Not sorry, just better.
It’s fair to say that 2018’s God of War still ranks among the upper echelons of gaming royalty. Santa Monica Studio’s incredible tale of Kratos’s journey with his son garnered multiple Game of the Year accolades at the time, and it’s widely regarded as last generations’ best game. Almost four years later, with a sequel on the horizon, the game is finally arriving on PC. Looking to expand the audience and hopefully provide a technical showpiece beyond the already impressive PS4 version.
STILL A JOY TO PLAY
I won’t spend too much time talking about the intricacies of the story, as it’s probably old hat by this point. However, playing through a big chunk of the game again for this review was an absolute delight. From the initial chopping of the tree, to encountering the World Serpent and Mimir’s almost constant brilliant wit/wisdom, my time with the PC version of God of War was a joy. The added technical bonuses made it feel like a breath of fresh air.
Mechanically, the game is dense but impressive, with new ideas drip fed to you throughout your quest. New characters are also introduced at just the right time, with Brok and Sindri still being absolute highlights. There are no new story elements or additional DLC crammed in here to make the PC release feel more special, this is simply the PS4 game released on a new platform. When a game is this good, that’s no bad thing though. My thoughts from my original review remain, which you can check out here. The rest of this review will look at the PC’s technical improvements more than anything.
For reference, my PC has a Ryzen 5 3600 CPU, with an RTX 3080, and 32GB of RAM. This is slightly short of the recommended specs for a solid 4K at 60fps, with the CPU being the achilles’ heel. However, for the vast majority of the time, the game delivered an almost flawless performance. For the most part, I was running over 60fps at ultra settings in native 4K. In fact, certain areas almost hit 100fps. Whenever the game did dip below 60, it dropped into the high 50s, which was almost unnoticeable running on an LG CX with G-Sync.
If you want to tailor your experience, there’s a full suite of graphical options on offer, allowing you to eke out as much performance as you can from your system. When running maxed out, though, the game looks absolutely astonishing. Whether it’s the pores on Kratos’ skin, or the sinewy remains of enemies after you cleave them in two with the Leviathan, the game leaps off the screen. This is helped with the HDR implementation, which carries on the legacy from the console versions of being a standout title in this regard. The colour palette of the game is magnificent as well. Kratos’ leather bracers and wooden handle on the axe are suitably muted, with particles and other important items in the world glowing as brightly as the Vegas Strip in the third week of December. Coupled with some best-in-the-business art direction, and you’ve got a truly spectacular visual showcase. Improved shadows, achieved by using new Ambient Occlusion techniques and simply more GPU grunt, make things feel much more grounded in the world. There are also enhancements to things like screen space reflections and particle effects.
I’m aware that there is a certain degree of difficulty in reviewing a PC title when the rig in question has one of the strongest GPUs on the market right now. It may not give everyone a decent idea of how their machine will perform. However, with an array of DLSS options available on top of the graphical options mentioned above, there will likely be a way you can get this running at 60fps at whatever resolution you wish. I tinkered with the settings during my time with the game, and there were occasions when using DLSS quality that I genuinely couldn’t tell the difference between that and native 4K. Nvidia’s tech is a game changer when it comes to performance, and it saw consistent frame rates of over 80fps when enabled. Your mileage may vary, of course, but if you’re hesitant on this PC port after the initial launch of Horizon Zero Dawn, you don’t need to be. This is a fantastic example of optimisation.
If you check out the video below, you can see just how well this version is up and running in comparison to it running on a PS5. The console version got a patch last year which boosted the frame rate cap to 60fps (we did a video on that at the time which can be found above), but the performance on PS5 holds up magnificently, and I think it’s important to note that here. If you do have a PC that can handle it, then there is a definite crispness to the native 4K image, as well as an improvement to some textures and effects that are on display here.