God of War's First Fight Against The Stranger is One of the Best Action Sequences in Years

Kratos' first conflict is all about showing player who he is now and what kind of world he inhabits.

News by Mike Williams, .

In contrast to the bombastic beginning of the very first God of War, the beginning to God of War for PlayStation 4 is a somber one. Kratos pauses before a tree marked by his dead wife, reflecting alone before chopping it down to make a funeral pyre. He carries the tree back their home with his son, a quiet, somber moment, given that neither knows much about the other. The mother was the thing connecting them and she's gone now.

God of War wants you to feel these quiet moments as Kratos burns his wife's body. The game wants you to feel sympathetic towards Kratos before all hell breaks loose. As Kratos and his son Atreus prepare for their journey to fulfill his wife's last wish—that her ashes be spread on the highest peak in the land—a stranger knocks at their door. Kratos has his son hide, as he's not ready to let Atreus know that he's the son of a god.

The Stranger was sent to find Kratos, the god of a different land. Kratos warns the man that he should leave. Instead, the Stranger taunts him. He hits him. And Kratos takes it for a time, a clear illustration that this isn't necessarily the Kratos that we knew before. He has the ability to kill gods, but at this point he's just a god that wants to be left alone with his son and his grief.

He does defend himself though and that's when the Stranger delivers an uppercut that reminds you that this is God of War. Part of what makes the fight really work is the single camera shot. When the Stranger hits Kratos high in the air, you follow him up and over his home. It's not first-person, as if you're feeling it yourself, but the camera is close enough that you're along for the ride.

That closeness is important, a fact that's immediately highlighted when Kratos avoids the jumping smash of the Stranger. You feel the impact of the knee coming down and cracking the earth where Kratos once was. As Kratos and the Stranger fight across the clearing, tearing up the home, nearby trees, and cracking the firmament of Midgard itself, you're right up in the action.

Sony Santa Monica also does an interesting thing with the single shot camera. They give the camera itself weight. When Kratos and the Stranger tumble through the roof, there's a bounce as the camera lands with both men. When Kratos is kicked into a tree, the camera doesn't simply zoom towards Kratos, it bounds there as if there's an invisible cameraman that has to run after the God of War. The camera shakes and jitters a bit on still shots, when technically it could be perfectly still. Kratos looks at things hot second before the camera follows his gaze. The developer wants to put you in the action, without actually making you Kratos.

The in-game camera doesn't move as much in order to give you gameplay clarity, but the tight, over-the-shoulder choice of that viewpoint is important. One problem with the older God of War titles is outside of boss fights and Quick Time Events, you didn't really feel the impact of Kratos' hits. Between the camera's closeness and the subtle use of the Dual Shock 4, you feel every attack here.

Even outside of that, this boss fight goes places. Kratos slams a stone column into the Stranger, tearing the ground in half. Both men have a punch out high above the ground Dragon Ball Z style, fighting as only gods can. And it ends with Kratos' snapping the Stranger's neck and discarding the body in a newly-made ravine. Kratos' lays there, panting and resting: he's not the spry young mass murderer he once was. He can no longer take hits without feeling anything. As Kratos walks back home, he stumbles, holding himself up with his new Leviathan Axe. He's older, he's tired, and he just wants to be left alone.

The Stranger fight is the first hook, the first shot at saying, "This is God of War now." And if the reception to these early moments is any indication, it's working for folks.

In 30 minutes involving a quiet cinematic and one boss fight, the new God of War establishes who Kratos is now and the level of power he'll face here in Midgard. And it's only the beginning of Kratos' and Atreus' journey.

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Comments 8

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  • Avatar for INSOMANiAC #1 INSOMANiAC 6 months ago
    I love a good fight fight
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  • Avatar for Flipsider99 #2 Flipsider99 6 months ago
    It's really not. I was watching someone play the game, and the impression I got was that this was a terrible fight. I hate everything about it. I hate that it's designed to feel like you're playing a movie, and that gameplay is secondary. I hate that the movie it's designed to feel like is an obvious copy of Marvel superhero movies. Maybe it's just because I'm sick of those movies, but this really feels like a pale imitation. Finally, the character of "The Stranger" himself is incredibly annoying, his constant blathering during the fight just irritates me to no end.

    It's a classic example of style over substance, and the style isn't even interesting, it's a hollow imitation of something that was already overdone. It's excess. Watching this fight is what made me knew for sure I would hate this game.Edited April 2018 by Flipsider99
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  • Avatar for DogNozzle #3 DogNozzle 6 months ago
    I've never played any of the God of War games before, but I picked this one up and was very surprised to get to this fight and realize that it was giving me heavy Asura's Wrath vibes. A quick search shows that when Asura's Wrath came out a few years ago, some people were saying that it was basically Capcom's take on the God of War formula, so I guess I'm not the only one to draw that connection, and it is not new.
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  • Avatar for steeljohnson #4 steeljohnson 6 months ago
    I think the writer needs to play more games.
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  • Avatar for grenadeh #5 grenadeh 6 months ago
    No it isn't. Not even at all. All these people nerding out like "HERMAHGER YOU CAN BUST DOWN ALL THE TREES."

    Okay. That should have been a thing 20 years ago in games. In fact, that WAS a thing 20 years ago in games, in Turok 1, 11 years ago in Crysis also.

    Not only that but it actually doesn't even make sense. If you've played the game, maybe think about this - you rend the earth and pretty much destroy the entire area, yet your basement somehow survives an earthquake going through it as does your entire log cabin.

    As someone else said, this fight was entirely style over substance. It made no logic sense, no level design sense, and the only cool thing was that you bust up the environment (which barely changes afterwards and destroying the environment isn't a thing you can do in the game so its irrelevant and primordial to boot.)

    And as others said, you need to play more games. It seems a trend with these people who aren't gamers over-emphasizing how cool any Sony game is.

    Even from the same franchise, every fight in God of War 3 was better. Including Poseidon which was THE WORST DESIGNED BOSS FIGHT IN GOD OF WAR HISTORY (you literally can't see what the F*** is going on for 3/4th of it). Those fights had awesome set pieces and incorporated actual gameplay mechanics. The bosses had actual move patterns requiring you to pay attention. Fighting Baldur is literally just like any other fight in the game, or any fight in Witcher 2 or 3, or any other game - just roll/dodge/roll/dodge/roll/dodge/block/roll to victory. Hell the Valkyries are all a better fight.Edited 2 times. Last edited May 2018 by grenadeh
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  • Avatar for nigeria-music #6 nigeria-music 4 months ago
    ea sports grabbed the exclusive license from under you're nose and pull madden as the only sports game of f*king football,lol,now this generation trash of madden being trash. themunsongroup
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  • Avatar for princeizzy-uk29 #7 princeizzy-uk29 3 months ago
    Get Premier league weekend predictions immediately kratos finishes the Job
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  • Avatar for nicholas96 #8 nicholas96 3 months ago
    I think the writer needs to play more games. get more sure soccer predictions
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