God of War Ragnarok, the successor to the 2018 soft-reboot of the franchise, has finally been released. While initially thought to be a generation-defining game for Sony's new console hardware, the title was later confirmed to be a cross-generation offering. It was developed in tandem for both the PS5 and PS4.
Although God of War Ragnarok is a cross-generational title, the game takes full advantage of the extra horsepower granted by the new console. On the PS5, it can offer a higher frame rate and resolution, as well as VRR HFR modes for compatible displays.
While the game works and looks virtually flawless on Sony's new console hardware, many players were unable to get the PlayStation 5 due to its very limited availability. Such individuals might be worried whether the game would run well on the last-gen system, especially on its base model.
Having played God of War Ragnarok for more than 30 hours on a PlayStation 4 Slim, with the game being installed on an external hard drive, I can safely say that the game is more than just playable on the almost-decade-old hardware. However, there are a few caveats that gamers should be aware of while making the decision to purchase God of War Ragnarok for the base PlayStation 4.
Note: This article contains mild spoilers for God of War Ragnarok.
God of War Ragnarok runs well on base PS4, but there are some shortcomings gamers need to be aware of
How do the visuals in God of War Ragnarok look on a base PS4?
Much like the last game, God of War Ragnarok targets a resolution of 1920x1080 on the base PlayStation 4. However, since the resolution is locked at 1080p without any DRS (Dynamic Resolution Scaler) in effect, the image looks fairly clean for the most part. New to the game, however, is the implementation of temporary anti-aliasing (TAA), which massively overhauls the image quality.
The title offers a host of visual options, which, while not rivaling the flexibility of a PC port, still offer plenty of things for players to tweak. Motion blur and film grain, as well as a proper HDR scaling option, offer full control regarding how one might want the game to look on their display.
I played the title on a 43-inch HDR10 television with a maximum resolution of 1080p at 60Hz, and I never found the image quality to be lacking at any point in time throughout my 30 hours of playtime. I also plugged the console into my 24-inch, 1080p LG gaming monitor, and God of War Ragnarok looked equally great on that screen too.
However, the game does feel a bit choppy when played on a 144Hz monitor, which can be attributed to the 30 FPS cap on the base PS4 version of the title. I highly recommend playing the game on a TV, as the low frame rate will be much less prominent on a standard 60Hz display.
All-in-all, the image quality and visuals of God of War Ragnarok are superb and should not be a concern for anyone picking up the game for a base PS4.
How well does God of War Ragnarok perform on a base PS4?
Santa Monica Studio, as with the last God of War title, targets a modest 30 frames per second on the base PlayStation 4. Surprisingly, despite the game looking identical to the PlayStation 5 version, it maintains the 30 FPS fairly well. However, it's important to note that the title has a lower-resolution target as well as reduced draw distance and screen space reflections.
I did experience a few dips below the 30-FPS mark during action-heavy battle scenes, with multiple alpha particles scattered across the screen. That said, overall, the game's 30-FPS lock is pretty solid. Fans of the 2018 release who experienced that title on a base PS4 can expect a similar level of performance from the sequel.
Few issues I faced while playing God of War Ragnarok on the base PS4
Developer Santa Monica Studio has created one of this year's most polished AAA games, which performs and scales really well on both current-generation and last-generation PlayStation hardware. However, there are still a few issues that players should know before getting God of War Ragnarok for the base PS4.
While the performance, for the most part, was rock-solid, I did encounter a weird bug that caused the frames to drop into the low teens in certain sections. While exploring Midgard and Vanaheim — two of the most densely packed zones in the game — the frame rate got tanked the most. Although the title quickly recovered from the dips, it still affected my enjoyment of the game.
There is also a known issue with the game dropping frames out of the blue on certain parts of the map in Midgard, which can only be fixed after exiting the game and restarting it. I came across this problem twice in my 30-hour playthrough, which really annoyed me. This is because, both times, I was in the middle of combat, and sudden FPS spikes can massively ruin the flow of action in Ragnarok.
Loading times in the game are another issue on PlayStation 4. While the initial load takes an average of 30 seconds in most realms, when it comes to certain sections of Midgard and Vanaheim, this can be much longer.
Loading when dying or restarting a checkpoint is fairly quick and takes about 10-15 seconds on average. It should be mentioned that I have the game installed on an external hard drive, which may or may not have an impact on loading times in the game.
One major issue I faced with the game is related to asset rendering. While the textures generally are fairly crisp right from the get-go, there were a few instances where either environmental geometry or texture details failed to load during gameplay and cutscenes.
While the assets eventually did load in after a few seconds' delay, it still felt very jarring to see muddy textures in an otherwise great-looking game. I was also subjected to a fair few moments where enemies failed to load in on time during certain combat sections.
This issue was very prominent in the playable Atreus sections of the story and was also present in Midgard as well as Alfheim while playing as Kratos.
God of War Ragnarok is not only a stellar conclusion to the phenomenal God of War (2018) but also a great example of cross-generational games done right.
Most such titles in the last two years have mostly been technical disasters, such as Cyberpunk 2077. However, PlayStation's first-party studios never fail to amaze when it comes to delivering games that look and play great on the new PS5 but also offer a similar experience on PS4, albeit with some compromises. God of War Ragnarok is one of the prime examples of such cross-gen first-party PlayStation titles.
Suffice to say, anyone still wondering whether they should get God of War Ragnarok for their base PS4 can definitely go ahead with their purchase. The game performs excellently, regardless of the console it is played on.