How God of War's combat team made Kratos' new axe feel so good

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A lot has changed for Kratos with 2018's God of War. As well as a new family and a new, snowy, backdrop, he's got a new weapon of choice: the Leviathan axe. We went straight to the combat team at PlayStation's Santa Monica Studio to find out how they made hacking at Draugr and throwing the axe at giants so much fun. 

"We use the term 'crunchy' a lot," says combat designer Kate Salsman, which is the perfect word for the way Kratos' new toy feels. 

Vince Nappali, lead systems designer, explains that game director Cory Barlog had some very specific ideas about how the axe would work.

"He was obsessed with the idea that when it hits, it sticks in them, and it really evolved over the years," says Nappali. "A lot of time was spent making an actual specialized system where, when you hit the enemies [and] connect with them, there’s a momentary pause when you’re actually wedged in them."

"Yeah, so if you freeze the frame, there’s a frame where Kratos’ axe is actually inside the enemy for a bit," adds lead gameplay designer Jason McDonald. "You can kind of feel that as you play the game."

Nappali says there was also a lot of work to get the "tug and tear" feel of pulling the axe back again. As it turns out, axe murderers probably get a lot of job satisfaction. 

Swapping to a new weapon was always a risk, but the development team had a strong sense of what made Kratos such an iconic hero, and strove to make sure that any changes stayed true to that.

"From a combat sense, you definitely want to make sure that Kratos continues to feel powerful, that he feels strong, and that he's able to take on lots of enemies at once and isn't really going to have a hard time with that," says McDonald.

The game will be released on April 20 on PS4, but you can read our extensive hands-on with the God of War 2018 reboot right now.