God Of War 4 (GOW 2018) Review

xandermartin98
You know, looking back at the previous God Of War games before the 2018 reboot I’ll be talking about tonight (main trilogy, PSP spin-offs, etc), I never really understood why everyone thought Kratos was such a good character; I mean yeah, sure, he had a bit more of a personality compared to the likes of, say, Gordon Freeman or Master Chief just to name a few (and Mario, and Link, and Samus, and mostly every other massively popular Nintendo/Microsoft character, just for the record), but let’s just ignore the hype those games had surrounding them for a second and pay attention to how astonishingly little depth Kratos always had as a character. Good ways to describe him included “one-dimensional hunk of meat”, “one-note fiddle”, “one-trick pony”, “single-minded brute” and a whole bunch of other derogatory statements; yes, I get that he basically had all of his other emotions besides pure unbridled anger taken away FROM him by his arrogant, hateful god-parents when they basically stole everything ELSE he held dearly (most notably including his family) from him, but to make a long story short, he basically existed for the sole purpose of murdering (and being angry at) every moving (and also NON-moving) thing in sight...

...and also occasionally having sex with pretty women as well, eventually resulting in his ever-so-beloved new “kid archer” sidekick we all know and love (all the more so thanks to the common knowledge that his inclusion was almost cut from the official game by Sony for being overly ambitious and expensive to program/choreograph/voice-act…)

Anyway, all of that being said, let’s just immediately dive straight into the thing that this game has REALLY been getting all of its incessant Reddit hype for, shall we? I’m sure all of you GOW fans who still haven’t played this yet are probably just about as excited as I was…

STORY (SPOILER WARNING): Holy HELHEIM, is this game’s storyline absolutely phenomenal; honestly, I’d even wager that it’s considerably deeper and more fleshed-out than most other games that AREN’T God Of War. At heart, it’s still an extremely (albeit charmingly) simple coming-of-age story; Kratos, who (much like the game itself) has become shockingly more calm, collected, mature and civilized when compared to his past outings, has ostensibly fled from Greece out of rather understandable necessity after completely destroying its environmental balance and plunging it into a full-fledged era of cataclysmic ruin (and also once again AFTER committing suicide as well; don’t even ask me how THAT works) into the legendary Nordic realm of Skyrim Midgard and happily settled down in a rather crudely and uncharacteristically humbly made log cabin with his new wife...who, of course, has already died and been cremated into a bag of ashes upon starting the game, leading directly into the main plot thread of him and his incredibly smart and plucky new archer son nicknamed Boy Atreus journeying across the realms in search of the so-called “ultimate realm” known as Jotunheim (where all of the giants once lived before they all died) so that they can ceremoniously spread her ashes across the land of said realm from atop its highest mountain peak.

Without even mentioning all of the juicy bonus lore that Kratos makes his son read all throughout the game because he’s somehow still too stupid and lazy to do so himself, this seemingly brain-dead simple core plot ends up developing into a full-blown labyrinth of twists and threads towards its conclusion, from the Stranger you fight at the beginning of the game actually being the ancient Norse-mythology light god known as Baldur (who is also the son of Midgard’s suspiciously Aloy-look-alike witch goddess Freya, who inadvertently cursed him with the inability to physically feel ANYTHING in hopes that it would serve him as a blessing...which, of course, ends up driving him completely and utterly insane as a result) to the ridiculously petty brotherly quarrels of local dwarf blacksmiths Brok and Sindri (stemming from the fact that they created Thor’s hammer together) to my personal favorite twist of all: Mimir actually later becomes Kratos’ endlessly knowledge-dispensing, hilariously thickly Scottish-accented secondary sidekick...after he chops off Mimir’s head and mounts it onto his belt, of course! (Believe me, it gets even weirder when Kratos later ends up having to go inside World Serpent Odin’s stomach to retrieve Mimir’s lost eye…)

Anyway, long story short (literally), the dynamic between characters is beyond top-notch, the voice acting is on point, the characters themselves are incredibly fleshed-out and well-developed for this type of game, it’s remarkably impactful and emotional in all of the right ways (honestly, Undertale and the like, as much as I absolutely LOVE that game’s main Pacifist/Genocide portion, REALLY could have learned from this game, for a lot MORE reasons that I’m about to go into in just a minute here), the lore is astonishingly rich and deep (again, ESPECIALLY for the type of game that it is), and overall, I’d say it’s almost worth the price of admission JUST FOR its story alone...but HOO boy, let me tell you, you’d REALLY be missing out if THAT was the only thing that you played this game for...now for the even more important part!

GAMEPLAY: Basically, it’s still the same classic GOW gameplay you’ve come to know and love over the years, but deeper, more complex, slower-paced (in a good way), clunkier (because Kratos is older now, presumably) and presented from Resident Evil 4’s classic “over-the-shoulder” perspective. Besides the fact that the game actually has a pretty surprisingly large amount of puzzle mechanics now, that’s really all you need to know. Although Kratos’ original signature weapon (the Blades Of Chaos) IS pretty obviously still in the game, you don’t unlock it until VERY late in the main story, and besides, I personally find the new Leviathan Axe (the other side of the game’s “fire/ice” weapon dynamic, of course) WAY more fun and satisfying to use; it has TONS more weight and feel to it in combat, its brilliantly implemented “axe boomerang” gimmick is UNBELIEVABLY satisfying (if sometimes admittedly overpowered beyond belief) to use, it gets remarkable puzzle-solving mileage over the course of the game, and it just generally fits the theme of the game perfectly. The defensive mechanics, while also extremely overpowered (presumably unless you’re playing on “God Of War” difficulty, which effectively turns the combat into a completely different game altogether), are also exhilarating fun to use, as well as Atreus’ magic/arrow assistance.

Taking place in a hugely linearized faux-open world centered around the legendary Lake Of The Nine Valkyries where Odin lives, GOW4 manages to effortlessly feel like so many other games combined together into one that it’s not even funny; it has the father/child dynamic of The Last Of Us, the humor sense and climbing system of Uncharted, the combat of old GOW mixed with Resident Evil 4 and Dark Souls, the ability/upgrade progression of Metroid, the dungeon-crawling of Zelda, (basically) the Nordic setting of Skyrim, you name it...and while the finished product OF all of this might not be particularly revolutionary in any way, it somehow manages to feel genuinely fresh regardless, thanks largely in part to its pitch-perfect execution. Though there ARE plenty of dull moments in this game, I would say that overall, it provides easily MORE than enough excitement to make up for it.

Also, one more thing; the game’s difficulty balance is borderline perfect as well. Unless you decide to be a complete lunatic and do your VERY FIRST playthrough on GOW difficulty, the game allows you to ratchet down the difficulty setting from Hard to Normal (or perhaps even Easy, if you’re really THAT much of a pansy even despite how easy most of this game already is ON Hard) any time you want. Not only that, but you can also use the game’s backup-save system to remove the mid-fight checkpoints from certain fights if you’re so inclined (DEFINITELY not recommended against Magni and Modi, but whatever floats your canoe, I suppose…)

Long story short, there’s a ton of stuff to collect, a ton of juicy overworld to explore, a ton of obligatory “arena mini-game” content to try your luck at in the Niflheim and Muspelheim realms, a TON of polish in the controls and gameplay mechanics, and even a pretty shocking amount of combat depth for a GOW game. This seriously could be a more complete package for what it is, even if it tried.

GRAPHICS: Absolutely beautiful, nothing more to say here. In fact, this just might be the next Horizon: Zero Dawn as far as visuals are concerned; being wonderfully graphic and visceral during combat aside, it most certainly has JUST as breathtakingly beautiful of environmental detail as HZD, I know that much for sure. (Also, the character designs for Kratos and Freya in particular are among the sexiest from BOTH of their respective male/female genders that I’ve honestly ever seen in a game; just REALLY needed to put that out there.)

SOUND: Top-notch on all fronts; the voice acting (yes, even for the kid character) is shockingly realistic and believable, the sound effects (especially for the Leviathan Axe) are just completely BEYOND satisfying, and the music, forgettable and generically cinematic as it may be, honestly fits its setting even more than Skyrim’s at times.

OVERALL: God Of War 4 is an astonishingly loving tribute to Norse mythology, a quite frankly A-plus-class beat-em-up game and probably one of the most emotional video game storylines since Undertale’s Pacifist run and The Last Of Us, all neatly rolled together into one ABSURDLY big monstrosity of a game that is unbelievably polished all around and (just to add extra icing to the cake) even boasts the graphics to match (yes, EVEN BY PLAYSTATION 4 STANDARDS, no less) as well. For what it is, EASILY a solid 9.6/10

Comments

Great review. I'm glad to see others confirming that this game is in fact, not an overhyped piece of garbage and is genuinely great. - kempokid

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