God of War: First Hands-on Report

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God of War: First Hands-on Report

We got extensive hands-on time with Santa Monica Studio's bold re-imagining of the classic series, and now we know that the new God of War plays as good as it looks.

The new God of War hits like a freight train, with crushing combat that will put any skeptic’s mind at ease. But underneath its hardened, intimidating exterior lies a pulsing heart.

If what I played is anything to go by, God of War is going to land like an asteroid impact this April, wiping away the old and forging the new in one triumphant blow.

Where the old titles were ferocious arcade-style brawlers, this God of War is more methodical and deliberate in its carnage.

God of War

God of WarGod of War

I immediately noticed the new control scheme, which felt more in line with a game like Bloodborne than a traditional God of War title. The attacks map to R1 and R2, and with full dual-stick camera controls, the action feels more dangerous, more immediate.

One thing hasn’t changed: Kratos hits hard. The Leviathan Axe is his new weapon of choice, and it’ll make you forget all about those Blades of Exile. Press R2 to send smaller enemies flying; tap R1 and you’ll cleave foes with faster slashing attacks. Naturally, you can chain these together to juggle airborne enemies. For series fans, this part will feel broadly familiar.

God of War: First Hands-on Report

Watch us play more than 15 minutes of God of War in a fresh new episode of PlayStation Underground

But it gets better. Hold L2 and Kratos will wind up to hurl his mighty axe. Toss it at a smaller enemy and it’ll get pinned down for a few seconds, enough time for you to target another creature that may represent a more immediate threat.

During this time, you’ll rely on Kratos’s skull-cracking bareknuckle blows, which can stagger enemies and leave them open for an instant kill (R3).

Then you can tap Square Triangle to recall the axe, Thor-style, and it’ll smash anything between it and Kratos’s hand. This basic pattern —throw, fight, recall — feels super satisfying, and brings a natural ebb and flow to combat that will keep you thinking.

Couple that with a shield that can block and parry incoming attacks, as well as powerful new runic magic abilities, and you’ve got a much deeper, more in-depth God of War game. The combat feels brutal in a way that will tickle series veterans, but its meaty strategic core is likely to attract fans of games like Bloodborne and Dark Souls too.

God of War

God of WarGod of War

God of War

When you really need to lay the smack down, Spartan Rage (L3 + R3) sends Kratos into a berserker frenzy, sprinting at enemies in a blur of fists and feet.

I’m surprised by how much I love the bare-knuckle combat. It feels so satisfying and so crunchy that I employed it as often as possible, launching myself into enemy mobs and rending them to pieces.

Then there’s Kratos’s son Atreus. Far from being a chore to manage, Atreus is an extension of Kratos, hovering on the periphery of battles and calling out enemy positions. At any time you can focus on an enemy and tap Square to have Atreus fire a powerful arrow. And sometimes you’ll need his help to stun certain enemies who can evade Kratos’s attacks.

The game’s RPG side is far bulkier than before, offering gear, stat upgrades, some weapon customization, and combat skill trees. I confirmed with Santa Monica Studio that players will not be able to max out every skill and stat during the game, so it’ll pay to specialize in a build — defense, ranged, runic magic, etc — and invest wisely.

On the technical side, God of War looks mighty impressive. Played on PS4 Pro with a 4K TV, the textures are impressively intricate. Kratos’s design is hyper detailed, too. Look closely, and you’ll spot glimpses of his classic outfit poking out from beneath his battered leather armor.

All in all, God of War gave me the same feeling I got when I first played The Last of Us. Basically, when can I play more? Luckily, the answer is April 20 — not long to wait.

Hit me up with your questions! I’ll do my best to provide answers.

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8 Author Replies

  • I replayed God of War 3 – Remastered Edition on PS4 in anticipation of this new God of War

    Really hope one day God of War 2 can be playable on PS4 as well. A full remake like what Shadow of the Colossus got would be instant hype / pre-order / buy.


      waiting on it

  • Bring God of War 3 digitally on PS3 PS Store.

  • PS3 is dead let it go already.

  • “Then you can tap Square to recall the axe, Thor-style”

    I believe you meant Triangle, right?

    And not being able to max out every skill during the game could mean we can expect a NG+? Say yes, please!

  • I can’t wait for this, but I’m a little worried with the mention of Bloodborne and Dark Souls. I hope you don’t mean the difficulty is like those games. Don’t get me wrong, I respect those games but the “pound your head against the wall” difficulty isn’t for me. Does it share the difficulty with past GOW games and not Souls or Bloodborne? That’s my kind of difficulty.

    • From the gameplay footage I’ve seen it’s nowhere near Bloodborne or Dark Souls difficulty, just a similarity in gameplay mechanics, which I’m really happy with. I adore Bloodborne and Nioh and it would be nice if there was something like a “Hard” or “Extreme” difficulty to satisfy Soulsborne fans. I’m sure “Normal” is just fine though.

    • Haven’t seen any footage, trying not to see too much of the game. Hope your right. Also hope there’s alternate control schemes like AC Origins where you can switch attacks to the face buttons like previous games. Anyway, I’m sure I’m gonna love this game. I’m trying to platinum the previous GOW games before this comes out, I’ve got GOS, GOW 3, and Ascension to do left.

    • It’s more in the pacing and the control scheme (attacks on R1/R2), not in regards to the difficulty level, though there is an ultra-hard mode that might appeal to those folks a bit more…. Nothing to worry about! It feels very modern, but with enough of that classic GOW feel that it’s instantly recognizable.

  • Will this game have an adjustable difficulty? Like an easy mode? Hard mode? Etc.

    • Yep – there are multiple difficulty modes, with a mode focused on telling the story, and a super-hard mode for those who want the biggest challenge possible.

  • So, I’ve heard it’s a single player game, but will we be able to have 1 player be Kratos and another be Atreus in splitscreen?

    • Nope – single-player! As Kratos, you have influence over Atreus, especially in what he fires his arrows at.

  • Can Kratos hit his son ?

  • Sid, I gotta hand it to you.. That was probably the best hands-on impressions piece I’ve ever read!

    It’s always bothered me how editors neglect to describe exactly how a game plays in terms of actual controls and button presses. For once I finally have a solid idea about how a game will actually feel when I eventually get my hands on it. Despite the obvious biased take interrent in this blog, I still feel you’ve delivered accurate and honest impressions.

    Thanks and kudos to you for the detailed gameplay description!

    If it weren’t for the fact that we’ve had quite a few exellent GOW titles over the years, this latest installment would easily surpass Spiderman as my most anticipated game.

  • Hmm this looks like damage controlling after the leaked gameplay has gotten a lot of people saying the combat looks bad.I for one am really worried cuz the combat looked nothing like the one shown in the gameplays and trailers and it looked dull as hell.I trust in Santa Monica but the idea to copy other games is dumb when your game is already beyond great and specially when everybody else is copying it too(Yeah the Souls games),should’ve at least kept the far camera.Gonna have to wait and try it for myself.

    Hope we can change the controls,R1 and R2 to attack looks like a bad joke…this ain’t a shooter.

    Btw “wiping away the old” “it’ll make you forget all about those Blades of Exile”…that made me laugh,yeah you wish.

    • You’ll be the judge come April 20…

    • What? What small group of people are complaining? I have seen and read nothing but people having a GREAT reaction to the leaked footage. We must live on 2 separate planets. Lol. Try harder next time, with less words.

  • This game looks amazing! The gameplay looks absolutely satisfying and fun to play with. Can’t wait to get my hands on this one.

  • Again….can we play the game without the kid (throw him off a cliff, feed him to monsters to escape, abandon him at birth, use him as a human shield when the little wooden one gets broke, have him shoot an arrow in the air and impale himself with it…the list goes on) and play like a real God of War game?

    Controls were fine in all the other GoW games so why change it?

    Please tell me the camera is better in the actual game…???

    Why is the combat so boring and repetitive? Magic axe that comes back to your hand when called….how sweet.

    Was worried about this one from the moment it was announced with a kid in it and my fears are all coming together into a nice package. Unless the game is pushed back, I doubt much will actually get fixed so this might be a bargain bin purchase at Christmas.

    Poor Kratos has been killed off it seems, sigh. Back to the old versions to replay some real God of War games, not babysitters with a magic axe.

  • Is there is quick time events in the game?

    • I did not experience any of the classic minigames, but when an enemy is stunned you can one-hit kill it by clicking R3 — very satisfying

  • Can i Kill the kid in the first 5 minutes?

  • Id like to see gow ascension remastered. I never played it thinking the ps4 had backwards compatibility with digital versions of ps3 titles

  • Okay lets go through it again. One, we all should know by now that demos are played on the easiest settings so when people say ‘it looks easy and the enemies are weak’ they haven’t played it on normal or hard and have no idea. Second what they showed was the beginning of the game so all the abilities, move sets, powers and potentially weapons weren’t unlocked. so of course like ALL games combat seems simplistic until you get deeper into the game with more complex enemies and more abilities at your disposal. No different than any RPG or Yakuza game or Demon Souls or Horizon Zero Dawn etc. Thirdly stop calling it a babysitting simulator because if you actually watched the clips Atreus can handle himself as we saw him, knocking down, kicking, stabbing, distracting and shooting enemies and he will only get stronger as you improve him during the game.And finally unless you have never played a game in your life or watched any of the clips you would know that there is something called ‘Customize controls’ if you don’t like using the shoulder buttons to play the game and you can adjust to suit.

  • Seen the video and I love it!
    – Do we know if this is a stand-alone story? or is it linked to Kratos’s past much? I have played all the previous games including the handheld ones, so do we need to re-visit them?
    – Do we have a number of endings? any hints on that?
    – Will it have mini games?

    Sid, you are super lucky that you got to try it! you guys have the best job in the world. Hire me please :D

  • Dont be fooled, this is 100% promotional material. This is not an objective opinion or review. The game might be good or bad or anywhere in between, but go to a reviewer you trust to get the truth. A paid Sony employee with a vested interest in the success of the game is not a reliable source. The conflict of interest is massive here.

  • open to everyone dont be an ass

  • To the devs: could you please make Kratos is les of a complete nasty a$$hole this time round??

    I enjoyed the last God of War for its gameplay and graphics, but I ended up not liking the game at all because his horrible personality ended up eroding any sympathy I felt for the character I was playing. I just felt embarrassed to be playing the game in the end.

  • will miss those Quick time events and how much gb is the game gona take i figure if the game is 20hrs-35hrs gameplay the size ought to big.

  • It would be nice if we got a 4K 60 FPS remaster collection on disc that had:
    – God of War
    – God of War II
    – God of War III
    – God of War Ascension
    – God of War Chains of Olympus
    – God of War Ghost of Sparta

    Maybe make 1, 2, CoO, and GoS updated with the graphics engine of III and Ascension?

  • Will the game be transaletd into Arabic?

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