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Kratos Scales New Heights In The Latest And Greatest God Of War

God of War

Having played through a lot of God of Wars since the series was first introduced on the PS2 in 2005 (there have been nine prior to this one, but who’s counting), each new entry has come with several familiar tropes that we’ve come to expect. For instance, we know we’ll battle hordes of dudes inspired by Greek mythology; we know the combat will be loads of button-mashing fun; we know Kratos will dismember his enemies in increasingly inventive and gory ways; and, as far as anti-heroes go, our leading Spartan Warrior will remain fairly one-dimensional from one sequel to the next.

Going into the latest God of War, I was anticipating all of these elements, plus refined visuals to complement my 4K technology. As I started playing, I quickly realized this was like no other God of War. Set against a wintery, Norse mythology-influenced backdrop, the game has a distinctively different look to it due to its new setting. But it also plays quite differently. One of the first things you’ll notice is how the opening menu transitions seamlessly into the first gameplay sequence right after you select your difficulty level and other settings. From here on, the camera is situated just above Kratos’ shoulder and remains as one uninterrupted shot.

GOW

Perhaps the most impressive feat this God of War manages to pull off is a genuinely moving story, and the intimately placed camera plays a huge part in putting us in Kratos’ shoes. Whether he’s enjoying a quiet moment with his son, Atreus (more on that major character in  the next paragraph), or going toe-to-toe with a foe many times his size, you’re right there with him. The only time the camera cuts away is if you die, and you will die.

Back to Kratos’ son, Atreus is one of the most welcome additions to the series—if not the most. Whether battling by your side or providing some of the story’s most heartfelt beats, it’s now hard to imagine Kratos embarking on another adventure without his boy. While some gaming sidekicks can seem superfluous, this companionship ranks among one of the most mature and memorable, not unlike Joel and Ellie in The Last of Us.

Just as engaging as our heroes are the game’s villains, namely the bosses, all of whom put up a very good fight. As with other God of War games, the heights of Kratos’ divine powers are stretched to the limit in nearly every battle. Early in the game, you’ll find yourself in close, bloody combat that’s as exhilarating, challenging, and high concept as any final boss fight, and from there Kratos’ journey doesn’t let up.

GOW

More than ever before, Kratos and his new sidekick’s weapons and armour can be upgraded via a fairly dynamic skill tree as well as blacksmiths. While these upgrades certainly make the game more rewarding as you progress, the real fun comes from Kratos’ signature weapon, the Leviathon Axe, which is instilled with mighty frost power.  The axe starts off as a fairly simple blade—allowing you to slice and dice enemies with heavy and light attacks—but as you progress it can be updated with new abilities and combo attacks. Still, the most satisfying ability can be performed right off the bat, which is throwing it and having it return like a boomerang at your command, much like Thor’s hammer. Projectile attacks in games can be pretty hit and miss, but chucking that axe and retrieving it for a double hit never gets old (it also adds a nice rumble on your controller). Naturally, you can also upgrade your ranged attacks, which I strongly recommend you do. You will be throwing this thing thousands of times before wrapping up the robust campaign.

The game’s open-world is also begging to be explored in ways the series has never touched upon. Initially feeling rather linear, it opens up in a major way after several missions. Oftentimes, you’ll encounter an enemy that kills you with a single blow (their purple-coloured health bar will indicate how tough they are), which can be discouraging at first, but you’ll want to go back for some sweet revenge later on. While this isn’t quite as open a world as Far Cry, Breath of the Wild, or Horizon: Zero Dawn, it’s a colossally expansive, diverse, and utterly gorgeous one that feels like the perfect evolution for the franchise, and one you will be revisiting for hours after completing the story just to find every artifact, solve every mystery, and crush every opponent.

God of War is out now exclusively on PS4. Check out the story trailer below or just buy the damn game right now.