God of War PS4: Cory Barlog on evolving the game, Kratos and more ahead of release
God of War reviews are set to drop tomorrow and we can't wait to tell you more about the game ahead of its release next week.
But for the meantime, we have something special for PS4 gamers to look over.
Another chat with the games creative director Cory Barlog.
During our interview we cover everything from how they approached Kratos as a character, how you evolve him in a believable manner, breaking gameplay conventions and much more.
If you're interested in finding out more about how they approached the new God of War one-shot camera mechanic, or how Cory and the Sony Santa Monica Team are planning for the future of the God of War series, follow both the links you just passed.
For now though, we'll turn it over to Cory and our Q&A.
Is this reimagining of the God of War series the most difficult job you’ve had to date with Kratos?
It was very hard, I think this game was the hardest thing that I’ve ever worked on, but I think that specific task of being able to find the voice of Kratos, find the beginning voice of Kratos but also find how that transition happens, was a lot of exploration.
That opening sequence that you guys have played that we showed at E3 2016 has been rewritten hundreds of times and just because of that very reason.
Because I think nobody can naturally find that; we just had to experiment and kind of each time we hit on something, try to understand why a collection of people thought that was it, right? It’s an interesting exploration, because he has that sort of presence, and some people are like, oh, I don’t want him to be one-dimensional.
But he has to be one-dimensional otherwise he’s not Kratos, and it’s like, that’s interesting, not really true but also it gives you that starting point to say, you have to see that. You have to see him struggle with that. And I think us understanding the struggle is the most important aspect.
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It must be more difficult because so much of what you’re trying to say in those moments is effectively silence. Sometimes, it's nothing more than a look.
There’s the running joke that in the script we have an ‘eurgh’ like that, and there is a parenthetical description of what kind of ‘eurgh’ that is, and Chris got so good at being able to say, quizzical, or in agreement, or shutting the conversation down with an ‘eurgh’ and we had so many variations of that.
Because you’re right, he is the man of very few words.
But it also lends itself to, I think, some of the more endearing moments.
When Kratos and Atreus are on the road together and little conversations are happening, and it’s his small response and his son’s response that really sparks this fantastical sort of truthful moment.
One of the things that struck me from past games was that there was a lot of moments where there’s that struggle between what you need to make Kratos do and what you would want to do as a player. So, like, pushing the cage up the hill and burning the guy inside him.
Do you still have those beats within this? And equally, if you do, how is that impacted by the fact that before it was just Kratos doing this, it was like, he’s just a killing machine and he can do that. Whereas now, you’ve got Atreus who’s this very emotional figure by his side?
It’s interesting because there are moments like that all over the game. Sometimes they're present in that sense of what you should be doing and what you want to do.
We try to present that struggle and have all the other characters recognising it, but then the player having the freedom to do that. But I think it is very different in this game, because the focus is not on the establishment of the anti-hero, right?
The cage push puzzle is the perfect example of who he was, as creators at that time, and also the concept of the anti-hero. If we’re going to make you do something that you don’t want to do. Because you need to understand what kind of world and what kind of person he is.
It was interesting the emotional reactions people had to that. It was like, ‘I really didn’t want to do that’. And that’s right. We did that intentionally, we wanted you to do something you didn’t want to do.
But now, those moments are actually more about, like, I really want to do this, to find that one-to-one where you are perfectly in alignment with what Kratos is doing.
Because you’ve moved this game on so much from what it used to be, was it much easier when it came to making those decisions to cut things, like say, jumping?
That one specifically, that’s really good, because that was a really hard moment in the beginning. I’m glad it happened within the first few weeks, and that was Eric Williams and I and a few other people in a room with a whiteboard and just writing up every mechanic, every aspect of the game and kind of going, like, why does this need to be in there?
And sometimes, the pro list was really good and we were like, you know what, we can take this to another level, we can do something cool with this. Or, getting to the jump, if you want this camera system that you keep telling us about, this is a huge task.
Once we get the camera system then we have to figure out how to jump aboard with that camera system. Everything has to build off of that. So pick your battles, right? Maybe we don’t do this, maybe we look at platforming and jumping in the next one …
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You can read our full God of War preview on the link, but below you'll find a small conclusion that'll give you a flavour of what we thought.
We've only really scratched the surface of what Cory Barlog and the Sony Santa Monica team have been building this last five years and really we want to see how much further the game grows when we're 15-20 hours in.
But what the opening two hours did show us is that the team behind the game have seemingly managed to more than meet the daunting challenge laid before them to drag Kratos and whats become an aged God of War series kicking and screaming into a new PS4 era.
Visually, the game looks incredible, probably, the best PS4 Pro game we've seen. Which after Uncharted 4, Lost Legacy and Horizon Zero Dawn, feels like quite a feat to achieve, but somehow Sony's first-party studio's just keeping knocking it out the park – this time seemingly into the overflow car park just for good measure.
Story-wise we're hooked two hours in. Actually, in truth, the boss fight one hour in had us hooked. And yet, we're still utterly clueless to the bigger picture, but dear lord we can't wait to unravel the Norse mythology surrounding this new adventure.
Then there's the combat, which was our biggest worry as a lifelong God of War fan – but it just works, seamlessly, with zero fuss and a book of further opportunities just waiting to be unlocked and exploited.
Has Cory Barlog created a potential game of the year contender? That's as safe as houses.
The better question is, has Cory Barlog created the best game of the PS4 generation so far? We're starting to think so.
God of War is released for PS4 on 20 April 2018
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