Developer Sony Santa Monica Publisher SIE Format PS4 Release TBA
God Of War, Days Gone, Nier: Automata, Bound, The Last Guardian, Spider Man, Star Wars Battlefront: X-Wing VR Mission, PlayStation VR Worlds, Farpoint, Death Stranding, Resident Evil VII: Biohazard, Detroit: Become Human, Horizon Zero Dawn, Let It Die, Batman Arkham VR
When we were kids, dads were the superweapons of the console wars. Out on the school playground, someone always had a father in the industry who’d played the new Sega console and it had Mario on it and everything, scout’s honour. Fast forward a generation and dads are once again the bayonets of the fanboy footsoldiers. On one side, Microsoft’s grizzled, crinkled Marcus Fenix. On the other, Kratos, scourge of the Greek gods, a man who has seen the very worst of humanity and its astral overlords but has now discovered something immeasurably more harrowing: a son.
There are some surprising parallels between Kratos and Cory Barlog, the creative director who was an animator on the first God Of
War. Both quit their jobs and went on journeys of self-discovery. Kratos has ended his in Scandinavia, home to a whole new pantheon of gods to, we presume, fall out with and destroy. Barlog has ended up back
where he started, armed with a host of ideas about how the character can develop beyond what has always been, even by videogame standards, a blank if blood-splattered canvas.
So, Barlog has a young son and so does Kratos, and the latter made for a thoroughly unexpected unveiling for a new God Of War. Eventually torsos would be cleaved open and heads loosed from shoulders, as is tradition, but bookending the violence were scenes of something that aimed, at least, for fatherly tenderness. Some of it felt rather forced – a shared XP system is a curious emotional device, and half-filling a rage meter when Kratos Jr does something wrong was a particularly contrived way of showing that Kratos has, like, feelings – but elsewhere lay hints of something deeper. After our antihero wrapped his hand around his son’s to administer the killing blow to a felled deer, he reached out as if to put a reassuring hand on his shoulder, but stopped short. It was almost touching.
The camera has been yanked from its series of zoomed-out, elevated, cinematic moorings and is now tight over Kratos’ shoulder. Combat, as a result, finally has the weighty impact this series has for so long lacked. It makes crowd control harder, but a throwable axe can pin foes to walls before being recalled. Quite how boss battles will be handled from this angle is another matter – the one in the demo appeared heavily scripted – but the biggest challenge facing Barlog and team is telling the emotional story he wants to tell without starving series fans of the god-killing ultraviolence they crave.
This troll-like creature provides a good opportunity for Kratos to educate his son in the finer points of ripping off heads. The boy isn’t very accurate with those arrows, though