God of War has received all sorts of praise and accolades over the past couple of months. Much of this has been for the quality of story and relationship between Kratos and his son. What seems to have gone under the radar is how well designed the Leviathan Axe is.
It all comes down to ‘feel’. Take DOOM’s shotgun and BFG 9000, the web-swinging in Spider-Man 2 and the movement in Mario 64 – they all just ‘feel’ right. Shots are satisfying, swinging is spot on and the jumps are precise.
The Leviathan Axe is right up there with them.
Swings are slow enough to be powerful but fast enough so that you never feel you’re lagging in battle or leaving yourself open to enemies unnecessarily. Powers can be upgraded with runes and special cores but where the axe really shines is in the throw and recall. Kratos can launch the thing with one hand or two, and the game does a great job in communicating the effort he puts into each heave. More than that, the sound of it whooshing through the air, pinging off a metal surface or embedding in a plank of wood is just as it should be.
The best moments, however, are saved for when he recalls the axe. Willing it back to his palm, the weapon flies through the air, taking the most direct route it can. It travels through enemies, smashes pots and always meets Kratos’ outstretched arm with a small thud and gentle vibration of the controller. It’s perfect.
Hand- and-axe work in joyous harmony in these moments. Even in the midst of combat the animations allow for him to catch and immediately swing. Later upgrades even unlock an alley-oop move where Kratos leaps, catches and swings down onto whatever is in front of him.
The final piece in the jigsaw is the horseshoe-shaped hook that sits at the back of every piece of chest armour Kratos can acquire. On his back and between the shoulder blades, it serves as the way of carrying the axe around when no in his grip. It moves convincingly when empty and Kratos clips the weapon into it (where handle meets axe-head) with a well thought and natural movement of his arm. Not once did it just appear there. Every time Kratos deliberately hooked it into place, whether standing still, walking or sprinting, if the axe started in his hand he went through the action of stowing it on his back.
Who needs the Blades of Chaos, eh?
Dad, Gent, Geek. Occasional grumpy old man. Console Peasant. Should know better.