About midway through God of War, Kratos and his son Atreus sit in a canoe in the middle of a lake, listening intently to lớn a disembodied head recount the tawdry và tragic dramas of the Norse gods. The head dishes with the gusto of a gossip columnist & the smoothness of a public radio host. Kratos và son show the orator respect, only interrupting with the occasional question for clarification. That this serene moment doesn’t ring false, let alone veer into tedium, speaks to lớn the tremendous heavy lifting done by the creators of God of War to shift the tone, the style and the expectations of one of the most beloved but also most violent and debaucherous franchises in modern games.

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Last we saw Kratos, he still enjoyed getting hammered on a bottle of red, participating in a well-lit orgy and slaying Greek gods in ways that a teenager might storyboard onto the baông chồng of a ruled notebook. He và his franchise thrived on adrenaline, any inner turmoil serving as a springboard for ultraviolence, rather than an emotional well to lớn be drawn from. Times change, & the new God of War, part sequel (the story continues from where it left off) và part reboot (the adventure is slower và the characterization more thoughtful), has more heroic ambitions for the notorious antinhân vật.

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Kratos is a parent now, older, calmer và from what I can tell, into the tiny trang chủ fad. He’s taken part in an ancient size of witness protection by moving north và living in a modest cabin in the forests of the Norse realm of Midgard. Kratos is, however, no less a magnet for domestic tragedy. His second wife, the mother khổng lồ his son Atreus, has just died and been cremated. And so, this particular adventure, at the outphối at least, has Kratos và his tween on a quest lớn fulfill her final wish: that her ashes be carried to the highest peak in the realm.

(Yes, the game kicks off with a spin on the “woman in the fridge,” but mercifully, things become more complicated as the story unpacks itself.)

The gods và the past get in the way of good intentions, and rather quickly, Kratos and his son find themselves vivisecting undead soldiers, elves, trolls, ancients, và a number of other mythological creatures with silly names và even siller characteristics (e.g., the tatzelwurm, a poison-spitting, tunnel-burrowing walrus-tiger hybrid). Thank goodness. For all the changes to tone and ethos, this is still a God of War game, và you can feel that in the joy of the combat. Kratos doesn’t punch; he pulverizes. He moves like a boxer, shoulders phối, legs grapevining back & forth. The way his ax zips inlớn an enemy’s skull, then back to his hand, is so smooth & natural that it’s easy to lớn overlook how challenging it must have been to lớn animate such a thing. (Fortunately, animation director Kristjan Zadziuk explains how the developers likely did it in this YouTube Clip.)

In the early hours, God of War feels, if not lượt thích a follow-up khổng lồ the original game, then a creative sầu revamping. As the 2005 God of War took the individual great combat ideas from its time và blended them together, so does the new God of War for a new era. But the game doesn’t phối into any style for too long. Without warning, the linear adventure, focused on fights & dramatic showdowns, bursts wide open, và the preset paths of past entries give way lớn a new, gr& hub, its spokes taking the crew far beyond Midgard.

The main objective sầu must be attended lớn, sure, but not now, not necessarily. Kratos’ goal has weight, but the world isn’t literally rotating around his every decision — an increasingly common and welcome change in AAA blockbusters. This relaxed pace frees you khổng lồ explore, & it frees Kratos to lớn focus more on parenting than on saving the planet. On more than one occasion, he threatens a bratty Atreus that he will turn this canoe around và head straight baông xã home, và it feels lượt thích he might actually vì it.

In this way, the game has less in common with Homer’s epic Odyssey than with last year’s memoir An Odyssey by Daniel Mendelsohn, which serves as a rich, therapeutic và exploratory look at the author’s relationship with his father through the lens of the classical text. And like that book, God of War does it with wit and grace. The dialogue doesn’t put on a faux-Shakespearean haughtiness. Atreus talks like a kid, sweet and also selfish. And Kratos acts, in turn, lượt thích a father who has no clue how to be a parent, và yet feels a profound need lớn protect this boy from the world and his own bloodline. God of War is awesome at times, in the true sense of the word, but its heart lives in the small ways this man and this boy are building & unbuilding their relationship.

SIE Santa Monica Studio/Sony Interactive Entertainment via giaithuongtinhnguyen.vn
All of which is to say that the game is relaxed khổng lồ the point of bordering on indifferent. Many of God of War’s most interesting surprises are optional, branching from the game’s sturdy throughline: secret rooms giving way khổng lồ hidden caverns winding khổng lồ towering statues or belligerent dragons — which I would have missed altogether had I just followed my compass lớn the next objective sầu. You don’t find collectibles; you find entire chunks of story tucked behind a mossy wall or under a tropical island. God of War, like last year’s Nier: Automata & The Legkết thúc of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, rewards the player who inspects its immaculately designed world as if it were a hidden object game.

Also optional are the spoken tales I mentioned earlier, the ones told by the disembodied head. Whenever you step from the canoe onto dry land, the head hushes up, & like a courteous tour guide, promises khổng lồ eventually pichồng up his yarns where he left off. I got the most enjoyment from letting him finish, though. This applies to lớn everytoàn thân Kratos meets during the journey. I encourage you khổng lồ hang in the water. Lounge around the shops. Don’t rush inlớn battle when characters are speaking to you. Set down the controller, take in the scenery and listen khổng lồ what they have sầu khổng lồ say.

By journey’s end, of course, the fate of the world is at play — baby, bathwater — at which point God of War is thoroughly spiced with the gristle of trò chơi of Thrones. Ice zombies, a skeuomorphic tabletop map, some occasionally stilted dialogue about the history of powerful family legacies that had hitherto lớn been mentioned only in passing. The game’s one glaring weakness is this occasional mimicry of the iconography established by George R.R. Martin and his fantasy forebears. The art kiến thiết excels when it tries something different, such as the buglượt thích dark elves và ghastly White elves, neither of which look like elvish cliches.

The rare riff on other fantasy epics would be more bothersome if the game didn’t so confidently hold its own alongside its contemporaries when it comes khổng lồ sheer scale. I’m hesitant khổng lồ Gọi the biggest moments in God of War setpieces, since they don’t operate in the fashion setpieces normally would. Some involve sầu heavily choreographed fights & gargantuan explosions. Others, however, make Kratos a diminutive sầu object in the frame, like when he’s dwarfed by a sea serpent that, coiled, must be the kích thước of a small thành phố. One of the most memorable moments has Kratos (with the player maintaining control) parting a lake, creating long chasms of waterfalls that extend into the horizon. No blood or guts, just beauty.

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These visuals don’t boil down khổng lồ glorified matte paintings. Unlượt thích in other action games, where spectacle happens around the hero while they fight inside a controlled arena, Kratos và Atreus step into these dense backgrounds. That massive sầu lane in the lake becomes a pathway khổng lồ an elven kingdom, filled with fights & puzzles. The giant serpent rests languidly around the world’s central hub. And the camera never cuts away. There are no load screens. From the opening frame, through the credits và beyond, the camera lingers behind Kratos, the story proceeding in real time. God of War takes place in one shot.

The unedited long take is a bit stress-inducing, at least at first, lượt thích watching a movie & not being allowed khổng lồ bliên kết. But as the game established its more chill pace, I appreciated the refusal to lớn cut away from Kratos & company. I felt more lượt thích a participant in the world, rather than someone watching the adventure from outside it.

SIE Santa Monica Studio/Sony Interactive Entertainment
As a technical achievement, the single shot is mind-bending, a never-ending “how did they pull this off?” Open-world sequences seamlessly transition inkhổng lồ cinematic showdowns into lengthy trips in the canoe — without a stutter. Because the game can’t cut away, or skip ahead in time or space, you must follow Kratos on every step from one location to the next. As a result of the decision, the world is big and condensed all at the same time. There’s a lot to see, but God of War’s designers have sầu been creative sầu in how they minimize backtracking. Generally, you can see where you’re going or where you came from, as paths through castles & cliffsides have sầu you doubling back, creating shortcuts or secret passages baông chồng to lớn the main route. (You eventually gain access to lớn a tool that makes travel simpler and faster, all without breaking the game’s single long camera take. It’s neat.)

It sounds Dark Souls-ish because it is Dark Souls-ish. That comparison extends khổng lồ the combat, which — especially in the extremely difficult postgame nội dung — does a good (if imperfect) impression of everybody’s favorite masocore series. Borrowed inspiration isn’t limited khổng lồ the Souls franchise. Fights involve an unusual but effective hodgepodge of genres: Ax melee attacks handle like an old-fashioned beat-’em-up; ax throws work like a sniper rifle, the weapon returning to lớn Kratos with the tap of a button; Atreus (whom you can command lớn fire arrows) behaves almost like an RPG các buổi party thành viên, flanking large enemies & stunning packs into lớn position for attacks.

In fact, God of War takes a good khuyến mãi from role-playing games. Gear can be purchased or found, then upgraded or modified, lớn increase Kratos’ status, which is displayed on the pause screen like a tabletop character sheet. The ax, the shield and the bow have nâng cấp trees. Kratos’ fanciest attacks are called runics, & you assign one light & one heavy runic attaông chồng at a time. Runic attacks replace complex combos, và are performed with a simple tap of the shoulder buttons. No pressure to master reflexes and motor skills. Instead, precious brain juice can be spent on strategy: Does a zone hotline for attacks that stun large groups of enemies, setting up a sequence of brutal takedowns, or does a big trùm warrant narrow but powerful damage-dealing blows? Tough battles are made easy when treated like puzzles to lớn be solved with the right combat approach.

SIE Santa Monica Studio/Sony Interactive sầu Entertainment
None of this is explicitly clarified by the game, nor does it need khổng lồ be. You won’t see tutorials, just small reminders of which button corresponds lớn which move. God of War embraces a certain degree of ambiguity, freeing the player lớn discover their own methods, và tackle the journey how they see fit. Same goes for the story. Kratos & Atreus’ quest takes them in & out of the dramas of other people and kingdoms, & their involvement isn’t clearly rationalized as good or bad. Early in the game, Kratos tells Atreus a tale of sailors who drank seawater & believed they heard the điện thoại tư vấn of their families, the voices both pleasing them và driving them mad. It’s a brief moment, but it subtly establishes a distrust of one’s perception that’s reflected and refracted by the central storyline.

This ambiguity works because it’s intentional, not a byproduct of poor storytelling. Even small details pay off. Brief anecdotes parallel core themes. Seemingly inconsequential decisions have sầu major repercussions. Like the game’s world, the story folds in on itself, inviting you khổng lồ re-examine where you’ve sầu been & reconsider where you’re going. There’s a musicality lớn the structure: The central hub that Kratos and Atreus visit between adventures acts lượt thích a chorus, with each spoke of their journey its own verse. Atreus & other characters gently guide the player toward priorities, though they just as often mention a bundle of side quests that are just as worthy of your time. Simple chatter usually has a purpose, either moving the story forward, or nudging you, wittingly or unwittingly, in a new direction.

I’ll skip spoilers và specifics, but even core mechanical design choices, things that seem gamey & intangible, are given narrative purpose by the end. God of War is, in a single word, holistic. Every aspect is excellent on its own, but more importantly, it all serves and accentuates the larger vision.

A decade ago, director Cory Barlog helped establish the God of War franchise as an iconic gory & debaucherous Clip game romp. While its antinhân vật, Kratos, had pathos (he killed his wife và daughter in a fit of rage, his skin forever grayed by their ashes), it served little dramatic purpose, rather existing as a grimdark excuse for his god-slaying and orgy-having ways. Barlog — now older, a father — has returned lớn the series with a small army of talented designers, many of whom served on the earlier games, to make good on that rich but neglected potential at the francises’ core. There’s still plenty of gore, but now the guts have sầu meatiness. Some die-hard fans may fear this isn’t really God of War. I suppose they’re right. It’s even better.

Platform PS4 Publisher Sony Interactive Entertainment Release Date Aquảng bá trăng tròn, 2018 PS4 Score 10 Developer SIE Santa Monica Studio

God of War was reviewed using a final “retail” PlayStation 4 tải về code provided by Sony. You can find additional information about giaithuongtinhnguyen.vn’s ethics policy here. The game was played on a PS4 Pro on Performance mode. For PS4 Pro users, God of War offers a display mode with 4K resolution, but it had frame-rate issues in our tests. The game was also tested by the giaithuongtinhnguyen.vn team on a standard PS4 and exhibited no major performance issues. Screenshots were captured on both PS4 Pro & standard PS4 in 1080p resolution.