God of War on PC is a huge deal for Sony. Sure, other PlayStation exclusive titles have come to PC before — Days Gone came to Steam in May 2021 and Horizon Zero Dawn made the same jump in August 2020 — but the critically acclaimed God of War is on another level. The 2018 title defined the PS4 with its release, and coming to PC, it has to prove that PlayStation’s console staples can easily make the jump to a new platform.
After spending some time with God of War on my own computer, though, the port feels like a mixed bag. I recently replayed God of War on my PS5 and ended up falling in love with the game all over again. Its story is nothing short of gripping, and pummeling enemies with Kratos’ axe and swords are endlessly entertaining.
While playing through God of War‘s story is the same good ol’ time on PC as it is on consoles, actually playing the game with a keyboard and mouse just feels off. That’s not because I’ve played the game before on consoles (I’ve made that jump before and with fewer problems with other games), but it’s because God of War is still a game that was designed with console in mind first. It doesn’t feel like a game made for PC, but rather an after-the-fact adaptation.
Lost in translation
The PC version of God of War isn’t a bad port by typical standards. The game runs well on my computer, which sports an AMD RX 5700, a Ryzen 5600x, and 16GB of RAM. Playing the game at 1440p at its high graphics settings, I can easily hit between 60 and 70 frames per second.
God of War is also a stunning game to look at and continues to be on PC. And while the game’s graphics settings options may not be as robust as I’d like, there’s enough there for players to ensure everything that has to look good does.
But again, things like performance and God of War‘s story aren’t why the game feels so foreign on PC. There’s something intrinsically wrong with the moment-to-moment gameplay experience. Controlling Kratos with a mouse and keyboard is clunky. Nothing I actually did during my time with the game felt as satisfying as it did on console. Instead of moving Kratos, God of War on PC makes it feel like you’re using him as a sock puppet.
A lot of these issues boil down to not using a controller. For the first time, it feels like a keyboard and mouse limit a game. There’s something uncanny about only being able to move on eight axes in God of War, an extremely cinematic game, when a wider range of angles is available with a controller. Two joysticks make the hulking Greek God move naturally compared to the instant, robotic nature of four keys.
In a game like God of War, these small things make a huge difference. I can always see Kratos, I’m always aware of how he’s moving, and if it looks off even a bit, the entire experience of traversing the game’s massive map becomes harder to enjoy. There’s also something to be said about the benefit of slowly turning with a joystick rather than being able to whip a camera using a mouse. Those slow movements add heft and weight, while turning Kratos using a mouse feels unnaturally light. Again, there’s a disconnect between the game’s movement and how players actually make those inputs.
Playing the game with a keyboard and mouse also means missing out on an essential part of God of War‘s combat. The vibrations and rumbles that come from attacking enemies, throwing the axe, and recalling it are vital to the game’s full combat experience. Without any of these, cleaving an enemy in two is empty, albeit still fun to watch.
While these issues could be fixed by plugging a controller into my PC, that’s a defeatist approach to what should be a seamless PC port. If done right, God of War on PC, played with a keyboard and mouse, would feel just as good as playing it with a controller. Weight and impact would still be there, Kratos’ movements would be natural, and moment-to-moment gameplay wouldn’t suffer from the change in format.
Instead, God of War on PC still has all the bones of a console game and feels as though it’s fighting back against the platform it’s now on. The showing is concerning enough that it throws into question how PlayStation’s future PC ports of massive titles, including Uncharted 4, will be when they finally launch. With Sony’s own studios assumedly making games with the intention of bringing them to PC at some point, they’ll have to be designed in such a way that they function well on both platforms.
One version can’t have built-in superiority, although avoiding that will be a challenge due to the PS5’s admittedly great features. The DualSense controller itself is literally a game-changer; it’s essential to the core experiences of both Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart and Returnal.
The upside here is that games can be played on PC with full DualSense support. Metro Exodus Enhanced Edition, F1 2021, and Assassin’s Creed: Valhalla all come with haptic feedback and adaptive triggers on PC, but PC players shouldn’t be pushed to purchase a DualSense controller. Any PC port needs to be able to be played with a keyboard and mouse and feel just as good as it would on a console. Sony’s going to have to do a little more work to accomplish that.
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