God of War review: astonishing technological craft in the service of simple pleasures

Apr
12

God of War review: astonishing technological craft in the service of simple pleasures

Remove the heart. Climb on the chest, feet slapping against sinew and skin. The ruined flesh beneath shudders but holds. The blade goes in. One for the incision. Two to part the ribs with a brisk crack. The heart is in there, but it’s well connected. Reach deep. Pull. Remove the heart. Pull.

Something about this incident gets at, well, the heart of God of War. It is ridiculous and petulant, a world in which gods are just giants and giants can be felled and there is still, regardless of your own beliefs or lack of them, something of a guilty shudder to that. But it’s also sort of realistic, or at least it cleaves to the most superficial elements of reality: to the human textures of the shells we all bumble around in, the warm depths. And it’s disgusting, but it’s also businesslike: we are kept in our place, and – if you look closely, as it were, at what we are shown and not shown – we are quietly shielded from the least palatable aspects of it. God of War is so committed to the getting us close to acts of depravity that at times – when it’s literally tugging at the heart – it steps back just a little and reveals its secret, shameful conservatism.

Then there’s this, of course: that heart is one grotesque highlight nestled in amongst an endless run of highlights. Everything is a glissando here, in a game of one god set against all the others. Kratos will have forgotten the heart ten minutes from now, even though it glowed and shimmered when he held it aloft, like a Pimms jug with a couple of glowsticks in it. And ten minutes from then? What fresh horrors will he be up to by that point?

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