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Yahtzee reviews the latest God of War.

Transcript Edit

Whoops! I hear the enchanting sound of freshly-disembodied giblets raining upon the roof; I think we're getting a visit from that lovable nutter, Kratos, video gaming's favorite god-botherer/god-pulverizer! But then we start God of War 4, and it's like our crazy alcoholic friend showed up to the party and quietly asks for a mineral water 'cos he found religion in prison. You want to go out and murder some people who mostly don't deserve it, Kratos, mate? "No, I have to set an example for the kid now."

Oh, for the love of God... of War, Kratos! Last time we met, you pulled a guy's head off 'cos he had glowing eyes and you needed a flashlight; now you're all teaching your kid about restraint and mercy and the only decapitation is consensual. Maybe there was a feeling God of War needed to age with its audience, but the original God of War's unique selling point was its sheer, ridiculous audacity and violence, and now I feel it, like Evil Within, has been sacrificed on the altar of the "serious hairy dad" game pioneered by The Last of Us (that I still say is overrated).

I should probably admit to being somewhat biased against God of War 4 - and yes, I am going to insist on calling it that - 'cos I hate when a big game comes out on a Friday and takes up my whole weekend that I could have spent wasting time playing video games instead of wasting time playing video games for work, but also because I remember the first God of Wars on PlayStation 2; specifically, I remember how they used to start: with Kratos getting dropped into a room full of enemies, yelling "If anything's still alive in thirty seconds, I'm going to get a real narc on!", and splattering them all against rocks like he's doing the laundry. Meanwhile, God of War 4 starts with Kratos very slowly carrying a big lump of wood home to cremate the missus. I'm slightly insulted by the way the game insists on making us press buttons and push "Forward" to progress this glorified cinematic; like we've got any fucking choice! Maybe I don't feel like carrying the body to the pyre; maybe I think it'd look nicer on the privet hedge.

I say the game starts this way, but really, the game "starts" about six times; after the funeral, Kratos takes his little cum-sprout hunting, and then the game finally starts when a troll shows up and the combat kicks in, but after we formally introduce him to the inside of his chest cavity, we just go back to bed. Finally, the game actually starts when an introductory boss appears, or at least, after we kill him and set off on the big journey; then we play through some linear levels for a while before we unlock the boat, the world opens up, and the game can truly begin! ...right after you get to Týr's temple and unlock the nine realms, anyway. This is like listening to a story being told by a very old person and waiting for them to get to the fucking point, eventually realizing there might never have been one in the first place.

So yes, the plot: having ensured that the ancient Greeks now have to pray to a skiff full of guts and severed heads, Kratos is now hiding out in Norse mythology. But after the death of his wife, the local gods start noticing the four-mile radius of disembodied goblins surrounding his house, and he and his son must go on a road trip through Midgard and the nine realms - well, four or five of the nine realms; got to save something for the fucking DLC - to smash Odin and Thor's heads together until they start making squishing noises. Oh, wait, no, not that, sorry; I forgot we're a serious hairy dad now. We're just going to scatter the wife's ashes, learn valuable lessons about maturity, and maybe get some ice cream. In fact, despite the game constantly banging on about Odin and what a violent, paranoid fuck-face he is, he never fucking shows up, and what I assumed at the time had been a rather bland and heavily-scripted boss fight as a prelude to the final chapter of the game ended up being the final boss. And then, at the very very end, the game does a very cheeky thing by setting up an explosive, climactic battle, and then going, "Whoops! Here we go again!" Freeze frame, roll credits like it's fucking Happy Days.

I know there's no law saying that games have to end with boss fights, but when I looked back on God of War 4, I felt like nothing much of consequence happened: we tootled around Midgard for a while; at one point, a dragon pops up out of nowhere, which we smack straight back down with a rolled-up newspaper; and the only major Norse god we got to beat up was Baldur, who, it seemed, had never recovered from being in Too Human and became addicted to meth. I partly want to blame this on "Save It for the DLC Syndrome" and partly on the open-world design that, it seems, is now as mandatory for AAA games as picking up a case of crabs on shore leave; it means the plot can't be so consequential that we can't blow it off for three hours to go winkle-picking. And the game's really not subtle about pushing that aspect: "Hey, we could continue the plot, but then again, we could piss about for a while. What do you say?" says Kratos' precocious little sperm deposit on three separate occasions. Nice try, game, but if I explore, I'm damn certain I'm going to find treasure orifices that can only be spread apart with the magic anal beads we don't get 'til Plot Mission 9 or whatever.

"You haven't mentioned the combat yet, Yahtz." All right, fine; the game's pretty good for majestic landscapes, and I felt moved to progress just to see what the next environment was and if we could get souvenir postcards to bore Kratos' neighbors to death with once we get home. "Um, I was actually asking about the combat." And I suppose the relationship between Kratos and his overgrown pubic louse is quite nicely written, and watching them mutually develop over time is the big draw of the plot, even if the open world thing also makes their arc a bit stop-and-start. "Yahtz, tell us about the comb--" The combat's not great, all right?! Are you happy now?!

It's overly complex, for one thing; it didn't take long for me to start finding it really hard to decide what combat upgrades to unlock when I knew damn well just from the descriptions that I wasn't going to use any of the fuckers. "Press R1, and then pause, and then hold down R2, and bite down on the trackpad to do the Spartan Gurgling-Death Bum-Wiggle." Thanks; I think I'll stick to just mashing "Light Attack" and pressing "Dodge" or "Block" when appropriate. Oh yes, and later in the game, remembering to switch between my ice weapon and my fire weapon, depending on whether the current enemy has orange or blue steam clouds coming out of their armpits.

Also, I know you've long admired Kratos from afar, camera, but now he's let you into his life, there's no need to be so fucking clingy. The way the camera stays right up his bum the whole time makes it hard to gauge distance and your surroundings, which isn't ideal for melee combat, and I know for a fact that the game fully agrees with me, because it had to put visually off-putting, hard-to-read, glowing arrows around you to indicate when something's standing right behind you with a smile and a massive stiffy. Seems like the much more elegant solution would have been to just draw the camera back a bit so it's not giving us a constant rectal exam.

God of War 4... God of 4? God of 4 is absorbing and imaginative enough to keep me going and perfectly satisfactory in a vacuum, but I can't help thinking of it as yet another classic series sacrificing some of its unique identity for the sake of making itself more like the standard AAA game of today: grindy side-quests, item crafting, and standard camera bum-hugging instead of the arty fixed camera angles overseeing combat like watching a lawnmower blade inside an overheating tumble dryer. The younger Kratos was never relatable, but he was pretty fucking interesting to watch when he had a narc on and two fistfuls of cyclops nut-sack; "Serious Hairy Dad" Kratos is more human, but also boring, stuffy, and aloof. Yeah, Kratos really seems like a guy concerned with maintaining his dignity; that's why he colored in his face with a red biro and put on a cheerleading skirt.

Addenda Edit

  • Bit of an Ares-hole: Ben "Yahtzee" Croshaw
  • Also, fair warning, you might have this game's plot twists spoiled for you if you read too much about Norse mythology
  • My dad never took me troll-murdering

Screenshots Edit

ZP - God of War 4 screenshot 1

Last time we met, you pulled a guy's head off 'cos he had glowing eyes and you needed a flashlight!

ZP - God of War 4 screenshot 2

The open-world design that, it seems, is now as mandatory for AAA games as picking up a case of crabs on shore leave.

ZP - God of War 4 screenshot 3

But he was pretty fucking interesting to watch when he had a narc on and two fistfuls of cyclops nut-sack.

Episodes
2007 - 2010
2007
Q3 The Darkness Demo · Fable: The Lost Chapters · Zero Punctuation (Episode) · Heavenly Sword and Other Stuff · Psychonauts · Console Rundown · BioShock · Tomb Raider: Anniversary · Manhunt · Peggle
Q4 Halo 3 · Tabula Rasa · The Orange Box · Super Paper Mario · Medal of Honor: Airborne · The Legend of Zelda: Phantom Hourglass · Clive Barker's Jericho · F.E.A.R. Perseus Mandate · Assassin's Creed · Guitar Hero III: Legends of Rock · Mass Effect
2008
Q1 Super Mario Galaxy · Silent Hill: Origins · Crysis · The Witcher · Resident Evil: The Umbrella Chronicles · Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare · SimCity Societies · Yahtzee Goes to GDC · Uncharted: Drake's Fortune · Devil May Cry 4 · Burnout: Paradise · Turok · Zack & Wiki: Quest for Barbaros' Treasure
Q2 Army of Two · No More Heroes · Condemned 2: Bloodshot · Super Smash Bros. Brawl · God of War: Chains of Olympus · Mailbag Showdown · Grand Theft Auto IV · Painkiller · The World Ends With You · The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion · Haze · Metal Gear Solid 4
Q3 Webcomics · Lego Indiana Jones: The Original Adventures · Alone in the Dark · Age of Conan: Hyborian Adventures · The E3 Trailer Park · Ninja Gaiden II · Prince of Persia Retrospective · Soulcalibur IV · Braid · EVE Online · Too Human · Spore · XBLA Double Bill
Q4 Mercenaries 2: World in Flames · Star Wars: The Force Unleashed · S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Clear Sky · Silent Hill: Homecoming · Saints Row 2 · Dead Space · Fable II · Fallout 3 · Guitar Hero: World Tour · Mirror's Edge · Left 4 Dead · Sonic Unleashed · The Year in Review - 2008 · Prince of Persia
2009
Q1 Awards for 2008 · Tomb Raider: Underworld · Far Cry 2 · Gears of War 2 · LittleBigPlanet · Thief: The Dark Project · Skate 2 · F.E.A.R. 2 · Spider-Man: Web of Shadows · The House of the Dead: Overkill · 50 Cent: Blood on the Sand · Resident Evil 5
Q2 X-Blades/Halo Wars · Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars · MadWorld · Tom Clancy's H.A.W.X · Siren: Blood Curse · The Chronicles of Riddick: Assault on Dark Athena · Valkyria Chronicles · Velvet Assassin · Duke Nukem Forever · Bionic Commando · InFamous · The Second Annual E3 Hype Massacre · Prototype
Q3 The Sims 3 · Ghostbusters: The Video Game · Overlord 2 · Red Faction Guerrilla · Wii Sports Resort · Call of Juarez: Bound in Blood · The Conduit · Silent Hill 2 · 2.5-D Hoedown · Tales of Monkey Island · Wolfenstein · Batman: Arkham Asylum · Beatles Rock Band & Guitar Hero 5 · Darkest of Days
Q4 Scribblenauts · Wet · Mario & Luigi: Bowser's Inside Story · Brutal Legend · Washington D.C. · Uncharted 2: Among Thieves · Dragon Age: Origins · Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 · Assassin's Creed 2 · Left 4 Dead 2 & New Super Mario Bros. Wii · Demon's Souls · Holiday 2009 · The Saboteur
2010
Q1 Awards for 2009 · Torchlight · Darksiders · Bayonetta · Dark Void · Borderlands · Mass Effect 2 · Dante's Inferno · BioShock 2 · Aliens vs Predator · Heavy Rain · Battlefield: Bad Company 2 · Final Fantasy XIII
Q2 April Fools 2010 · God of War III · Red Steel 2 · Just Cause 2 · Silent Hill: Shattered Memories · Splinter Cell: Conviction · Nier · Dead to Rights: Retribution · Monster Hunter Tri · Alan Wake · Red Dead Redemption · Alpha Protocol · Prince of Persia: The Forgotten Sands · E3 2010
Q3 No More Heroes 2: Desperate Struggle · Super Mario Galaxy 2 · Singularity · Crackdown 2 · DeathSpank & Limbo · Shadow of the Colossus · Split Second: Velocity · Transformers: War for Cybertron · Kane & Lynch 2: Dog Days · Mafia II · Metroid: Other M · Video Game Voters Network · Amnesia: The Dark Descent
Q4 Halo: Reach · Dead Rising 2 · Spider-Man: Shattered Dimensions · Castlevania: Lords of Shadow · Enslaved: Odyssey to the West · Fallout: New Vegas · Star Wars: The Force Unleashed II · Call of Duty: Black Ops · IPhone Games · Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood · Splatterhouse · Epic Mickey · Holiday 2010
2011 - 2014
2011
Q1 Top 5 of 2010 · World of Warcraft: Cataclysm · Fable III · Minecraft · A Shadow's Tale · Dead Space 2 · DC Universe Online · MindJack · Two Worlds II · Bulletstorm · Killzone 3 · Kirby's Epic Yarn · Dragon Age II
Q2 Pokémon White · Yakuza 4 · Crysis 2 · Nintendo 3DS · Portal 2 · Castlevania: Symphony of the Night · Mortal Kombat · Brink · L.A. Noire · The Witcher 2 · Hunted: The Demon's Forge · Duke Nukem Forever (for real this time) · InFamous 2
Q3 Alice: Madness Returns · Shadows of the Damned · F.E.A.R. 3 · The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time 3D · Call of Juarez: The Cartel · Bastion and From Dust · Catherine · Red Faction: Armageddon · Deus Ex · Deus Ex: Human Revolution · Driver: San Francisco · Dead Island · Resistance 3
Q4 Gears of War 3 · Hard Reset · Rage · Kinect · Batman: Arkham City · Battlefield 3 · Uncharted 3: Drake's Deception · Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 · The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim · Saints Row: The Third · Assassin's Creed: Revelations · The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword
2012
Q1 Serious Sam 3: BFE · Top 5 of 2011 · Super Mario 3D Land & Rayman Origins · Sonic Generations · Star Wars: The Old Republic · Amy · Resident Evil: Revelations · Darkness 2 · Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning · NeverDead · Syndicate · Mass Effect 3 · Twisted Metal
Q2 Yakuza: Dead Souls · Ninja Gaiden 3 · Silent Hill: Downpour · Kid Icarus: Uprising · Fez and I Am Alive · Prototype 2 · Risen 2: Dark Waters · Sniper Elite V2 · Diablo 3 · Max Payne 3 · Dragon's Dogma · E3 2012 · Lollipop Chainsaw
Q3 Quantum Conundrum · Spec Ops: The Line · Walking Dead · Inversion · The Amazing Spider-Man · Half-Life · Wreckateer and Deadlight · Steam Roundup · Sleeping Dogs · Darksiders 2 · DayZ · Guild Wars 2
Q4 Borderlands 2 · FIFA 13 · Resident Evil 6 · Dishonored · XCOM: Enemy Unknown · Medal of Honor: Warfighter & Doom 3: BFG Edition · Assassin's Creed 3 · Halo 4 · Call of Duty: Black Ops 2 · Hitman: Absolution · Far Cry 3 · ZombiU
2013
Q1 Top 5 of 2012 · Paper Mario: Sticker Star · Black Knight Sword & Hotline Miami · Anarchy Reigns · DMC: Devil May Cry · The Cave · Ni No Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch · Dead Space 3 · Aliens: Colonial Marines · Crysis 3 · Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance · Tomb Raider · SimCity
Q2 The Walking Dead: Survival Instinct · BioShock Infinite · Lego City Undercover · Luigi's Mansion: Dark Moon · Injustice: Gods Among Us · Star Trek · Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon · System Shock 2 · Metro: Last Light · Next Gen Buyer's Guide · Fuse · Remember Me · E3 2013
Q3 The Last of Us · Deadpool · Animal Crossing: New Leaf · Ride to Hell: Retribution · Dark · Mario & Luigi: Dream Team · Rise of the Triad · Papers, Please & Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons · Pikmin 3 · The Bureau: XCOM Declassified · Saints Row 4 · Killer is Dead · Amnesia: A Machine for Pigs
Q4 Grand Theft Auto V · Lost Planet 3 · Beyond: Two Souls · The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker HD · Batman: Arkham Origins · Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag · Call of Duty: Ghosts · Exclusives Showdown · Ryse: Son of Rome · Dead Rising 3 · Super Mario 3D World
2014
Q1 Top 5 of 2013 · Knack · Killzone: Shadow Fall · Survival Special · Broken Age · Might & Magic X: Legacy · The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds · Dark Souls · Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII · Strider · Thief · Castlevania: Lords of Shadow 2 · Dark Souls II
Q2 Titanfall · InFamous: Second Son · Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes · The Elder Scrolls Online · South Park: The Stick of Truth · FTL: Faster Than Light · Child of Day-Light · The Amazing Spider-Man 2 · Tesla Effect: A Tex Murphy Adventure · Wolfenstein: The New Order · WATCH DOGS · E3 2014 · Murdered: Soul Suspect
Q3 Tomodachi Life · Enemy Front & Valiant Hearts: The Great War · Shovel Knight · EarthBound · Transistor · E.T. · Firefall · Sacred 3 · Risen 3: Titan Lords · Daikatana · Lichdom: Battlemage · The Sims 4 · Destiny
Q4 D4: Dark Dreams Don't Die · Hyrule Warriors · Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor · Alien Isolation · The Evil Within · Bayonetta 2 · Sunset Overdrive · Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare · Assassin's Creed: Unity · Far Cry 4 · Dragon Age: Inquisition · Sonic Boom: Rise of Lyric · Top 5 Games of 2014
2015 - 2018
2015
Q1 The Talos Principle · Elite: Dangerous · Five Nights at Freddy's and This War of Mine · Lords of the Fallen · Saints Row: Gat out of Hell · Dying Light · Grim Fandango · Evolve · The Order: 1886 · The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask 3D · Resident Evil Revelations 2 · Hotline Miami 2: Wrong Number & Ori and the Blind Forest
Q2 Battlefield: Hardline · Bloodborne · Half-Life 2 Update · Axiom Verge & Stealth Inc 2 · Mortal Kombat X · Grand Theft Auto Online · Broken Age: Act 2 · Wolfenstein: The Old Blood · Cyberpunk Double · The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt · Splatoon · Hatred · E3 2015
Q3 Alone in the Dark: Illumination · Batman: Arkham Knight · Yoshi's Woolly World · Cave Story · Godzilla · Rocket League & Tembo the Badass Elephant · King's Quest: A Knight to Remember · Nom Nom Galaxy & Freedom Planet · Everybody's Gone To The Rapture · Volume · Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain · Mad Max · Gears of War Ultimate Edition · Until Dawn
Q4 Super Mario Maker · SOMA · Rock Band 4 · Assassin's Creed Syndicate · Halo 5: Guardians · Call of Duty: Black Ops 3 · Rise of the Tomb Raider · Fallout 4 · Star Wars: Battlefront · Just Cause 3 · Fatal Frame: Maiden of Black Water
2016
Q1 Top 5 Games of 2015 · Devil's Third · Mario & Luigi: Paper Jam · Assassin's Creed Chronicles · Xenoblade Chronicles X · The Witness & Bombshell · Gravity Rush · XCOM 2 · Firewatch & Layers of Fear · Far Cry Primal · Stardew Valley & SUPERHOT · The Division · Salt and Sanctuary
Q2 Republique · Shadow Warrior · Quantum Break · Dark Souls III · Ratchet & Clank · Star Fox Zero · Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door · Uncharted 4: A Thief's End · Doom · Homefront: The Revolution · Overwatch & Battleborn · Mirror's Edge: Catalyst · E3 2016
Q3 Mighty No. 9 · Inside & Shadow of the Beast · The Technomancer · Furi & Song of the Deep · I Am Setsuna · Headlander & Quadrilateral Cowboy · Quake · No Man's Sky · Grow Up · Deus Ex: Mankind Divided · Metroid Prime: Federation Force · The Curious Expedition & Mother Russia Bleeds · ReCore
Q4 Capcom Five · Clustertruck & Lichtspeer · Paper Mario: Color Splash · Mafia III · Gears of War 4 · PlayStation VR · Battlefield 1 · Titanfall 2 vs Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare · Dishonored 2 · WATCH DOGS 2 · Final Fantasy XV · The Last Guardian
2017
Q1 Top 5 Games of 2016 · Let It Die · Dead Rising 4 · Hitman · Gravity Rush 2 · Resident Evil 7 · Yakuza 0 · Nioh · For Honor · Nintendo Switch & Breath of the Wild · Horizon Zero Dawn · Nier Automata · Ghost Recon Wildlands
Q2 Mass Effect Andromeda · Yooka-Laylee · Persona 5 · Remastered Editions · Outlast 2 · Sniper: Ghost Warrior 3 · Prey · Wilson's Heart · The Surge · Injustice 2 · Vanquish · E3 2017 · Strafe
Q3 Get Even · Hollow Knight / Dead Cells · Fifth Console Generation · The End is Nigh, and Yonder: Cloud Catcher Chronicles · Pyre · Splatoon 2 · Hellblade · Agents of Mayhem · Sonic Mania · Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle · Destiny 2 · Metroid: Samus Returns
Q4 Knack 2 and SteamWorld Dig 2 · Cuphead · Hob and A Hat in Time · Middle-earth: Shadow of War · The Evil Within 2 · Super Mario Odyssey · Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus · Assassin's Creed Origins · Sonic Forces · Star Wars Battlefront II · Hand of Fate 2 · South Park: The Fractured but Whole
2018
Q1 Top 5 of 2017 · Okami HD · PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds · Fortnite and Dusk · Doki Doki Literature Club! · The Inpatient and Doom VFR · Monster Hunter World · Subnautica · Kingdom Come: Deliverance · Metal Gear Survive · Hot Coffee · Hunt Down The Freeman · Ghost of a Tale
Q2 A Way Out · Far Cry 5 · Ni no Kuni II: Revenant Kingdom · Extinction and Attack on Titan 2 · God of War 4 · Yakuza 6: The Song of Life · Silent Hill 4: The Room · Conan Exiles · House Flipper and FAR: Lone Sails · Detroit Become Human · Agony · E3 2018 · Vampyr
Q3 Jurassic World Evolution · Resident Evil 4 · Totally Accurate Battlegrounds and Moonlighter · The Crew 2 · Octopath Traveler · Observer · Chasm and This Is the Police 2 · We Happy Few · Unavowed · Guacamelee! 2 and Not Tonight · Shenmue · Marvel's Spider-Man · Shadow of the Tomb Raider
Q4 Dragon Quest XI · Star Control: Origins · Star Control: Origins · Assassin's Creed Odyssey · Call of Duty: Black Ops 4 · Return of the Obra Dinn · The Missing: J.J. Macfield and the Island of Memories · Red Dead Redemption 2 · Call of Cthulhu · Fallout 76 · Hitman 2 and Killer7 · Darksiders III · Just Cause 4
2019
Q1 Top 5 of 2018 · Super Smash Bros. Ultimate · Gris and Ashen · Katamari Damacy Reroll · Travis Strikes Again: No More Heroes · Resident Evil 2 · Kingdom Hearts III · Metro Exodus · Far Cry New Dawn · Anthem · Crackdown 3 · Left Alive · Devil May Cry 5
Q2 The Division 2 · Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice · Unheard and Outward · Yoshi's Crafted World · Mortal Kombat 11 · Katana Zero · Days Gone · Close to the Sun · Rage 2 · Observation · A Plague Tale: Innocence · E3 2019 · Blood: Fresh Supply
Q3 Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night · Judgment · The Sinking City · My Friend Pedro and Sea of Solitude · Acclaim Entertainment Hall of Shame · Wolfenstein: Youngblood · Horace
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