God of War returns with a fresh vision for the series, powered by brand new technology from one of the best developers in the business. Santa Monica Studio has always been known for pushing the technological envelope and this new game is no exception. However, more than that, it’s clear that the studio has been granted the budget and time to fully realise its ambitious vision – key ingredients in delivering a quality product. From the smallest of incidental environment details to the most towering of beasts, God of War elevates real-time visuals to new heights while pushing the PlayStation hardware to its limits.
On loading up the game and looking at the title screen, the towering figure of Kratos tells us a lot about the visual evolution Santa Monica Studio has delivered compared to previous God of War games. As the camera pulls in, you’ll notice the sweat and wrinkles on his worn brow, the pores across his weathered skin, the veins running along his battered hands and the detail of his beard. It’s also our first look at how animation and camera work combine beautifully in this game, and the sheer precision in all areas of the artwork.
It’s a bold opener for what God of War has to offer and it’s quickly apparent that this is a very different game compared to its predecessors. The series has traditionally focused on distant camera placement, rarely allowing the player to closely observe Kratos in action, but the camera never cuts here, and is always situated just behind Kratos. It’s an entirely new presentation – and it works. Getting up close like this showcases the extreme detail, whether it’s on Kratos himself, his son Atreus or any of the other friends and foes you’ll encounter on the journey. Thanks to the game’s reliance on physically-based rendering – leather, cloth and fur all appears highly realistic and sits naturally within the world. Hair and beards both look and move realistically, with excellent shading and detail.
Animation plays as important a role as raw detail and sets a new standard for the series. Attacks connect with and stagger enemies realistically, and everything from tossing an axe at the head of a large creature to swooping up the undead with a vicious attack lends a sense of weight and momentum to the game. Larger enemies – a staple of earlier series entries – also make an appearance, featuring both excellent cinematic and in-game animation. Clothing and ‘dangly bits’ also receive their own attention to detail with realistic physics applied to each of them as you run through the world. Realism here is impressive; It feels as if the armour worn by Kratos is a separate object with its own physics applied, rather than something attached to his model.