Sony has been gradually opening up its coffers to Windows PC gaming over the past few years, first with Horizon Zero Dawn and Days Gone. Now, we have another PlayStation 4 classic hitting gaming rigs everywhere on Jan. 14, 2022 — God of War.
A reimagining of the classic PS2 franchise, God of War masterfully reforges the classic hack 'n' slash action into a surprisingly thoughtful action-adventure, set in a fantastical Viking-era Nordic setting. Mythological behemoths roam the land, while a band of Æsir gods hunt the eponymous Kratos for reasons unknown.
You already know God of War is hailed as a masterpiece, with top-shelf acting and writing, next-level art direction, and varied and satisfying combat. A question emerges of any console to PC port: Is it faithful to the platform? That answer is a resounding yes.
Bottom line: With a surprisingly heartfelt story, witty and memorable characters, restlessly satisfying combat, in an expansive and well-optimized hand-crafted world — simply put, God of War is a must-play game.
- Incredible story with a large cast of interesting characters
- An expansive and varied world full of secrets
- Infectious combat that rewards thoughtful play
- A well-optimized port with truly stunning visuals
- Pretty much nothing
Disclaimer: This review was made possible by a review code provided by Sony Interactive Entertainment. The company did not see the contents of the review before publishing.
God of War for PC: Graphics, sound, and performance
Sony continues its streak of faithful PC ports with God of War. While Horizon Zero Dawn and Days Gone had issues for some users at launch, Sony and its partners worked hard to bring them up to speed. It seems they may have taken some of that learning to God of War, since even on this build I've had for a month, I've had nothing short of an utterly flawless experience.
I am running God of War on a Razer Blade 17, with an RTX 2070 Max-Q, 16 GB of RAM, and Intel i7-10875H CPU, with Windows 11. It's by no means the best gaming laptop out there, but it's handled most of what I've thrown at it at 1080p or 1440p. While performance naturally varies from system to system, I've been utterly impressed with God of War's performance on my system, although it took me a bit of tweaking to balance the game's stunning visuals and effects with a frame rate that didn't produce tearing or performance degradation. In the end, I settled on 1440p with a 50 FPS limiter to create a consistent experience on my 4K monitor. At 1080p I could easily reach for a higher frame rate, but God of War is such a detailed and cinematically crisp game, I wanted to really see how far I could push the visuals without settling for a middlingly low frame rate. Of course, you can also leverage both SuperFX from AMD and NVIDIA DLSS too, which is nice to see. Naturally, more powerful systems than mine will produce better results, but the game performs exactly as I would've expected given my hardware, given its overall presentation density.
God of War gives you a mountain of display settings to tweak and accessibility options to configure, showcasing Sony's efforts to make full use of the benefits of Windows and PC gaming. Of course, I can't test God of War on every possible PC configuration out there, but the fact it works as well as I can expect on my hardware, despite not having a "day one" update, I'd say it bodes well for general performance (hopefully).
Beyond performance, God of War is a simple marvel on the art direction department too. The music is majestic and varied, cutting deep in the game's most emotional moments, and ascending with cinematic intensity during setpiece boss events. Every axe hit, bone split, and skull smash can be felt with delicious excess.
Midgard is surprisingly varied in its environmental design too. It goes beyond the typical real-world landscapes of the Nordics you'd expect, although even these look incredible, with snow tessellation, stunning lighting and weather, and crisp details. Where God of War shines is in its more alien climbs, the elf realm of Alfheim shines with otherworldly fleshy coral structures, and ancient ruins beset by civil war. The way the opposing elvish factions are depicted is unlike anything I've seen in modern takes too, with Dark Elves appearing almost insectoid in their presentation. God of War takes well-traversed tropes and subverts them, much like its predecessors did, usurping the ancient mythos of Greece to tell a wholly new tale. It exemplifies Kratos himself, rebelling against what's expected of him, often violently.
God of War is an audiovisual work of art, and the quality of its PC port bodes well for future Sony games making their way from PlayStation to Windows. God of War is a rare game that very effortlessly marries its art direction with its story and gameplay delivery too, which also defy expectations.
God of War for PC: Story and gameplay
God of War has plenty of nods to the history of the franchise, but as its title suggests, it's something of a reboot. In the original games, Kratos is something of an anti-hero, victimized by a Greek pantheon of Gods depicted as corrupted by vanity and greed. Kratos ultimately spells their demise, usurping the role of God of War for himself. Following the events of God of War III, it appears from the outset that Kratos fled ancient Greece and headed north, to the frozen mountains and evergreen forests of the Norse lands.
Settling down with a wife and fathering a sickly human son, Kratos resigns himself to simple wilderness living. The game begins with Kratos and his son, Atreus, tending to the last rites of Faye, who has sadly passed on. Faye's last wish for her husband and son was for her ashes to be scattered at the realm's highest peak, setting Kratos and Atreus on a lengthy journey fraught with perils and mysterious godly conspiracy, that unravels into several impressive twists and turns throughout the plot. Right at the very beginning of the game, Kratos does battle with a scrawny-looking man who sports godlike strength, in a battle that splits the very ground in twain.
Without giving too much away, God of War weaves a truly masterful story that follows themes laid down by the original games. It showcases a Kratos utterly haunted by his past, and his struggle to forge a new future for himself and his son. Kratos' angry demeanor is gradually softened throughout the game by Atreus, whose childlike curiosity and kind-hearted nature stands wholly in juxtaposition to the anti-heroic Kratos, whose capacity for brutality shines through in every combat segment.
God of War examines fatherhood, grief, and ultimately healing in the least likely of settings, creating a strangely human and sobering tale in a world full of gigantic serpents and fantastical magic.
I can say quite honestly, I was not prepared for just how engrossing God of War turned out to be. Although it started a little slow in the beginning, I would come to find myself utterly transfixed to Kratos' tale, and the unraveling mystery of their quest. Why are unknown godlike beings rising up against Kratos? Why are the wilds crawling with undead revenants? What happened between God of War III and now? All of these questions and more are answered as you play, told through the eyes of Kratos and Atreus, whose relationship grounds the player in reality amidst all the fantasy. It's masterfully done, and the story delivery alone makes God of War a must-play title. Thankfully, there are even more reasons to love this landmark title.
God of War reimagines the hack 'n' slash gameplay the series is known for into a heavier format for the reboot. Kratos of 2018 is less agile, but has a big arsenal of Norse-inspired runic magic, a Thor-like retractable axe, and other tools that keep combat as varied as it is cinematic.
The Leviathan Axe is a marvel of modern video game engineering. There's no other weapon really like it in any game I've played, and its use weaves beautifully with Kratos' character animation and the game's physics, like a paintbrush of destruction. Kratos can throw his axe in various ways that get more complex as you grow in power, using the axe to freeze enemies (or indeed, puzzle elements) in place, or clip flying enemies out of the air. Of course, you can also use it to butcher enemies into bloody chunks, juggling them in the air dynamically, before splitting them in half. Once you learn the Leviathan Axe's ins and outs, you'll feel immeasurably powerful, dancing around enemy attacks while stripping their flesh from their bones, and as soon as it starts getting old, the game throws new enemies, epic boss events, and new weaponry your way to keep things persistently fresh.
If you've thrown the Leviathan Axe into an enemy, you can instantly call it back boomerang-style, carving enemies along its trajectory path along the way. You can also leave it still on the battlefield, and use your fists and Sparta-inspired shield to beat enemies into bloody chunks, ripping them apart with a badass contextual execution at the end.
Atreus accompanies Kratos along the way, and grows in power and confidence in the game's combat dialogue as the story progresses. He also gets more attacks and can accompany Kratos from afar with magical bow shots and acrobatics that make the pair feel increasingly like a single combat unit. It's almost lamentable that a second player can't control Atreus, but perhaps in a future installment.
Indeed, there's not a huge amount to complain about when it comes to God of War's combat, besides things that would be "nice to have," like co-op play. I also wasn't a huge fan of the Gears of War-like shoulder camera, since it can be hard to manage enemies who are attacking from behind or from the side, but it's a minor gripe ultimately — and the game does give you indicators if an enemy off-screen is about to attack.
God of War also has a layered progression system that ties deeply into the game's exploration elements. Make no mistake, God of War is a beast of a game, easily taking completionists upwards of 30+ hours to fully explore.
All of that is bespoke hand-crafted content, too, with no pointless and repetitive open-world busywork masquerading as gameplay either. The land of Midgard is meticulous in execution, with incredibly detailed dungeons, filled with puzzle elements and exploration opportunities.
Hidden crafting materials help you to build up Kratos' strength and arsenal, allowing you to construct increasingly powerful armor and gear, helping you undertake further optional bosses and other challenges. As the story progresses, more worlds and areas open up for exploration too, and additional tools give you the ability to backtrack to previous areas to unlock more content as well. In an age of flat and basic open-world games, experiencing God of War's weaving, handcrafted dungeons, and setpieces was a true delight.
God of War almost makes me lament how rare these types of experiences seem to be getting at this level of quality. It's a testament to the quality that Sony has become known for. The fact that they're porting their games to PC so faithfully deserves every bit of admiration and praise, and I can only hope this trend continues.
God of War for PC: An era-defining moment
God of War is another wholly expected win from Sony and its teams on PC. Like Days Gone and Horizon Zero Dawn before it, God of War seeks to capitalize on a vibrant PC market eager for high-quality, polished experiences — and God of War for PC utterly delivers.
Polished to a glistening finish, God of War is an example to be followed for any company seeking to bring their console-bound titles to the vital PC gaming space. Well optimized with heaps of configuration options, God of War bodes well for future titles making their way across from PlayStation.
As a game, there's little more to say that hasn't been said already. God of War is a masterpiece, simply put. From when it launched originally in 2018, to its PS5 upgrade, to this PC version, regardless of how you play, God of War is a landmark experience that publishers outside of Sony itself simply seem incapable of achieving. Incredible art meets ambitious storytelling and meticulously precise combat, creating a whole that is greater than its already formidable parts. God of War is utterly incredible.
Jez Corden a Managing Editor at Windows Central, focusing primarily on all things Xbox and gaming. Jez is known for breaking exclusive news and analysis as relates to the Microsoft ecosystem while being powered by caffeine. Follow on Twitter @JezCorden and listen to his Xbox Two podcast, all about, you guessed it, Xbox!