NEW YORK (CNS) — Any video game that carries the title “God of War” (Sony Interactive Entertainment) is unlikely to be safe fun for the whole family. And so it proves with the eighth iteration of this violent franchise.
To get a sense of what awaits, gamers only have to recall the most recent outings for this go-round’s returning protagonist, the brutal demigod Kratos. When last seen, Kratos was on a rampage, wiping out all of Greece, including the presiding god of that nation’s ancient mythology, Zeus.
Imagine Quentin Tarantino directing a “Thor” movie and you’ll have the picture of what’s on offer this time. There’s frequent bloodletting in scenes of combat that find characters being stabbed, impaled and dismembered. And the dialogue interspersed amid the slaughter involves several vulgar expressions.
Revenge has usually been the main theme of “God of War.” In earlier installments, Kratos (voice of Christopher Judge), a Spartan warrior, was tricked into killing his family by Ares, the Greek god of war. Kratos killed Ares, then assumed his title.
When Zeus subsequently betrayed Kratos and sent him to hell, Kratos found a way out, then went on the warpath as described above.
With nothing left of Greece, this reboot shifts the scene to an isolated forest in the world of the Norse gods. There the recently widowed Kratos lives with his young son, Atreus (voice of Sunny Suljic).
The death of Faye, Kratos’ second wife and Atreus’ mother, leads to the quest that drives the gameplay. Faye’s final wish was that her ashes should be spread on the summit of the highest mountain in the “nine realms” — the nine worlds that together constituted the Norse cosmos. Having cremated Faye, father and son set off on a journey to honor this request.
Of course, there are obstacles. The duo encounters witches, serpent dragons and demons. Midgard, the realm that corresponds to Earth, is also plagued with something called “the Desolation.” This involves humans being hunted down by zombie-like undead creatures. In response, unsurprisingly, people have almost all fled Midgard.
Underlying the narrative is a moral outlook just as objectionable as all the gory action. Thus the fatherly advice Kratos gives Atreus at one point is more Genghis Khan than Tim Allen: “To be effective in combat, a warrior must not feel for their enemy. Close your heart to their desperation.”
The graphics in “God of War” are magnificent, and the mechanics of the game, playable on the Playstation 4, are smoothly state-of-the-art. The fact that such fine artistry and cutting-edge technology should be put to no better purpose than the vivid portrayal of savagery is lamentable.
The game contains skewed values, frequent, sometimes bloody violence and occasional rough and crude language. The Catholic News Service classification is A-III — adults. The Entertainment Software Rating Board rating is M — Mature.
– – –
Judge reviews video games and comic books for Catholic News Service.