maybe that’s “just one more” fight, or “just one more” objective you want to complete – I found myself constantly playing “God of War” past when I’d planned to stop.
In the same way that 2017’s incredible “The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild” was constantly pushing players to seek out a new adventure just over the horizon, “God of War” encourages players to keep going. What’s that shiny thing in the distance? What’s down that canal? How do I get to that treasure chest?!
It’s a somewhat dangerous quality for a game to have when you’re playing it well past midnight in the middle of the week, but that’s a testament to how much pure fun it is to play “God of War.”
2. There’s mystery and adventure around every corner.
As hinted at above, the world of “God of War” – the mythological Norse realm of Midgard – is rife with mystery.
While exploring the vast expanse of Midgard, you’re extremely likely to stumble on one of the dozens of mysteries hiding around every corner. You might find a hulking dragon being held captive, or a massive, abandoned fortress full of treasures (and traps).
Most likely, you’ll find hours of your time being filled with entirely optional (yet fulfilling) exploration. For instance: What’s through this crack in the wall?! You better believe I found out.
For every new area I found, another half dozen paths teased me with as yet unexplored regions. Up to and including when I finished the game, after over 50 hours of play time, I was still finding new areas. Having now completed the game, there are loads of places I’ve never been – entire storylines I’ve never completed, or even begun.
It’s incredibly impressive, honestly. The level of detail is what makes Midgard feel alive, despite it’s clearly fantastical trappings.
3. The main characters are actually good, as is their banter.
Video game characters attempting sincerity tends to not work out. Frankly speaking: Most games that make an attempt at sincerity fail.
There are exceptions of course – Joel and Ellie from “The Last of Us” come to mind – but those are exceptions, not the rule. “God of War,” unbelievably,” nails it.
The game’s main characters, Kratos and Atreus, are entirely believable as a father-son duo. As the duo grieve the death of the family matriarch – Kratos’ wife / Atreus’ mother – they have to reckon with each other.
Kratos, as he’s known to be, is a relentless dour, embittered man. He hates the Gods, expects nothing from life, and is always serious. He offers life lessons like, “If you never expect anything, you’ll never be disappointed.”
This is his resting facial expression:
That tone is delightfully contrasted by Atreus, who’s excited to explore a world he’s never seen before.
He’s fascinated by history, impressed by the amazing things he’s seeing, and excited to talk about it all (much to the chagrin of his angry dad). In this way, Atreus stands in for the player – impressed and excited rather than over it – while Kratos is putting on his usual stiff upper lip.
He’s also a realistic depiction of an adolescent boy. He asks his father for reassurance often, overplays his own abilities, and is generally excited for adventure. He’s clearly trying to find himself while asserting his own maturity. He’s awkward, just like so many pre-teen boys, and grumpy, and isolated, all on top of the fact that he’s grieving the death of his mother. Atreus’ growth throughout the game is a joy to watch.
And that’s before we start talking about the game’s other central characters, each of which is surprisingly fleshed out and integral to the story. But you should discover them yourself rather than have me spoil them.
4. The entire game takes place in a single “shot,” which gives the game a steady forward rhythm.
From the moment you click “New Game” on the main menu in “God of War,” you’re looking through the lens of the same camera that you’ll see when the game’s credits roll 40 to 60 hours later.
After you click “New Game,” it zooms out and the tree you see above begins getting cut down by Kratos’ axe.
And that’s how the game starts. Click R1 to chop down that tree, friend!
It’s a small novelty at the game’s onset, but it’s that same ethos that’s applied to the entire game. Whether you’re in a cutscene speaking to a Norse god, fighting a gigantic troll to the death, talking to a city-sized snake that speaks an ancient language, or simply walking around Midgard, the same camera is always with you.
There are no loading screens in “God of War.” There is no statistics screen that pops up after a fight to let you know how many enemies you killed. The entire game is one continuous experience that can only be stopped by you choosing to pause it.
It’s this complete lack of friction that spurred me to constantly pursue “one more thing” in any given play session. It’s also how I ended up playing “God of War” until the wee hours of the morning a few times, by “accident.”
5. The story is truly epic, in the literal sense of the word.
Atreus does a great job of reminding Kratos (and players) exactly how epic your journey is going, and he’s right. Dwarves and giants and dragons, oh my!
The oral history of my experience with “God of War” sounds like a fanfic mash-up of “The Odyssey” and “Game of Thrones.” It is a genuinely “epic” journey, in the most literal sense: Along the journey to spread the ashes of Kratos’ dead wife, he and Atreus encounter everything from imprisoned dragons to massive snake deities.
For much of the game, one major character is a beheaded god that’s literally attached by the waist to Kratos. It’s exactly the kind of grim humor that George R.R. Martin would appreciate.
More than just encountering wondrous creatures, Kratos and Atreus encounter tons of wonder ous regions. I won’t say too much about this, but rest assured that you’ll see more than snowy mountains and dreary woods – you may even leave Midgard! Who knows!
One thing I can say without spoiling anything: “God of War” is absolutely massive. By the time the credits rolled for me, I’d spent somewhere from 40 to 60 hours playing the main story and a decent chunk of side content.
I’m not kidding around when I say this game is “epic.” Think: “The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim” or “The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild.”
6. This door!
Can we just talk about this door for a second? I’m totally serious. Take a real look at how incredibly ornate this door is.
I’m kind of joking here, but the resplendent portal above is a great representation of the many times I stopped in my tracks while playing “God of War.” There are countless visual moments like this where it’s clear that the development team lavished “God of War” with a ton of attention.
Take this scene, for instance, where Kratos is carrying a boar through a ridiculously beautiful wooded area. It’s unbelievable that a home game console is capable of producing these visuals:
I played the game on a PlayStation 4 Pro, on a relatively new HDR/4K television. I’m told the game looks pretty great on a standard PlayStation 4 with a standard high-def television. I can only speak to my experience, which was incredibly impressive.
It’s not just that “God of War” is a “pretty” game – it’s an insanely detailed game, visually-speaking, from variation in wild flowers to atmospheric lighting. “God of War” is a visually stunning game, from top to bottom, and it runs well to boot.
“God of War” is out now! It costs $60, and is only available on the PlayStation 4. Check it out in action right here: