With only a few days left until the rebooted God of War releases for the PlayStation 4, early reviews are starting to trickle in — and judging from all the praise, it’s fair to say Sony Interactive Entertainment’s new take on the Kratos mythology is heading toward critical divinity.
Scan reviews for God of War, and you’ll encounter the word “masterpiece” a lot. It’s the sort of praise reserved for each console generation’s very highest-rated games (think The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild or Super Mario Odyssey). For a game franchise firmly grounded in hack-and-slash mechanics, brought to life with epic set-piece battles, it’s rare territory.
The swooning is coming from just about every corner of the media landscape, too. Press from both inside the gaming industry, as well as traditional outlets, are falling all over themselves to recommend God of War, citing everything from the emotional impact of adding in a new, ever-present family member (Atreus, Kratos’ son), to the camera’s unique and narratively significant point of view, to the spot-on controls for innovative new weapons.
The PlayStation exclusive already has earned perfect scores from a basketful of industry watchers, including IGN, Polygon, US Gamer, GamesRadar+ and more, as well as from mainstream reviewers at Britain’s The Telegraph and The Guardian. With 81 critic reviews linked at the game’s Metacritic page at the time of this article’s posting, God of War currently holds an aggregate critical rating of 94 — just a few ticks behind Breath of the Wild’s remarkable Metascore of 97.
IGN called God of War a game greater than the sum of its parts, summarizing that its “outstanding characters, world, and combat come together to form an unforgettable adventure.” In its review, Game Informer scored God of War at 9.75 out of 10, saying Kratos shows up on the PS4 “quieter and more deliberate, affected by his history but not constrained by it.”
The new game takes Kratos out of his familiar Greek pantheon stomping ground and places him in unfamiliar mythological territory: as a sojourner walking among Nordic legends. Along for every step of the adventure is his young son, Atreus, and both characters start the game grieving in different ways over their shared loss: Faye, Kratos’ wife and Atreus’ mother.
With an entirely new set of divine myths to explore, and beset by a protective impulse to transform Atreus from a greenhorn fighter into a competent but righteous warrior, Kratos receives a layer of complex personal motivations that some reviewers found absent from previous God of War games.
It all amounts to “tremendous heavy lifting done by the creators of God of War,” as Polygon says in its perfect-ten review, “to shift the tone, the style and the expectations of one of the most beloved but also most violent and debaucherous franchises in modern games.”
By making the story personal, and by allowing players to discover significant pieces of the game through diversions and slow-paced exploration, God of War, assures Game Informer, “emerges as one of the best games of this generation.”
With that kind of recommendation, it’s a good thing the wait’s almost over. God of War releases on April 20 for PlayStation 4 and PlayStation 4 Pro.