Before I lavishly apply endless praise upon one of the best games ever made, first, I should recommend my review of God of War that I published last year when this website came into existence. In short, at the time, it was my favorite single-player game of all time, bar none. Giving it a 97/100, you can read that here. Now, onto the point of tonight’s article. Yesterday, God of War 2018 turned 3! Happy birthday, Kratos, BOY!.. I mean Atreus, and Sony Santa Monica for the anniversary of this excellent video game.
As Twitter applauded God of War for existing, and I got to gaze upon endless screenshots, clips, and trailers, I was reminded once again what a profound experience this game was for me. Up until God of War, I’d never played a video game that I genuinely thought could stand up to the best of TV and Film. Despite the far reaching and multi-billion industry that video games are, there was always an unspoken wall between the three mediums. Films could reach the heights of Inception, The Dark Knight, Shawshank Redemption, or Terminal. TV could produce Game of Thrones, Bosch, Breaking Bad, The Wire, and Narcos.
With video games there was an invisible line. Gamified mechanics developed and set in stone over the course of decades, technical limitations in animation and realism, and more besides. It all held back video games from matching the best that Film and TV could offer swing for swing. Some of my favorite games were released in the 2010s. Games like Portal 2, Mass Effect 3, Bloodborne, Overwatch, and more besides. Those and the rest stand as some of the best video games ever made, and I will forever stand by that. Masters of their craft.
But God of War. God of War marks the first time where I sat there and thought that it achieved the same things with me that Film and TV does. The attachment to characters, narratives, and the motives and results of all of those things. The investment in the story, and even the side stories. The excellent acting performances that I actively prefer to most of my favorite other forms of media. The class-leading animation and direction in both gameplay and cutscenes.
And of course, the magnum opus: absolutely zero camera cuts. Think of some of your favorite one-shot scenes on TV. The Daredevil Season 1 hallway fight. The Punisher prison fight. Anything. For only the second time in video game history (to the best of my knowledge), the first being Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice, God of War featured a full campaign that did not cut. Not once. I cannot overstate how technically impressive it is, and I get the sweats just thinking about the development process for such an achievement.
TV shows and movies are commended for elegant one-shot scenes, rightfully so, but God of War kept it up for 30 hours (or more), throughout combat, puzzles, traversal, cutscenes, and even fast travel.
Technical prowess aside, God of War also had to shoulder the responsibility of a complete overhaul of a long running and much-loved franchise that’s been around since March 22nd, 2005. 13 years of legacy, at the time of the 2018 release. Cory Barlog and his team at Sony Santa Monica had to navigate a franchise that had consistently reviewed well in its original form – a Hack and Slash game not a million miles away from something like Devil May Cry.
God of War 2018 took that formula, a formula that spanned eight mainline titles, and turned it on its head. A new camera orientation, over the shoulder instead of zoomed out. The new combat system, borrowing from the styles popularised by Souls games and Souls-Likes. A new world, based around Norse mythology instead of Greek. Sony Santa Monica even opted to age Kratos by many years, giving him a son, a wife, and a history that hadn’t even been explored prior to the release.
All of these changes could have backfired, and it’s something akin to a small miracle that it didn’t. Instead, God of War was met with resounding adoration, beating out Red Dead Redemption 2 for the coveted Game of The Year award; a game that’s very nearly as astonishing. God of War, even now, holds the joint highest User Score on Metacritic for PS4 exclusives; 9.2/10. It’s only prevented from being at the top of the Critic Score by Persona 5 Royal, which was released two years later. God of War currently holds a 94/100, versus P5R’s 95/100.
God of War 2018 is also the game that I can attribute my purchase of the PS4 to. The Last of Us Remastered, Horizon Zero Dawn, Uncharted 4, Bloodborne, even the announcement of a AAA officially licensed Spider-Man game. None of them persuaded me to buy a PS4, limited funds that I had. But God of War pushed me over that edge. Here’s a fun fact; I’d never actually played a God of War game before.
I had zero attachment to Kratos, or the franchise in general. When the initial trailer was released, I hopped onto social media because I didn’t think I’d care. But when gameplay started dropping, more trailers made their way into the wild, and when reviews dropped; claiming God of War as some kind of ascension within video games, my attention was grabbed.
I bought a PS4 mere months later, and I’ve never looked back. I completed God of War three times over the course of two months, and a fourth shortly after. I’ve recently started my fifth. Since God of War released in 2018, only one game has surpassed its technical and narrative achievements; The Last of Us Part 2. In my opinion of course.
To be honest? I don’t predict many others arriving over the current years.
Happy three year anniversary to a video game that also stands as the highest bar, and damn near a ‘once in a generation’ experience. Here’s to more New Game + runs and, most importantly, here’s to NPCs returning to their dialogue after something happens. Love you Mimir.
I’ve been playing video games in some form or another for nearly two decades. My favourite campaign of all time is Halo: Combat Evolved and my favourite multiplayer of all time is Overwatch, with a dash of Halo 3. Huge lover of everything gaming, no matter the platform or source, and I enjoy a story driven campaign like nothing else!