God of War Collection Review

   18/05/2010 at 19:18       Flying_Pig       5 COMMENTS. - Score 5/5
 - God of War Collection, Kratos, PlayStation 3, Greek Gods

The current generation of home consoles has enabled us to re-visit the gems of previous generations like never before.  Most of these are pixel-perfect emulations of the originals, downloaded from the respective platform holder’s online store for relative pocket change. 

God of War Collection is different.  It’s a disc-only title which consists of two of the best games in the PlayStation 2 back catalogue.  God of War was originally released to critical acclaim in the summer of 2005, with its sequel, God of War 2 following two years later.  With combined sales of more than 8 million copies, the two games were hugely popular, and have spawned a PSP prequel as well as the recently released God of War 3 for the PlayStation 3.

The two games remain unchanged from their original release, with the sole exception being that BluePoint Games have used the extra grunt of Sony’s latest hardware to give these aging PS2 classics at true HD makeover.  God of War Collection runs at 720p, a rock solid 60fps and full anti-aliasing.  As a result these two games look like this generation releases and while they wouldn’t win any awards for their looks, the God of War games in this collection are on par with the majority of current releases in the graphics department.

And if that’s not enough, there’s the added bonus of full trophy support, offering some 70 trophies across the two games.

Anger Management Issues

I bought God of War (GoW) when it was originally released, although I’m slightly ashamed to say that in those days I was easily distracted by the next big thing, and I gave up just over half way though.  In the intervening 5 years, my staying power has increased and I now know what a brilliant gaming experience I missed by quitting before the end.

As a bit of background, our main character and anti-hero, Kratos, is a very angry man.  As the leader of the Spartans, he was put into the service of the destructive deity of the title, Ares.  Doing his master’s bidding by slaughtering anyone who stands in their way, Kratos is something of a killing machine.  But after being tricked by Ares, Kratos has now vowed to turn his considerable skills against his master and kill the aforementioned God of War.  Guided by another God, Athena, whose city – Athens – is under attack by Ares and his army; Kratos must journey deep into Ancient Greek Mythology to acquire the skills and weapons capable of putting him on an equal footing with his towering nemesis.

Not wanting to give any more of the story away, Kratos’ quest takes him through numerous locations, using his trusty Blades of Chaos to slice, dice and chop his way through the kind of nasties that fans of the original Clash of the Titans film will be familiar with.    On his journey Kratos will acquire new skills and magical attacks, all of which can be upgraded by using the red orbs which burst out of downed enemies and opened chests.  The more brutal the slaughter becomes, the more of these orbs are released and the more powerful Kratos becomes.

Many of the larger enemies also have their own unique way for Kratos to finish them off.  After taking some damage they stand, dazed, giving Kratos the option to take on a QTE-driven finishing move.  As an example, Kratos will push a dazed Minotaur to the ground and by rapidly tapping the Circle button sees Kratos drive his blades into the weakened monster’s gaping mouth.

GoW is certainly not a shrinking violet and seems to relish in the ultra-violence and blood letting.  There’s certainly a ton of the red stuff splashed about as you progress, but it’s more about the way Kratos goes about his business.  Not satisfied with simple blade-based genocide; heads are severed, backs are broken and arms ripped off as our main man dispatches his adversaries.

In addition to the near-relentless combat, GoW's locations are interspersed with various puzzles, which range from simple block-pushing to more complex combinations of levers and athletic timing.  Most are fairly straightforward, and all are sufficiently well sign-posted that it’s clear what you need to do.

Special mention needs to be made of the epic boss battles.  In the opening section of the game, your fleet of ships is under attack from a massive three-headed Hydra.  A combination of straightforward fighting and additional puzzle elements, you first need to incapacitate the two smaller heads, before facing the roaring final head face-to-face.  It’s a very memorable sequence and something that really sets the tone for the remainder of the game.

In action games, the feel and responsiveness of the main character needs to be spot on.  Fortunately this was certainly the case in the PlayStation 2 original, and now thanks to the fixed 60fps gameplay, Kratos feels even sharper.  Furthermore, while button mashing will probably get you fairly far through the game, deft use of block and dodge as well as Kratos’ strong and weak attacks is required to progress through the increasingly challenging hordes of mythic beasts all intent on taking you down.  Somehow Sony’s Santa Monica Studio got this spot on first time around and thankfully this remains untouched.

My sole criticism of this game probably isn’t really a fair one.  Despite the considerable upgrade to the visuals, the cut scenes look untouched.  While they undoubtedly looked great in the previous generation, against the 720p crispness of the gameplay, they now look pretty rough.  Although, this does serve as an indication of how much better this game looks than the PS2 original.

God of War was something of a masterpiece when originally released and, despite the time elapsed, thanks for the visual makeover feels like a current generation, even up against the other games in this genre released this year.  That alone, is a testament to the quality of the original release.

A History of Violence

The benefit of this Collection meant that I was able to play God of War 2 (GoW2) immediately after finishing its prequel.  However, while playing God of War, I wondered how GoW 2 could top it.  I mean, GoW1 is pretty awesome, so what more could the sequel offer?

Starting some years after where God of War finished, you initially get to play as the fully powered up Kratos that you finished GoW1 with as he fights through the City of Rhodes and on to an epic boss battle with the animated Colossus of Rhodes (Think the Statue of Liberty in Ghostbusters II except with murderous intentions and blue glowing eyes).  Immediately GoW2 feels much more sure footed and confident.  With the gameplay mechanics pretty much nailed in the first game, you sense that Santa Monica Studio focused on a much more interesting story and making everything (including Kratos himself) even bigger, badder and bolder.

Visually GoW2, having received the same HD polish as GoW1, should looks pretty much the same; however in some ways it actually looks better.  With more varied locations - ranging from lush gardens to dank, dark caves – and some stunning vistas, GoW2 has the ability to offer some jaw-dropping moments.

While the fighting is largely un-touched – we even get to re-fight some of the favourites from GoW1 – Kratos also has some new abilities, most significant of which is the grapple hook which allows him to swing from specifically marked points.  And while he retains the ability to swim underwater from the original game, he later meets up with Icarus and after some ‘forceful negotiations’ acquires his wings, giving Kratos the ability to fly.  Both of these additions add immensely to the gameplay possibilities, without diminishing the core fundamentals of the game.

God of War 2 represents further refinement of the series.  It manages to take the very best of what made God of War great and add further ingredients into the mix, resulting in a bolder, more memorable experience, but one which remains faithful to the original.

Too Hot to Handle

As a single package it’s hard to fault God of War Collection.  With two top quality games on a single disc, giving some 20 hours of excellent gameplay for less than 20 notes, there really is no excuse for any discerning PS3 owner to pass this by.

You certainly wouldn’t want to make Kratos angry, would you?  You wouldn’t like him when he’s angry.

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