On a snowy day last week, in a fancy hotel suite in Manhattan, I controlled Kratos in his newest PlayStation adventure. The new God of War is out in a month, yet the public has seen very little of it. The game is a drastic stylistic departure from the previous games in the series, so I figured you all might have some questions. I asked you on Twitter to ask me about the game. I answered a lot of your questions in my video.
A lot of you just wanted to talk about Kratos’s beard. Even more of you wanted to talk about Kratos’s son Atreus, wording the question “Is he annoying?” about two dozen different ways. He isn’t annoying. I like the kid. He’s a good kid.
Many of you asked about the combat. A lot of you were concerned that it might be too different from other games in the series. Well, it’s different.
It’s very different.
I absolutely love the combat. It feels hard, heavy, loud, personal and real. Heck, it feels so real there isn’t even a combo meter on the screen any more.
Kratos’ new weapon, the Leviathan Axe, suits his new, thicker physique and old-manny beard. Every swing of the axe is a crunching delight.
I derived extreme pleasure from throwing the axe. You hold the L2 trigger to aim, and then press either attack button (you attack with R1 and R2) to throw the axe. I love the way it flips end over end as it flies. Press the triangle button to summon the axe back to Kratos’s hand. It comes flying like Thor’s hammer. If the axe’s return flight path intersects with the positions of any enemies, it damages them as it flies back. Once I found out you could do that, it sure became the only thing I wanted to do for the rest of the day.
As you’ll see if you kindly click “play” on the video, you can add abilities and properties to the axe. One of these is a freeze ability. If the axe hits an enemy, it will freeze them in place. Now, as long as you don’t retrieve the axe, the enemy stays frozen. While you don’t have the axe, Kratos can fight with his hands.
I’d say the God of War series has made the transition to an over-the-shoulder camera with tremendous grace. While playing, I was always mindful of where Kratos was, where my son was, where my axe was, and where the enemies were. The action always felt personal and immediate. Blocking with the shield felt good. Shield-bashing felt good. Aiming and commanding my son to fire arrows in a specific direction to distract a bigger enemy made me feel like some sort of a smart guy. Locking on is intuitive – click the right analogue stick to lock onto the nearest enemy and then flick the right analogue stick to change targets.
A game that tests the limits of the player’s spatial awareness as acutely as this one needs a quick 180-degree turn move, so of course it has one of those, too (press the down directional button). Of course, since “no camera cuts ever” is one of the developers’ promises, doing a quick turn results in a super-fast camera whip. I love it.
I want to talk about this game all day. I want to talk about the excellent title screen. I want to praise its old-timey vintage pulp fantasy fiction tone, and the sleek, tasteful classiness of the opening moments of its narrative. I really want to tell you about the boss I fought. Like, when I was fighting him, I was like, “[Laughing wise guy voice] Wow, who the heck is this guy?” And then, hours later, I was like, “[Brooding philosopher voice] Hmm. Who the heck was that guy?” I’ll save this talk, though, because the game is out soon enough, and I don’t want to spoil anything for anybody. Also, Sony asked us nicely to not spoil story stuff.
I’m excited to be this excited to play all the way through a game and talk about it with people who have done the same.
God of War is out April 20. I am going to play it in 4K HDR on my PlayStation 4 Pro, in the dark.