God of War Ragnarök is one of the finest games I’ve played all year. As I said in my God of War Ragnarök review, it’s arguably the series' best entry thanks to its gripping narrative, engaging gameplay and stunning visuals. Whether you play it on PS4 or PS5, you’re going to have a great time. It’s a fitting end to the Norse saga that began in 2018's God of War.
It’s also a great finale for the PlayStation 4.
Although I thoroughly enjoyed God of War Ragnarök, I couldn’t help but feel that I was playing a last-gen title. I understand that might be a strange statement, considering it is technically a last-gen game. But I didn’t feel this way about Horizon Forbidden West, which is also a cross-gen title.
God of War Ragnarök also arrives a few days shy of the PS5’s two-year anniversary. We’re well into this console generation, but you can count the number of genuine PS5 exclusives on one hand and still have fingers left over. Sony’s desire to not alienate the PS4’s considerable install base makes sense, but we need to cut last-gen releases off at some point, don’t we?
At this same time in 2021, I wrote an op-ed about how I've been playing the PS5 for a year and it doesn’t feel like a next-gen console. A year later, that sentiment hasn't changed. I think it’s well past time that Sony began building games solely for its current-gen system. God of War Ragnarök should be the last cross-gen PlayStation exclusive.
I’m tired of endless load screens
Many reviewers, myself included, commented on God of War Ragnarök’s excessive amount of hidden load screens. I’m not necessarily against crawling through walls or scaling high cliffs to mask load screens between different areas. It’s a better alternative than staring at a static screen. But God of War Ragnarök has moments like this at nearly every turn. I thought Final Fantasy VII Remake had a copious amount of hidden load screens, but Square-Enix’s title has nothing on God of War Ragnarök.
Thanks to its solid state drive, the PS5 is one of the speediest consoles ever released. Both Marvel's Spider-Man Remastered and Marvel's Spider-Man: Miles Morales on PS5 have almost no loading screens. For example, when you use the fast travel feature on PS4, you’ll see a loading screen featuring Spider-Man riding the subway. These scenes don’t exist on PS5, since you transport to your destination almost instantaneously.
Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart also showcases the power of the PS5’s SSD. One of its central mechanics is using wormholes to quickly traverse the environment. In its most impressive form, this mechanic also lets you shift between different planets in an instant. Granted, you shift between small isolated areas during the latter instance, but it’s impressive regardless. It’s a mechanic the PS4 and its comparatively slow HDD wouldn’t be able to handle.
Loading screens are something we have to deal with in games. However, we have hardware that can all but eliminate them. If we don’t need to suffer through excessive load screens in games, then why should we? This alone is almost reason enough for Sony to leave the PS4 behind.
Give me actual next-gen experiences
Beyond fast load times, games built from the ground up on current-gen hardware also have the potential to be extremely immersive.
Cyberpunk 2077 is a prime example of a title that was more than last-gen consoles could handle, due to its dense environments and various sub-systems that work in unison. The only platforms that can run the game properly are current-gen consoles and powerful PCs. The fact that its DLC, Cyberpunk 2077: Phantom Liberty is only for current-gen consoles and PCs speaks volumes.
With better hardware, developers can expand the scope of their visions and generate more believable worlds. God of War Ragnarök is incredible, but I can only imagine what it could have been like if it were exclusively on PS5.
I’m not overly concerned about whether games have “true” 4K graphics or not. Some players may feel differently, but I’d rather have titles run at 60 frames per second with a variable resolution instead of at 30 fps at 4K. I do not want Gotham Knights, with its locked 4K/30 fps, to be the standard for current-gen titles.
Will there be more cross-gen PlayStation exclusives?
As far as I know, God of War Ragnarök is the last cross-gen PlayStation exclusive. Though Sony hasn’t officially stated which platforms Marvel’s Spider-Man 2 or Marvel's Wolverine will be on, it’s reasonable to assume these upcoming titles will be actual PS5 exclusives. Because of that, God of War Ragnarök has a fitting name since it would effectively be the end of cross-gen PlayStation exclusives. However, that may not be the case.
During an interview with Axios, Hermen Hulst, Head of PlayStation Studios, hinted that Sony would continue releasing games for the PS4. “We certainly don’t want to forget the millions of active players on PS4, and we want to ensure there are great games for them as well. We’re evaluating it on a case-by-case basis,” said Hulst.
That statement doesn’t confirm that we’ll see more cross-gen exclusives, but it also doesn’t rule out the possibility. Rumors from earlier this year suggested that God of War Ragnarök was, in fact, the last PlayStation cross-gen game, but we should always take such rumors with a healthy dose of skepticism. Vague or not, it’s better to go with official statements from Sony rather than any supposed insiders lurking on Reddit.
PS5 cross-gen outlook
There’s nothing inherently wrong with cross-gen games. I want high-quality titles to reach as many people as possible. However, I also want to see game development move forward. Yes, the PS4's install base is larger than the PS5’s, but forcing developers to make titles on outdated tech ensures that we’ll keep getting the same gaming experiences. It’s time to move on.
It’s unclear whether or not God of War Ragnarök will be the last cross-gen PlayStation exclusive. But I pray to the Norse gods that it is.