God of War Collection – comprising the original PS2 games, repackaged on one handy blu-ray disc and remastered in HD – looks like a PlayStation 2.5 game. It may be a purely cosmetic overhaul – astutely handled by Bluepoint Games, the developer behind PSN’s Blast Factor – but Kratos’ PS2 adventures have lost little of their brutal substance.
The disc comes with the brilliant God of War and the even better God of War II, except the visuals are delivered in 720P. Nothing has been lost in translation from the PS2 version to PS3, so it plays exactly the same. For the uninitiated, GOW set the benchmark for hack and slash ultra-violence, twinned to epic screen-size boss battles. Oh, and anti-hero Kratos is a mad man. Armed with the Blades of Chaos (read: massive slicey blades) and coated with – in a plot twist that goes some way to explaining why he’s so furious – the ashes of his scorched family, he wades through harpies, minotaurs, screaming sirens and most other mythical beasts you care to mention. He’s also packing magic spells including Poseidon’s Rage – an electric blast radius that fries all within it or Typhon’s Bane – basically a glorified bow and arrow.
In GOW he’s a mortal working with the Gods to knock Ares – the original God of War – down a peg or two. Problem is, Ares stands taller than the Empire State building, which is pretty tall. Thus begins an adventure through Athens and down to Hades in search of the tools to eff him up. In GOW II, Kratos is tricked into relinquishing all his powers by the vengeful Gods, so he teams up with the Titans to teach his old holy chums a lesson in revenge. Across both games you’ll kill thousands of enemies without batting an eye-lid. OK, maybe you’ll wince a little when he pulls an archer apart with his bare hands.
Aside from the glossy visuals, both games being on one disc and the obligatory Trophies, God of War Collection doesn’t contain anything else you could call new. But it’s not like we expected new levels, weapons and a custom soundtrack. Hell no. What we want, and what we’re pretty sure you’ll agree with when you play it, is a stunning reminder of why God of War made such an impact on PS2 in the first place.
From the opening moments of both games, you can’t help but marvel at the beauty – and scale – of the environments, reveling in glee at the undimmed, visceral brutality of Kratos’ attacks. Countless games have tried and failed to match the epic scale and stylish kills of God of War since it first appeared in 2005 and they’ve all been left bloody-nosed. But while God of War Collection highlights how some of the visuals haven’t aged well (especially the untouched cutscenes) these HD remakes still play great and don’t feel out of place on PS3. For us, the opening to God of War II, where you methodically take down a giant angry statue, stills ranks as one of the greatest openers in any game we’ve played. And with this collector’s edition’s spit and polish, it looks even better than before.
What we didn’t remember about either game is how hard they are. It seems unlikely that Sony would’ve advised Bluepoint Games to up the ante in terms of difficulty, but there’s a Trophy specifically called Getting My Ass Kicked, which is a bronze award for dying so many times that you’re offered Easy mode. We don’t remember the beasts being so tricky to dispatch the first time around, especially the super-strength minotaurs. But we see this extra difficulty as a new challenge for us to enjoy and absolutely not a steady decrease in our gaming skills.
One slightly annoying thing about God of War Collection is that once you enter either game’s menu, you can’t simply drop out and fire up the other one without quitting out all the way to the XMB. It may just be a flaw in the version that we’re playing but it’s pretty grating if you fancy a change halfway through. Another gripe is the fact that the challenge rooms aren’t unlocked from the off. These bastard-hard rooms consist of special challenges like firing a giant stake into as many undead creatures as you can in a set time limit. Or fling as many enemies off a flying platform as possible with your throwing skills. But alas, you’ll have to work Kratos’ grey dangly bits to get them.
If you’re in any doubt about God of War’s importance to gaming, let alone the PlayStation brand, here’s the perfect chance to get acquainted with the titles that pushed PS2 to its limits – uniting arcane, but precise, Japanese play dynamics with Western accessibility and production bombast. You won’t be disappointed with Kratos’ HD adventures. That ashen grey look was meant for 720P. A hulking reinvention? By Zeus’ ragged beard, no – but you’ll sure like Kratos when he’s angry. If you're in the UK, you could wait for the official release or import it (the game’s already out in the US and runs on a UK PS3).
Jan 5, 2009