Monsoon-A-Day ‘God of War’ (2018)

Welcome to Monsoon-a-day

Where I watch and review a movie a day. Or whenever I fucking feel like it.

Day 108

 

Since their inception in the early 1970’s, video games have had at least one game per console generation that has revolutionized the industry. Which is to say, every decade has produced at least one undeniable masterpiece that becomes a flagship title for their console. Atari had Pong, Nintendo has the big three (Mario, Zelda, Metroid), Sega has Sonic, Microsoft has Halo and in the early 00’s, one of Sony’s biggest franchises was God of War.

Back in the good ol’ days, all studios had to do to insure a guaranteed hit, was to throw Mario’s fat Italian ass into the x-treme machine ™ and hit copy. For those of you who are unfamiliar with the ‘tude era (aka the 90’s), the x-treme machine ™ is a mascot creating device that replaces whatever you throw into it with either a semi-obscure rodent or a sassy teenager complete with backwards cap.

You throw Mario into the machine, you get a Sonic. You throw Sonic in there and you get a Crash Bandicoot. You get the the gist.

Taken from DeviantArt. Yes, I regret it.

Throughout the 90’s, the x-treme machine ™ pumped out hit after hit of G rated fun for the whole family, until the day someone decided to chuck the space marine from Doom into the machine. What popped out was the one liner spewing, cigar chomping, lewd crude and rude dude: Duke Nukem.

His brand of juvenile humor was an immediate success and because of that, the industry slowly began to turn. Cute and sassy mascots were dying out and taking their place were more adult themed characters. Grand Theft Auto III would eventually be the final nail in the coffin that was the 90’s. With its “do whatever you want” gameplay and sense of humor, the industry saw where the winds were blowing and decided to sail those sons-a-bitches.

Any game with a violent story or main character was instantly put into production; with games starring anything from a genetically altered hitman, to a time bending assassin, to a noir tinged, drug addicted detective, the age of controversy had officially begun. Now, this is purely conjecture on my part but it feels as though game developer David Jaffe looked around at all the extremely controversial games being released and told the industry to “hold my beer.”

Using Greek mythology as the backdrop to craft the epic tale of Kratos and his quest for revenge against the gods themselves, God of War is equal parts influential and problematic. It set the standard for hack and slash action by popularizing the quick time event and offered the player an unparalleled  experience in badassitude. From the beginning to the end, the game is designed to constantly make you feel like an unstoppable killing machine. You understand Kratos’s motivation and desire for revenge and because of its perfect gameplay, you believe you can kill any and all gods that get in your way.

The game would become massively successful and a series of sequels were inevitable. Over the course of three main games, two handheld games, one spin-off and one shitty mobile game nobody talks about, Kratos eventually kills every God, demigod, titan and mythological creature in Greece. His quest was over and after the third game, it seemed as though his story was complete.

The video game community naturally assumed Kratos was dead and that the franchise was over, so it was a bit of a shock hearing that Santa Monica Studios was bringing back the series but in a completely different setting. Released thirteen years after the original, the newest entry in the Kratos saga is as much a reboot as it is a sequel. The studio completely reworked the franchise from the ground up. They took out what didn’t work, improved upon what did and completely removed any hint of its poorly aged immaturity. Suffice it to say, if you’re looking for the  gratuitous nudity the series is unfortunately known for, you’re going to be disappointed.

If the 00’s God of War was it’s angsty teenage years, the 2018 God of War is the transition into manhood.

Damn near every new design choice Santa Monica Studios makes, greatly enhances a rock solid franchise. They traded in Greek mythology for the equally interesting Norse myths, added some RPG elements to add some depth to the combat and most importantly, gave Kratos a son. The relationship between Kratos and Atreus is one of the best in video game history. Full stop.

His brooding anger plays off his sons precocious sass perfectly. It’s the perfect counterbalance and without spoiling it, there’s a third member who’ll eventually join your party and that adds another level of character depth. There’s elements of their history together and of Kratos’s past, that create enough drama to sustain a 25 hour journey. Previous games have all been about Kratos and his rage fueled blood lust but that’s gone here. There’s no revenge element. No retribution to be had. Just a father and a son on an adventure.

Any other game would make Atreus either a useless companion or at worst, turn the game into an escort mission but he’s more like Elizabeth from Bioshock Infinite than Ashley from Resident Evil 4. Since he can’t be killed, kidnapped or hurt, the game removes the element of babysitting and turns Atreus into more of an additional weapon at your disposal. Depending on how you level him up, you can pull of combos together, turn him into a magical sniper or have him summon hordes of elemental creatures. He’s far more useful than typical companions and although he has a tendency to shout out the same things over and over again, I never once got tired of his company.

The easiest comparison to make to describe their relationship is The Last of Us and while there’s some definite similarities, I think the game has much more in common with Logan. An ageing warrior who’s seen more death than anyone could imagine, has to learn to be a father and in turn, maybe some inner peace. It’s a rich narrative that’s filled with shocking revelations and profound emotional moments. And surprisingly, humor. The game expertly juggles  violence, character complexity,  amazing set pieces and humor. No element detracts from the other and in fact, they all actually strengthen each other.

The side characters run the gamut of allies who you don’t know if you can trust, comedic relief with a purpose and various gods that will either help you or try to kill you. They’re all amazingly well written and unforgettable. Everyone is exceptional but the stand outs are Jeremy Davies (Lost) as The Stranger and Christopher Judge (Stargate SG-1) as Kratos. Davies is doing Captain Jack Sparrow by way of Charles Manson and it’s amazing and Judge (who replaced series regular Terrence ‘T.C.’ Carson) adds gravitas and nuance to a character that’s little more than one word responses and grunts. Any actor stepping into the shoes of an iconic character will always have to prove themselves to the fans. Add to that, actually replacing a fan favorite and you have a recipe for a nerd riot but I not only think he slam dunks the role, I can’t even hear the old voice anymore. Judge is now Kratos.

The game is as perfect as games can get but it’s still not without its flaws. Which are minor but still worth mentioning. The map is absolutely useless, the climbing is slow and tedious and the game locks fast travel until the well into the last quarter of the game. There’s optional side missions to accomplish but since I didn’t feel like backtracking to the beginning of the game, I didn’t tackle then till the game was over. It’s a terrible design flaw that really doesn’t make any sense.

My next criticism is minute and is borderline ridiculous but the game suffers from Uncharted 4 and Resident Evil 4 levels of “wrap it the fuck up now” moments of game stretching, especially at the end. The game never once becomes boring but there’s just so much of it, it becomes overwhelming. Pardon the vulgar analogy but it’s like getting the world’s best blowjob from someone who doesn’t know when to stop sucking. I already came four hours ago, you can quit already.

When the biggest complaint I can muster is that the climbing is not fast enough and that I’m too lazy to backtrack, it’s a testament to the level of craft on display.  I previously stated that every console generation gets at least one masterpiece and this might be the PS4’s. It’s an unforgettable masterpiece that’s head and shoulders above the previous entries and obliterates pretty much every other game out there.