God of War surprised players with the ways in which it matured the series — like making Kratos a character people care about rather than an unrepentant bastard, and doing away with the extreme objectification of female characters. But as much as developer Sony Santa Monica focused on building a new legacy, it didn’t do away with the past completely.
God of War picks up years after Kratos’ adventures through Greece, where he slew the entire pantheon of Olympian gods. Now he’s a father, again, and he’s trying to pull his son, Atreus, in a different direction, to help Atreus avoid some of the cruel mistakes Kratos made in his previous lives on PlayStation 2 and PlayStation 3.
It’s still a series about rage, but instead of focusing on the youthful frustrations of the past, it offers a more mature take. Fear is the new heart at the center of Kratos’ fury — fear that Kratos’ past will never let him be at peace, that his son will discover who he truly is, and that he’s too broken to ever be the father he needs to be. And of course, fear fuels a new rogues’ gallery of enemies — the Norse gods — who are all fighting to stave off the end of the world.
God of War wraps a beautiful story into a tight third-person action and puzzle game. It demonstrates a fervid appreciation for Norse myths in the way it makes these gods into compelling characters. It takes RPG systems, narrative-based exploration, unique weapons, and storytelling tricks from different kinds of games, and melds them all together perfectly. It’s a marvel of modern game design, but it’s been shackled to PlayStation for years, limiting both its technical potential as well as the number of people who can experience it.
With this PC release, Sony has not only brought an excellent game to masses of PC players; it has also given God of War a second life as a visual feast. The original release looked great in 2018 on PlayStation 4, and in 2021 on PlayStation 5. But in 2022, God of War looks downright gorgeous on PC.
On ultra settings, God of War runs smoothly at 120 frames per second in 1080p resolution on my PC. (I’m rocking an Nvidia RTX 3080 with a Core i7-10700K processor at 3.80 GHz and 32 GB of RAM.) The melted innards of Draugr splinter apart with a crack when Kratos rips the creatures open, spewing orange viscera everywhere. During emotional moments, the subtle twitches of Kratos’ face betray his thoughts beautifully. And during close-up shots, I can count the individual gray hairs in his beautifully detailed beard.
Nothing compares to playing a game like God of War for the first time, seeing the way the water rushes out of the Lake of Nine as Jörmungandr, the World Serpent, rises from beneath the waves. But when the giant snake opened his mouth, and his voice bellowed through my headphones, I was even more awestruck by his design — his 4-year-old model and textures look excellent, even with my face just inches away from the monitor. The water dripping off of his mossy beard, the shadows in his nostrils, and his throat wavering while he speaks — it all looks better than ever. It’s the same game, but with its already impressive sets and visuals turned up, creating an even more immersive experience.
But my beautiful PC playthrough wasn’t without some hiccups. On rare occasions, I experienced minor screen tearing during quick turns. Kratos’ armor also occasionally clips through his body or objects. The enhanced visuals make the 2018 level of detail on certain textures — like a rare kind of chest, made of a bright gold — more noticeable, with the game’s improved shadows seemingly not pulling the same weight on brighter textures. But those blemishes were the exception to the rule, thrown into contrast by the beauty seen everywhere else in the game.
The excellent visuals and smooth performance of the PC version is something I’d hoped for — a way to see this excellent game in a new light, not constrained by my PS4 that was just a few years away from being benched for a PS5. God of War is an exciting addition to anyone’s Steam or Epic Games Store library because it looks beautiful and runs almost perfectly, but there’s another reason to be glad about its jump to PC: A legion of new players will get to experience Sony Santa Monica’s magnum opus for the first time.
With Sony’s recent move to get some of its exclusive titles (Horizon Zero Dawn, Ghost of Tsushima, Days Gone) into the hands of PC players, it’s opening itself up to an even wider fan base. Sure, some of those players might buy a console to check out God of War Ragnarok later this year, but that’s not the point. God of War is my go-to example of how mechanics and storytelling can combine to create something distinct from other mediums, a game I recommend to nongamer friends and family all the time (with a high degree of success). It was always a bummer that it took buying into a single console ecosystem to experience this game, and now, it doesn’t.
God of War on PC is more than just a great visual upgrade for an already stunning game. It’s the best version of one of the best games ever made, perfect for replays and first run-throughs alike.
God of War will be released Jan. 14 on Windows PC. The game was reviewed using a Steam key provided by PlayStation. Vox Media has affiliate partnerships. These do not influence editorial content, though Vox Media may earn commissions for products purchased via affiliate links. You can find additional information about Polygon’s ethics policy here.