There’s nothing like a good ol’ game compilation, but unfortunately they come in few and far between. While the world is anticipating the release of God of War III Sony have released a $40 compilation featuring the first two games in the series complete with enhanced HD visuals and trophy support, but how well do these once excellent games hold up against todays standards?
Upon it’s 2005 release the original God of War was one of the most violent and action packed games ever made. Drenched in Greek mythology God of War was an epic tale of revenge and redemption as Spartan warrior Kratos set out to destroy Aires, the very god who both saved his life and transformed him in to the savage, beast-of-a-man he is now. Armed with the Blades of Chaos (a pair of blades, which are chained to his forearms) Kratos’ adventure will have him decapitating hundreds of enemies, solving environmental puzzles and traversing through tricky platforming sections, some of which are truly frustrating.
What propelled God of War above all other third-person action games is it’s user-friendly combat system that allows players to pull off incredible feats with minimal effort. Initially you’ll start off with only your trusty chain blades but as you progress the gods will reward with you new weapons, powers and abilities to help you through your quest. Each of your weapons can be upgraded by collecting red orbs which are obtained by killing enemies or opening up specific chests located through-out the game. Upgrading your desired weapon will increase it’s strengths and in most cases will also enable additional moves for them. For the majority of the game your Blades of Chaos will be all you need and thankfully they’re a joy to use. Stringing together combos couldn’t be easier, simply tapping either the light or heavy attack button will have you pulling off basic combos but you also have the option to combine the two, perform grab moves or hold down L1 while attacking to administer more damaging and flashier blows. Add to that the ability to use items mid-combos and its easy to see how more advanced players will find hidden-depth in this seemingly bare-bones system.
While “Quick Time Events” serve as a more of a clichéd annoyance these days God of War was the game that kick started the trend. When faced against large enemies or enormous bosses you’ll have the ability to finish them off via a QTE whenever they’re running low on life. Pressing the circle button when the symbol appears over your dying enemies head will set the QTE in motion, you’ll then have to press/tap the appropriate sequence of buttons or rotate the right analog stick as instructed to make Kratos unleash acts of torture to his victims. Some of these moments are down-right disturbing but they help to show just how merciless and evil Kratos can be. As a main-character Kratos is a complete asshole and ultimately he is hard to root for. His only desire is to kill in the most ruthless way possible and during both gameplay moments and cutscenes you’ll see him killing more innocent people than an Al-Qaeda terrorist playing the airport level in Modern Warfare 2. While several people are able to mistake his maliciousness for “badass-ness” I found myself disliking Kratos more and more as the game went on which was problematic and did the well crafted story no favors.
My biggest problem with this enhanced version of God of War is the disparity between the graphics during gameplay and the visuals during the in-game cutscenes. While Sony did a great job upscaling the graphics during gameplay sequences the cutscenes remain untouched and honestly they look awful. Transitioning from gameplay to cutscenes and vice-versa feels awkward and it will constantly remind you that despite it’s HD coating you’re really just playing a PS2 game in disguise. Even with its few flaws God of War is still an incredible adventure that stands head and shoulders above other games in it’s genre. While you’ll be able to make it through the campaign in around 7 hours the unlockable Very Hard mode, additional challenge rooms and lengthy video features will keep you entertained way beyond the end credits.
2007’s God of War II is where this collection truly shines. As excellent as the first game is, the sequel turns the awesome dial up to 11 and significantly tones down all of the annoying bits. It’s hard for me to speak too much about story without spoiling the first game but this time around Kratos is as pissed off as ever and is seeking to destroy Zeus himself. Almost everything in God of War II is an improvement over it’s predecessor including the combat, pacing, interface and cinematics. There are some truly epic moments to be had here with hardly any of the downtime which plagued the original game. Kratos also redeems himself as a character and for the first time I actually enjoyed playing as him, sure he‘s still the same ultra violent asshole but the team at Santa Monica Studios did a great job making his anger seem more genuine even though his motivation is less heartfelt. Graphically God of War II is almost of PS3 quality and both the in-game and CGI cutscenes hold up exceptionally well. While this sequel is more of a evolution than a revolution it does everything so well and on such a huge scale that it’s easy to see why many consider it to be one of the best games in the PS2’s vast library. Avid gamers may be able to complete the story mode in a weekend but there is plenty to see and do once the story is wrapped up. Once again God of War II goes beyond the standard protocol and there’s well over an hours worth of Making Of videos to enjoy all of which can be accessed directly from the video section of the XMB eliminating the need to boot up the game.
The inclusion of the God of War III E3 Demo is just icing on this intensely satisfying cake and while it doesn’t reinvent the wheel it is an exciting demonstration of what’s to come. I would have loved if the PSP’s God Of War: Chain’s of Olympus was included in this compilation but as it stand God of War Collection offers both exceptional value and entertainment for a budget price. Even if you already own these games in their original form that shouldn’t deter you from picking this up, the updated visuals breathe new life into the franchise and you’ll earn a host of Playstation Network Trophies in the process. If you’re a God of War virgin consider yourself lucky because you’re about to embark on one of the greatest adventures of your life. Unless your heart pumps Kool-Aid and you shudder at the thought of a Gargoyles eye being gouged out, or a Medusa’s head being wrenched and pulled off of her shoulders this is an essential purchase.