God of War (Sniper)
Genre: Action
Developer: Santa Monica Studio
Publisher: Sony Interactive Entertainment

This God of War reboot uses lots of particle effects, dynamic lighting, volumetric fog, and screen space reflections, bringing to life the mossy stone-covered world almost surrealistically. It can also be somewhat inconsistent: foliage clips into the stage geometry weirdly; the game's lighting model is inconsistent, looking rich and full of contrast in some areas, yet "glowing" in others, clearly lacking a cohesive global illumination model; and the game's heavily constrained stages don't do a great job of conveying that they are part of a larger world. The protagonist, however, is so detailed that he looks like a real-time CGI character moving about!

A voice actor named Sunny Suljic provides the voice of the protagonist's son, and he sounds a lot like the fellow who did "Aang" in "Avatar: The Last Airbender". He's kind of annoying, making chirpy little quips every few seconds. The rest of the voice acting is passable, although the music is not: more Hollywood drivel which one doesn't even notice while it's playing, much less remember it after it's not. The game's sound effects are generic, but do a just good enough job.

God of War is a radical departure from the previous games in the series, and essentially involves slowly jogging along almost totally linear "hallway"-like levels, with the camera pulled way in. Periodically there is voice-acted story or a quick combat sequence. Combat is way too complex for how little of it there is, as it involves every button on the controller, oftentimes in combinations! You can't see what's going on due to the camera, so the designers put giant flashing arrows on screen to alert the player to incoming attacks. There is a comically over-engineered upgrade system for skills, armors, and weapons. The protagonist's son can be told to fire arrows at enemies, but this companion system feels somewhat bolted on.

This latest God of War takes a long time to get rolling. For the first twenty-plus hours, it feels like a boring "The Last of Us"-style Hollywood walking simulator. The game's design seems to spread itself too thin, leading to a situation where it doesn't do anything well: absurdly simplistic level designs, aimless story, and plodding combat. But after a period it starts to open itself up very slowly, very shyly. "Kratos" begins to feel less emasculated and slow, while more combat-centric areas-- such as the extremely fun "Valkyrie" fights-- become available. While it's not clear why this wildly successful series needed a dramatic about-face in identity, at least this is fairly well executed for what it is, even if it takes ages to become engaging.

Sniper's verdict: