God Of War

All right, Mr Odin, I’m ready for my closeup



God Of War has changed. Kratos has grown a beard, and sprung a child; he has trav­elled, soul search­ing, and ended up in Scan­di­navia at a time when, awk­wardly for a man who just wants to be left alone, the Norse pan­theon of gods looks down from on high. Yet it’s the new per­spec­tive that rep­re­sents the most trans­for­ma­tive change. Pre­vi­ously po­si­tioned high above the ac­tion to ac­com­mo­date Kratos’ swirling combo strings tear­ing into en­e­mies, the cam­era now sits tightly over the god-killer’s shoul­der.

While born in part from Sony Santa Mon­ica’s de­sire to make this a more per­sonal, re­flec­tive tale than games past, it’s also a de­ci­sion taken from a game­play per­spec­tive, recog­nis­ing that af­ter over a decade’s worth of games cut from such sim­i­lar cloth, Kratos needed to change – and a bit of on-trend fa­cial fuzz wasn’t quite go­ing to cut the mus­tard. “We needed to shake things up,” cre­ative di­rec­tor Cory Bar­log tells us, re­call­ing the early days of pre-pro­duc­tion when a dozen Santa Mon­ica staff – many of whom, like Bar­log, were veter­ans of the first

God Of War – be­gan kick­ing around ideas. “Of the 12 of us, six liked the cin­e­matic cam­eras, and six thought we should change them. I knew I wanted a very per­sonal story for Kratos: I wanted to go deeper into what makes Kratos tick. And to do that, I felt we had to be up close – as close as we pos­si­bly could be.”

In­evitably, given the di­vide in opin­ion, this took a while. Bar­log would be shown a build, say the cam­era needed to be closer, then re­turn a few days later to find it was still too far out. “Fi­nally I an­noyed Ja­son McDonnell, the lead com­bat de­signer, enough that he used some colour­ful lan­guage to tell me to go away,” Bar­log laughs. “He said, ‘Don’t come by my desk for two days.’ I ex­pected to go back and have him show me this re­ally wide shot and say it was the best we could do. He’d gone even closer than I wanted it.”

It was worth the ef­fort, since it fixes this se­ries’ long­est-stand­ing me­chan­i­cal prob­lem. For all the guts and the gore, God Of War’s com­bat has lacked weight, Kratos’ twirling chains pass­ing un­in­ter­rupted through en­e­mies, viewed from 100 feet in the sky. Things would bleed and fall apart, but you never re­ally felt like you were the one that made it hap­pen. From this closer per­spec­tive, you can see, al­most feel ev­ery blow con­nect. Still, there’s a rea­son most games in this genre are viewed from a more dis­tant an­gle. Crowd con­trol, from this close in, is sure to be an is­sue. The ice axe Kratos uses in our demo can be swung as a melee weapon, or flung and re­called at any time, even if you used it to pin an enemy to a wall in the in­tro and are fight­ing the fi­nal boss. The game’s other weapons will need to meet sim­i­lar needs if this risky en­deav­our is to prove a suc­cess.

Yet per­haps the big­gest risk is Kratos’ son. While an ideal ve­hi­cle for a more per­sonal story, it risks di­lut­ing that which de­fines God Of War: fans, af­ter all, like Kratos be­cause he rips the heads off gods, not for the stern tick­ing-off he gives his off­spring for scar­ing off a stag dur­ing a hunt. Bar­log re­cently had his first child. Does he worry he might be put­ting too much of him­self into the new Kratos – a Kratos play­ers don’t nec­es­sar­ily want? “Our lives shape every­thing we do,” he says. “Whether you cre­ate fan­tasy or sci­ence fic­tion, if it comes from no place of truth, it’s empty. The au­di­ence may not be ask­ing for Kratos to have a kid; I don’t think the au­di­ence asked for Kratos to be­gin with. They don’t know what they want un­til they see it. I per­son­ally don’t think cre­ative peo­ple can over-project. It’s not pos­si­ble.” Here’s hop­ing Bar­log Jr never messes up on a hunt­ing trip.

“I wanted to go deeper into what makes Kratos tick. To do that, we had to be up close”

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