WARNING: The game being reviewed here is rated M for Mature and contains violence and blood, although they did ditch the sex minigames from the previous games in the series. Those never made much sense for Kratos anyway. Reader discretion advised.
My quest for a review begins. Uncanny Fox here, and this is a new segment on the blog I like to call “Fox Plays.” This is where I’ll be doing mini-reviews of recent video games I just completed. Think of it as “I Just Saw,” but with games instead of movies and shows. At first I’m going to keep things limited to games that just came out, but I might branch out into older games that I’m just now catching up on. We’ll play it by ear. I’ve got a large backlog of Final Fantasy games to play through…
Anyway, for my first review, I’ll be looking at the recent sequel/reboot of the classic Playstation exclusive (I own a PS4, so that’s what I’ll be reviewing most games from, plus the things I get off of Steam) Action/Hack-and-Slash/Greek Myth/’Roid Rage Simulator franchise God Of War, entitled simply… God Of War. Again, the joy of starting over means you don’t need a new title.
Full disclosure: before this one, the only other game in the series I’ve played was the remastered God Of War III. But I’ve heard of it beforehand, not to mention seeing the old commercials for the other games during Smackdown, where the old lady talks in this epic voice about Kratos’s quest for vengeance against the Greek gods. Indeed, the previous game had you cutting a bloody trail through the ancient Greek pantheon in increasingly creative and gory ways, finally culminating in the bald-headed, ash-skinned antihero beating Zeus into a literal pulp with his bare hands.
But as this installment begins, centuries have passed, and the once-vengeful God Of War Kratos has settled down to start a new family in the land of Norse Myth (which fans of the MCU will recognize as the dwelling ground of Thor, although like the Greek gods before, this version takes a more villainous approach). His peaceful life is turned upside down with the death of his new wife Faye, prompting him to take his son Atreus (or, as his father affectionately calls him, “BOY”) on a journey to fulfill her dying wish: to spread her ashes across the peaks of Jotunheim, the land of the giants and the highest point in all the nine realms of Asgard. But the path proves perilous, and the two find themselves hunted by the sinister (and tattooed) god Baldur, who in this version is cursed to not feel pain. All the while, they come across such memorable characters as the stern-but-kind witch who lives beneath the tree lizard (who has a divine secret of her own), the giant and peaceful World Serpent, the severed head of Mimir (who Kratos carries around through the back half of the quest to hilarious effect), and the two dwarf brothers who craft and upgrade equipment for you (much to each other’s chagrin). And as the journey progresses, Kratos finds himself haunted by his violent past, and tasked with helping Atreus come to terms with his true nature as the son of a God.
The plot is a compelling one, filled with shocking twists and clever plays on Norse mythology. It deconstructs the violent path Kratos walked in the previous games, forcing him to confront his dark past while trying to help his son avoid his mistakes. Along the way, they explore the vast sights of the nine realms, each one beautifully rendered. And there’s nothing quite like climbing up Jotunheim on the final stretch of the journey, no music and sparse dialogue as Kratos and Atreus finally fulfill Faye’s last request and take in the sight of their endpoint.
Kratos may have mellowed out a bit since his time in Greece, but he’s still just as brutal on the battlefield, taking out enemies with powerful strikes and crushing takedowns. Combat is slower and more methodical than III, with Kratos trading in his signature Chain-Blades for a trusty Leviathan Axe (though he does get the former back eventually) and ditching the Quick-Time Events that were revolutionary in the original game, but completely passé now. In addition, Atreus can help out by firing arrows on Kratos’s command and unleashing magical attacks of his own. It might not be as flashy as previous games, but it’s still fun to lay waste to the various mythical creatures (and occasional deities) who make the mistake of trying to take on the former Ghost of Sparta. And there’s a satisfying feel to throwing Kratos’s axe and having it return on command with the Triangle Button.
Other gameplay involves traveling the landscape with jumps and climbs, solving puzzles and having Atreus read signs in ancient Norse text, in a manner not unlike the equally great Uncharted series. There’s also a Photo Mode, like in Spider-Man, and yes, you can take Kratos selfies, though it’s not an automatic setting. The extremely out-of-character faces you can give him are worth the price of admission. Also, throughout the game, you’ll be able to buy upgrades and new armor for both Kratos and Atreus, as well as talismans that grant you new abilities and attacks. Overall, this is a beautiful game, with great graphics and a story detailing the strained relationship between a father and a son, as well as the price of revenge. I honestly can’t find anything bad to say about it. The music and voice acting are top notch, with Christopher Judge (Magneto from X-Men: Evolution) nailing his role as Kratos and Sunny Suljic turning in a surprising performance as Atreus. And most important of all, it’s a blast to play. I can’t wait to see what comes next in the series (the ending leaves some material open for a sequel), but in the meantime, definitely pick this one up. So until next time, I’ve been The Uncanny Fox. Live long, stay gold, and remember: Kratos was calling his son “Boy” before Sandra Bullock made it cool.