God of War: The P2 Co-op Review
An epic game requires an epic review and let’s face it, the new God of War is about as epic as they come. To give Kratos the analysis he deserves we managed to lock both Paul and Matt into a room, a room that they couldn’t exit until the game was finished and the review was written. 40 hours later, Paul and Matt have emerged, tired, drained and more than a little stinky, but with a big smile on their faces. Here is the result of that enforced adventure.
Matt: So, can you start a review with an expletive? Like “holy shit” perhaps?
Paul: I’m prepared to. “Holy shit” was a line I uttered on several occasions throughout the duration of the God of War experience. I’d need a third hand to count the number of times an epic moment in combat, a stunning vista, or massive twist in the plot prompted shock and/or awe from me. It’s hard to dive too deeply without spoiling the game, so I’ll avoid doing that, but God of War seems to have been developed with a similar philosophy to The Witcher 3 in mind. Where in CD Projekt Red’s work they aimed to ensure that within every 30 seconds there was something to catch your eye to head off and explore, in God of War it seems no more than 30 seconds can pass before something incredibly cinematic takes place. Were there any particular moments/sights that caught your eye?
Matt: There were many, however I am apprehensive about spoiling anything for anyone who hasn’t had a chance to play the game yet. I will say that the World Serpent reveal is one of the more epic moments early on and in context, it is even more impressive than the E3 video of the same moment. For me though the real highlight of this game is the quiet moments, the moments of reflection. God of War has always done epic well, we know that. What this God of War does better than any before it, and to be honest, just about any game on the market, is making meaningful moments in the quiet between the epic. My favourite moment in the game is a lead up to a big reveal, a moment that features nothing but Kratos in a canoe, floating down the river, sorting out the demons of his past. It is beautifully shot and its lack of the traditional Kratos bombast makes it all the more powerful. The cast of well defined and interesting characters helps a lot here wouldn’t you agree?
Paul: Usually it is the core cast of characters that hooks me into a game’s narrative, but in the case of God of War the ancillary faces that engrossed me into the story more than in most other games. The story between the two smithy twins, Brok and Sindri, their tension-filled relationship, and how their story intertwines with the journey of Kratos and Atreus had me riveted in a way that few NPCs have ever achieved prior. Compared to many other games of a similar scope, God of War boasts a very small cast, and I think that lent itself to your ability to form a strong bond with anyone you encountered in your journey. I began to feel the same sort of endearment to the Leviathan Axe and other acquired weapons. Through regular, varied use, I quickly felt as though my weapons were an extension of Kratos’ arms, to the point where when I’d toss my axe, I felt as though I was missing a piece of my being. Did you feel the same way?
Matt: Those weapons, even the ones we aren’t mentioning, are just… magnificent. I was worried in the early stages that Axe combat would grow boring after a while but the upgrade path and new skills acquired along the way keep things fresh for the entirety of the journey. Sure things aren’t as flashy as they were in the past but each blow now has a sense of immediacy, a sense of impact that really thrust me into the experience. This made the challenging fights all the more satisfying and conquering the toughest of foes a reason to shout with joy. Speaking of tough foes, it is fair to say the most difficult challenges come from side events and quests as opposed to the main story. Would you agree?
Paul: The critical path doesn’t throw too many seriously steep mountains for you to climb. There are some seriously climactic encounters, but the nature of them gives you a number of opportunities to inflict damage on your opponent without risk. The side quests however, will test your resilience, skill and willpower, especially those that involve those dastardly Valkyrie, which causes duress on a level that I’ve only experienced in a Souls game. No matter the difficulty however, each encounter is incredibly cinematic, and requires your full attention – there were a few times where my attention was drawn elsewhere for a split second and suddenly I was the recipient of a few swift strikes from my opponent.
Matt: There is quite a learning curve to become a master at the game that is for sure. Button mashing will only get you so far in this one. Now I think it would be remiss to not mention how gorgeous this game is and that one-shot style they have gone with is used to perfection to highlight both the beauty and the brutality the game has to show. We are both playing on a PS4 Pro and I can imagine the game is using every drop of power that system has. My Playstation sounded like a jet engine at times, that’s how hard it was working. But the results were worth it let me tell you.
Paul: Yeah my PS4 was certainly burning up under the pressure of the game, and in spite of all that performance didn’t dip for a moment throughout the 30+ hours I’ve committed to the game to date. Load screens are hidden behind lengthy trips down lifts or as you climb up a wall with Atreus on your back but they’re so subtle though and the conversations keep flowing that they’re hardly noticed. It’s a stunning game visually, that’s not news to anyone, but the musical score blew me away, not because it was big and bombastic, but because of how subtle it could be. That subtlety extended to the dialogue between the cast; the smaller conversations between father and son were among the highlights of the experience, as you saw their relationship continue to develop. I’m a father to be, so the dialogue between father and son didn’t resonate with me as much as it might in a few years, but God of War leans heavily upon that dynamic. How did that strike you?
Matt: That dynamic, in my eyes, was wonderful to watch play out. Kratos’ understanding of what it means to be a father is perhaps the most important journey of the game. Atreus is simply a burden to begin with, but as the game progressed he became the central driving force for Kratos, the reason to keep on. It is a cliched sort of tale, one of a father’s redemption, but it is told with a subtlety and nuance I didn’t think was possible from the same development team that used to think mashing “x” for sexy time was high brow gameplay. If there is one misstep in the game though it is how they handled Atreus’ development. There are a few major changes in Atreus’ behaviour throughout the game and they all seem rushed and not developed. It seems all the more jarring when compared to the masterful way the rest of the story is handled. Would you agree?
Paul: Yes, change doesn’t just apply to Kratos. Atreus also experiences his own change throughout the course of the adventure, but as you were saying that development plays out extraordinarily quickly, and never gave me time to adapt before more changes rolled in and the picture of Atreus looked different again. I attribute this purely to a pacing issue, I’m quite okay with the changes he went through, but the time we were given to process that wasn’t enough. It’s the only blemish on an otherwise exceptional experience, one that I can’t stop gushing about.
Matt: Look there are a few minor technical issues kicking about, the text size, the occasional graphical glitch and I had one instance of a trap not triggering and forcing me to reload at a checkpoint but there have been at least 5 patches since launch so most of that is a thing of the past. These are very minor annoyances in what is an amazing title, one I frankly didn’t think was possible. I was happy with God of War being finished, I didn’t think the world needed another game with Kratos as the lead. What I didn’t count on was this masterful reinvention coming along and proving me wrong. I have never been so happy to be wrong in my life.
Paul: I adored God of War in its original form, and whilst I was satisfied with the then conclusion of the series, this reinvention of the IP is the gift I never realised I wanted. This is a game that I really have to take into consideration as one of those game of the generation titles. God of War has redefined what a character action game could and should be and sets a high bar for any game going forward. As I conclude this, I have two questions for Cory Barlog and Sony Santa Monica:
- When can I get the sequel?
- How the hell did Kratos get to Midgard in the first place?
Matt: These are important questions and ones that will bug me for months to come.
*All pics taken by Matt and Paul on PS4 Pro systems