By Harold Goldberg
It’s been such a long time. His hair is graying now. Hell, none of us are kids anymore. But there’s wisdom in maturity, what we’ve absorbed, what we’ve purged, what we hope not to repeat, and that’s a good thing.
I first met Cory Barlog, the creative director from Sony’s Santa Monica Studio, about a year before the 2005 release of Sony’s first God of War. Back then, I asked Cory (and David Jaffe) why more myths weren’t dealt with in the game, you know, so people could understand and learn. Even more, why not just put in “Bullfinch’s Mythology” as an addendum with some artwork so people could tap through it at their leisure? Wouldn’t cost much. Might be useful.
It was because they were trying to make a concise experience and a piercing narrative based on a handful of characters and one in particular. They weren’t trying to do everything. They weren’t trying to reinvent the wheel.
And yet, somehow, they did.
The little I’ve experienced in the first hour-plus of God of War, this one for the PS4, appear to prepares fans for the most stirring narrative in the series’ history. You can see it from the moment you begin the journey. You can see it in their eyes, the eyes of Kratos and his son, Atreus. You can see the nuance, the complexity of emotions even in the first hour of play – especially with the child.
Inside a Flatiron hotel suite, four critics played, headsets on. Onscreen, there was sadness. The mother had died. There were things to be proven, not only a boy trying to be a man, but a man, a god, trying to be something that perhaps he can never be. There’s the signature excitement we’ve seen for nearly 15 years, but more, it’s an emotional experience.
I didn’t realize Cory Barlog would have time, but we moved to the hotel’s hall, dark like “The Shining”‘s Overlook Lodge, for a brief talk about the sullen, old soul that is young Atreus, about the shame his father feels, and what the father/son bond means through the ages. The sound during this short conversation isn’t perfect here: this talk wasn’t planned. But what you have is raw, unscripted and occasionally emotional – the way it’s supposed to be.
Author/journalist Harold Goldberg is the founder of the New York Videogame Critics Circle and the New York Game Awards.