‘God Of War’ Almost Had No Cutscenes or Cinematics

God of War is shaping up to be one of PS4’s biggest hits in 2018. Near perfect scores on metacritic have pushed the hype into the stratosphere, as critics across the spectrum praise the narrative-driven campaign centered on the relationship between Kratos and his son, Atreus. But Game Director Cory Barlog’s initial vision of the game didn’t include the cutscenes and cinematics audiences have come to expect for a game so focused on story.

“For me the narrative is not the cinematics, the narrative is the world,” Barlog told Newsweek. “The initial pitch was, not only do I want to have a no-cut camera, so it would be a single shot all the way through the game, but I also didn't want to have any cinematics.”

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Eventually Barlog realized it would be “too hard” to make a game without the aid of cinematics, but the spirit of keeping the audience immersed in the world, and the tale it tells, drove the game’s development. Designing everything around the father and son dynamic made it easier for players to immerse themselves in the world of God of War.

“I liked the idea of starting in close and tense on these characters to make it much more intimate,” he said. “Your connection to the fantastic feels much more tangible, much more real.”

Barlog points to the opening of God of War as an example of this philosophy. Players are greeted by a looming Kratos, axe in hand, standing next to a tree. You anticipate the trunk’s utter destruction, but instead Kratos kneels and gently touches a handprint painted on the side. It's a quiet moment meant to show returning players this isn't the angry, one-dimensional Kratos they've known in previous entries.

“Strength comes in so many forms,” Barlog said. “Not just the physical strength, but to understand the emotional strength. To have emotional vulnerability, to show that's not a weakness.”

He says audiences have become more demanding as the medium of video games has evolved. He calls it a new frontier for developers and likens it to the dawning of the golden age of cinema. In the 1930s, audiences grew tired of films that only celebrated technical achievements like sound. Soon, movie studios began focusing on great stories and audiences flocked to classics like Gone with the Wind and The Wizard of Oz. Barlog feels video games are on a similar path.

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“We're growing into an entertainment medium as opposed to ‘We make games. We make Mario jump.’ We no longer have to focus so hard on the technical hurdles and can ask, as a player, why am I doing this? Why am I making these choices?” he said. “Games that don't have that strong foundation stumble. People lose interest because the audience is becoming more sophisticated. They expect more of us.”

Audiences were already expecting a lot from God of War, but after such glowing reviews it’s safe to say they’re now expecting even more. Barlog is confident the game will deliver, and that people will identify the care and consideration that went into what he calls “the most personal project I’ve ever worked on.”

“Every moment of the game comes from a strong point of view, that comes from a desire to create a moment of truth,” he said.

The moment of truth for God of War comes this Friday, April 20, when it releases worldwide on PS4.