Review: Guess what? Kratos is still pissed off.
It all started with a survey. In the summer of 2009, Sony asked their membership about a potential God of War III Collector's Edition, and one of the suggestions was a bonus disc with the first two games in the series remastered in high-definition. As one might expect, this was enthusiastically received, perhaps more than Sony had anticipated ? unless it was some kind of viral question to see how many people would be interested in HD-remastered PlayStation 2 games. Anyway, while the remasters will not end up on the $100 Pandora's Box edition, Sony heard loud and clear that bringing PS2 games into the modern era, with all the amenities that offers, was something people were cool with. Perhaps these folks would have preferred full backwards compatibility with newer PlayStation 3 machines, but that's a topic for another day. As it stands, the God of War Collection is a complete compilation of all things God of War and God of War II ? just prettier. For series veterans, the games play just as well as they did on PS2, and the bonus God of War E3 '09 demo is an enticing wrinkle. For newcomers, wow. Two of the PS2's most critically acclaimed titles, in one package, for $20 less than the average PS3 game. That's a steal of deal.
For the newcomers, the God of War franchise deals in the universe of Greek mythology ? Athena, Ares, Zeus, Hades, Poseidon, etc. When God of War begins, Kratos ? a pale-white Spartan doing the bidding of the God of War Ares ? is told by Athena that he must go to Athens and stop her brother from destroying the city. To do so, Kratos must find the mythical Pandora's Box, which would give him the powers of a Greek God, and thus enable him to kill Ares and take his throne upon Olympus. God of War II continues the saga, as Kratos ends up having to pay a visit to the Sisters of Fate to reverse time to an important moment and change his destiny. Saying anything else about the plot of GOWII would ruin the events of the first game... so yeah, vague. Both games have at least one thing in common ? Kratos is one pissed-off dude. Even when he's calm, he gives off the aura of intense anger, and you get to act it out in numerous ways. It's one thing to take the Blades of Chaos to the army of Ares and other famous Greek monsters, but another thing entirely to rip a guy's arm off and beat him to death with it, or shoving your blades down the throat of a minotaur. He's just one ticked off guy and he focuses his rage well.
Both games play effectively the same ? it's usually the various magic attacks that separate them. The Blades of Chaos are long-distance weapons, as they can be ?thrown? towards enemies and used in numerous ways, combo style. In each game Kratos ends up with other weapons, but none of them are really as effective as the Blades. Though an action game, it doesn't quite require the intensity of a Devil May Cry or Ninja Gaiden ? instead it puts emphasis on just beating the hell out of all that stand in the way. There's a healthy set of combos, yeah, and they'll be put to use, but the both games are far more user-friendly and not as frustrating. In each game, Kratos learns magic from either Gods or Titans, which serve as diversions or for reaching enemies that the blade cannot. Because magic is finite, proper timing is needed, but you'll probably know when a well-placed magic attack will greatly help thin the ranks. Combined, it probably will take about twenty hours to complete both games ? mostly because God of War II is quite a bit lengthier than the original game, which can be finished in about 7-8 hours on Normal difficulty. For more detailed information on both games, check out our game pages here
For series veterans, you might be wondering... what's in it for me? There is of course the God of War III demo, free in the package ? though you can get a demo code from Gamestop for pre-ordering. So maybe that's not a big deal. Maybe trophies? Each game has about 40 trophies, and each has its own Platinum award for getting every trophy. They're not brutally hard either ? aside from the Challenge of the Gods/Titans mini-game, and oh yeah, scaling one of the Hades blade pillars in God of War I without being knocked off. So there's that. What really takes the cake is the beautifully remastered visuals, which are crisp, clear, and though it isn't 1080p native, it runs in that Full HD resolution and as such is amazing to look at. No jaggies, no screen tearing, no slowdown... just all the brutality of God of War in high-definition. No, it doesn't look like a native PS3 game, but it looks like a console from a never-happened generation between the PS2 and PS3 eras. The best place to see how much the visuals improved is when playing the first game ? because the cutscenes are not remastered, sadly. They run in the original PS2 resolution, and thus look grainy and, well, old. Because the second game used the in-game engine for cinemas and not pre-rendered video, it looks much better, though those too have not been remastered. Just the game itself.
Aside from the visual bumps ? these are the exact same games. All the items are in the same places, enemies spawn in the usual spots, boss battles play out the same... everything. Not a thing was touched other than the graphics engine. The same fantastic soundtrack and voice acting is in place as well. Instead of remaking the game ? a certain path to doom, Final Fantasy VII remake dreamers ? they treated the original with the reverence necessary to show newcomers how it was in 2005 and 2007, and did everything to not annoy the series veterans who otherwise would pick apart any changes or ?fixes? to the already established formula. Sure, this game is something of a slippery slope ? instead of working on full PS2 backwards compatibility I can imagine a stream of HD remasters instead, but if making a software emulator truly is out of the question, this is probably the next best thing. If anything, the success of the compilation and the fervor over the survey that led to the creation of this project shows that Sony is wrong about at least one thing ? PS3 owners do care about playing PS2 games on their machine, or at least want the option for such things. Again, though... this is a topic for a different time. As is, if the God of War Collection is a test to see how such things perform, you can expect to see many more before the PS3's lifecycle is up.