Hands-On: God of War

Hands-On: God of War
* PS Nation was invited to an event in Los Angeles, California by Sony for a hands-on preview of God of War. Travel and food was paid for by the studio. The game was played on PS4 Pro and 4K HDR display.

Last week I had the opportunity to play God of War ahead of its April 20th release and while it was only a small taste of what’s to come, it left a great impression on me.

The demo I played was the first two hours of the game and while I could spoil many plot points from the the time I spent immersed in this new world, I feel like anything story specific would ruin your experience. So in order to preserve your first go, I am choosing to skip over the story points and focus primarily on the gameplay.

At its core, this is still God of War. You have Kratos, who has anger issues, and can absolutely wreck anyone that crosses his path. It’s violent, over the top, and entertaining as all hell. The developers were able to deconstruct what makes God of War iconic and rebuild it into a new(ish) thing.

The game almost feels like a reboot, but not completely since it’s still technically a continuation of the previous games. This is still the same Kratos, he just happens to be living during the Norse mythology era.

The first change that’s obvious is how the camera has been brought in to an over the shoulder perspective and it makes a huge difference. Now fights feel more intense, more cinematic, and more intimate. Every blow and every movement has a different and much more impactful feel now. I felt more in the action then I’ve ever felt playing a God of War game.

Early on, Kratos is in a one-on-one fight that felt surprisingly more intense. Not because he found himself in an even battle, but because the camera has the ability to make encounters more personal and in your face.

This particular fight pulled off interesting camera angles and movements that ramped up the intensity with its various tricks and angles. While fighting it felt like I was experiencing an epic superhero anime play out as I battled, all thanks to this change of perspective.

The actual combat itself is vastly different due to a new twist. Gone are Kratos’ iconic blades and in their place is the Leviathan Axe, a simple and effective weapon. An axe might sound tame, but this one has the ability to be thrown and recalled at any time on top of being a brutal up close weapon.

Quickly I found how much fun it is to chuck the axe at an enemy and immediately recall it to get an extra hit. The axe can be used to attack multiple enemies from a distance and protect Arteus when you are unable to reach him during any encounters with multiple foes.

I spent a fair amount of my time messing with the Leviathan Axe throwing it at enemies and around the world just to see what it can do and I cannot wait to test it out in the full game. It’s devastating up close and its range abilities leave a lot of opportunities to make cause chaos. With all the experimenting with its limitations, I didn’t find any while playing.

As for the world, it definitely feels larger than previous entries in the franchise. No, it isn’t an open world game or ripe for exploration. Instead it’s a larger linear experience. Players are still being taken through a journey and set along a path, that path just happens to be larger than the series has had before.

There are places within the story that have some hidden secrets though don’t expect to get sidetracked too much. I found a couple instances where there were places to go away from the obvious destination and for the most part I only found chests and a couple collectibles when doing so.

I wouldn’t expect much in terms of distractions though as this is still a story driven experience with the theme being the rough father and son relationship between Kratos and Atreus. Kratos obviously cares greatly for his son, he genuinely loves him.

This relationship is the only bit of humanity Kratos has left and it’s a constant struggle for him. He wants Atreus to be strong and capable of surviving, but he isn’t a subtle man, he only knows anger and aggression. He wants to show compassion and love, but he feels it would only weaken Atreus.

The world is vicious and cruel so any perceived weakness will only hurt one’s ability to survive and Kratos is fully aware of this. The story will be about Atreus and his growth as a person and Kratos’ ability to let go and share his feelings with his son.

Atreus is the one aspect of this game I was concerned about or at least I was till I played because Atreus is a very capable character. You get a small ability to control him by directing him where to shoot his arrows to distract or stun enemies. He’s quite useful in a fight and in my experience was not a hindrance. I never had to bail him out and he would often help me stay on path or target. I walked away relieved that this might not end up an annoying escort mission.

I only had a short time with God of War and even though it wasn’t a lot of time it was enough to relieve any doubts I had and only intensified my desire to play the full game.

Published by Sony Interactive Entertainment and developed by Santa Monica Studios, God of War will be released on April 20, 2018 for PlayStation 4.

* All screens used in this preview were provided by the publisher.

Written by Michael Cwick

Michael Cwick

Just a nerd from the Windy City. I’m actually really bad at describing myself because I get all self-critical and self-conscious. Follow me on Twitter, @The1stMJC, to see my borderline insane rants on tv shows and other non important subjects. If I’m not tweeting I’m probably just watching Buffy or Firefly for the millionth time.

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