Last night, I got to pour a few hours into the PC version of Santa Monica Studios’ God of War.
God of War is the third title from the PlayStation Studios portfolio to make its way to PC. It follows Horizon: Zero Dawn and Bend Studios’ Days Gone to the platform. Naughty Dog’s Uncharted: Legacy of Thieves Collection will be along later in the year. The Horizon and Days Gone ports were similar in that they were both in pretty rough shape when they first arrived on PC. Detroit: Become Human, another PS4 exclusive that found its way to PC last year, arrived in similarly uneven condition.
Lumps and bumps should be expected. These games were developed and optimised for the PS4. The PS4 represents a handful of closed systems running a lightweight OS on very specific hardware. Moving these games to the PC throws that optimisation out the window. Games that previously only needed to run on two or three hardware combinations must now run on millions, with a heavyweight operating system on top.
PC stalwarts are notoriously finicky about performance. Getting it to run smoothly must have been a high priority because that’s exactly what it does. It runs flawlessly on a wide variety of machines. God of War PC is therefore a watershed moment. A PlayStation Studios title has finally made it to the PC in one piece.
This is due in large part to Vancouver studio Jetpack Interactive. Jetpack is a known quantity in both ports and platform infrastructure. It previously worked with Sony to port Orcs Must Die! Unchained to the PS4, and with Bandai Namco on engineering support for the Steam version of Dark Souls.
What Jetpack has done with God of War is pretty remarkable. Beyond porting one of the PS4’s greatest titles in as complete a condition as possible, it has also expanded the game’s graphics suite. God of War supports 4K resolution with unlocked frame rates and the customary range of visual presets to dial in your settings. You can play with high-resolution shadows, screen-space reflections, they’ve added GTAO (ground truth ambient occlusion) and SSDO (screen space directional occlusion).
Those lucky enough to be running Nvidia RTX cards will find God of War now supports both DLSS and Reflex. DLSS stands for Deep Learning Super Sampling, essentially a way for your graphics card to fill in visual gaps using an AI. This reduces overall strain on the graphics card, allowing for improved performance, and is complex enough to fool the eye. Finally, the game now supports ultra-wide monitors so if you have an ultra-wide at home, congratulations, you have a lot to look forward to.
I installed God of War on the Alienware Aurora R13 desktop I am currently reviewing. The configuration of this desktop is such that quite literally anything would run well on it. With an RTX 3090 and an i9 processer under the hood, I would have been surprised if it had stuttered at all. Through the power of DLSS, I was able to run the game on Ultra settings, at 1080p resolution, at an unwavering 120 frames per second.
For the sake of comparison, I also threw God of War onto my own personal gaming rig, a much older AMD Phenom II X4 processor with a GTX 1070. To my surprise, I was able to run the game at a stable 60 frames on High settings. It never dipped. My aging PC never broke a sweat. If I’m honest, I had expected the complete opposite.
Being on the PC also allows players to completely rebind all the controls to their liking. Though God of War can be played using a keyboard and mouse, I’d still recommend a controller for best results. The keyboard layout was the sole point of contention for me. Holding down left-ctrl to aim the Leviathan Axe for a throw is a strange bind. Just plug in a controller.
If you’ve already played God of War, I doubt you’ll require much more selling on this port than that. For PC players who don’t own a PlayStation, I envy you a great deal. This is a pristine port of one of the finest PlayStation exclusives ever made. It’s a beautiful game about a man hardened by grief and trauma desperately trying to connect with his son. I’m glad that Sony is finally willing to dismantle sections of its walled garden so a new audience of players can experience it.
May every future PlayStation Studios port hit this level of stability and polish.
God of War is set for release on January 15, 2022, on PC via Steam and the Epic Games Store.
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