Despite almost everything at this year's E3 being leaked beforehand the gameplay trailer for God of War still came as a surprise to many, mostly because of the actual content of it. It looks very good, but it also looks different – different to the rest of the games in the franchise anyway. Here's what we know about the fourth God of War game – very helpfully titled God of War, cheers for that Sony – from the E3 gameplay.
Kratos has a new child – a son this time – and has consequently grown a beard and looks kind of tired (although he's still totally ripped and hasn't got what people refer to as a 'dad bod'). This time Kratos is struggling with his humanity being in turmoil with his godhood, which has classically manifested in him being gruff and angry. His humanity, meanwhile, appears to be manifest in his son. It is as yet unclear whether Kratos' son knows that his half sister's ashes are fused to Kratos' skin. That probably puts a downer on a parent/child relationship.
Kratos and his son are currently living in a small wooden shack in a forest, a very simple lifestyle, and are basically living off the land. The presumption we can take from this is that it's several years after the events of God of War 3, Kratos has left Greece after destroying basically everything there, and is now in a new area trying to build some kind of domesticity.
Kratos' son is rumoured to be called Charlie (Charlie War?), which is unconfirmed but we need a placeholder to refer to him as for the rest of the article, so Charlie will do. His mother is currently an unknown quantity; the way they talk about her makes it seem like she's dead, or possibly absent, and the way Kratos talks in general sounds like he's only recently met his son - either that or is incredibly distant, which is also extremely likely. It's most probable that Charlie's mum was human, although we do know that Kratos had about a minute of QTE sex with Aphrodite in the last game, and she's just about the only one of the Greek gods that we can't be certain is dead after Kratos' rampage. Charlie has some powers from at least one of his parents, though; we see him shooting a lightning arrow in a fight. At the start of the trailer, when they're heading into the forest, the camera looks up to what could be a pyre on a hill nearby, so (and this is a bit of a stretch, but wouldn't surprise us) it could be that Charlie's mother has died extremely recently, and this is why he has just inherited her knife.
Charlie is going to be an ever present part of the game, but the game won't be one massive escort mission (because how much does everyone hate escort missions, right?). The director Cory Barlog has confirmed in an interview with Gamespot that his abilities can essentially be levelled up as Kratos trains him, and he'll be active in fights. How much you look forwards to this as a gameplay mechanic will depend on how you view children, but at least Charlie isn't going to require that much babysitting.
Kratos getting his rage on to boost his combat isn't an entirely new mechanic; it's shown up in the series before. This time it seems like a targeted attack, and you build up the rage with successful attacks in battle. In the gameplay trailer we saw Kratos use it to take down a troll by hitting it really hard in the face. His rageometer also showed up outside of combat though, specifically at the point where Charlie ignored his instructions and shot too soon at the stag.
Kratos' level of anger at his small puny son was expressed by that rage level flashing up in the top left corner of the screen. The fact that this comes up outside of combat as well as in suggests there could be a social aspect, at least between Kratos and his son, as their relationship develops. There could even be a branching element where you can choose whether to be a more human, emotional dad, or an angry shouty one. Maybe we're interpreting too much depth from one rage meter, though.
At two points in the gameplay trailer an interesting notification pops up on screen. The first, when Charlie spots some deer tracks, says 'Knowledge Gained Tracking +25' and the second, which comes after Kratos has helped Charlie aim at and shoot the stag, says 'Knowledge Gained Archery +50'. You may recognise these as the kind of notifications you get in the kind of game which has different talents and skills that you can pursue in different ways as you level up. You know. Like in an RPG.
From the context of the notifications it's not clear whether this is Kratos levelling up his skills (which seems unlikely since he is a literal god and probably knows how to fire a bow or whatever) or if it's Charlie. Given what Barlog has said about Charlie it seems more likely that it's his knowledge you're getting a notification for, suggesting that you can choose what skills Charlie learns as you progress through the game, and do so with some precision, too.
We know now that this is definitely not set in Greece, but rather in the pre-migration period of Norse mythology, so we're probably looking a mythologised kind of Denmark/Sweden/Norway kind of area (hence the cold and snow). This accounts for the Nordic runes that are heavily prevalent in the gameplay trailer, and also, possibly, Kratos' axe (axes being a much more thematically Viking weapon).
Barlog has also stressed that this is set in the period when the Viking gods were said to have walked the earth, and if that's the case then we can imagine that Kratos is going to run into some of them. God killing is kind of his thing now, anyway. The fun roster of Norse gods includes all those ones made famous in the Marvel films, and they're all a bit fighty (the Norse gods actually have more than one god of War). The fact that Charlie has lightning powers is also a bit of a link to Thor, too.
One of everyone's most favourite bits of God of War is that you get to kill really big enemies in gruesome ways, often using QTEs. The gameplay trailer didn't have any button prompts on screen, possibly because that would be a distraction, but some slow motion bits and pauses in combat look very much like the QTE bits of fighting aren't entirely gone, and there are definitely some brutal finishers on show.
The biggest fight in the gameplay trailer is with a troll, which is maybe three times the size of Kratos. If you're after the fights on top of titans then you might still have something to look forwards too; giants are a key part of Norse mythology and have a lot of fights with the Norse gods, in a very similar way to the Titans and Greek gods. These pantheistic religions have a lot of the same stories, like they were nicking gods off each other.
While the majority of the trailer is quite a linear path, at the very end the camera pans up onto a large landscape, with mountains in the distances, and flooded ruins. There's even a dragon (or possibly wyvern) creature prowling the skies. This, combined with some of the other bits and pieces picked up in the trailer, suggests the world of God of War could be more open than it was in, er, God of War. The first one, I mean. Man, that's going to happen a lot now, isn't it? "Did you like God of War?" "Which one?" Anyway, Barlog has confirmed that it's 'open' but not a fully open world in the traditional RPG sense, but any amount of opening is something a departure for the series.