People aren’t talking enough about “God of War’s” camera.
Yes, the game is gorgeous; the ax throwing is satisfying, and the series finally gave me a Kratos and story I care about.
But it’s the decision to not interrupt the experience with even a single (noticeable) camera cut that really ties the experience together and solidifies “God of War” as the artistic and cinematic epic it is.
“God of War’s” uninterrupted camera begins before the game really starts. While on the main menu, you see Kratos looking at a tree. As soon as you start a new game, the menu disappears, the camera pans, and you start whacking away at the wood with your ax.
From that moment until the story concludes, the camera doesn’t cut once—not even for in-game cutscenes that masterfully use “God of War’s” engine to tell the story of Kratos and his son’s journey. Even loading screens are cleverly disguised as gameplay so players are never pulled out of the experience.
For most of the game, the camera hugs Kratos’ right shoulder. It’s a big departure from the static camera angles in the several previous entries in the series that were often set above Kratos—sometimes so far away he was barely more than a small figure on the screen.
In the latest “God of War,” it’s when Kratos encounters something big that the camera zooms out or drops down to really illustrate the gargantuan size of a mountain or creature. It’s a subtle trick, but it works so well to really drive home the fact that even the god of war is small in comparison to giants. I was floored the first time I met the massive World Serpent, and “God of War” has plenty of similar setpiece moments that are equally impressive.
In most story-driven games, when reaching a significant milestone in the narrative, the game “stops” as you’re treated to a pre-rendered cutscene. The deliberate interruption gives you a chance put down the controller and simply enjoy the story unfolding before you.
In “God of War,” you never encounter such a luxury. With the lack of camera cuts, cutscenes play out around you with the camera floating from character to character. It makes the entire experience more intimate, and the immersion was deepened to the point where I was completely entranced with “God of War’s” story.
It’s actually kind of exhausting.
It reminds me of “Birdman,” a film that is expertly edited to give the impression it was shot in one continuous take. Only 20 minutes into the film, I was feeling a bit antsy while waiting for a camera cut that never came to give me some respite. That’s how “God of War” feels, and it helps amplify the world’s scale from Kratos’ perspective. I hope other games in the future follow suit.
Of course, having a free-moving camera alone, cuts or not, is probably the series’ biggest and best change. The world of “God of War” is absurdly beautiful, as it has to be to warrant in-game and not pre-rendered cutscenes, and to watch it all with the freedom to move your camera to capture every inch is a delight. There have been times I’ve stopped moving just to pan the camera around to enjoy the detailed sights around me. It’s a true joy.
Fortunately, the gameplay and story are just as enticing. I’m probably only a third of the way through Kratos’ latest adventure, but based on what I’ve seen so far, there’s plenty ahead I know I’ll enjoy. Look for my review next week.