Review by SuigintouEV
"Just. Plain. Epic. That's all that needs to be said."
Remember when you watched Star Wars for the first time? Or dropped your jaw upon witnessing Gurren Lagann? How about the finale of Lord of the Rings? Yep. God of War is kinda like THAT. The main thing to be said about it is that it's the type of experience that needs to be had!
I never played this series on the PS2 back when it originally came out because quite frankly, its macho, action packed nature is kind of tired, and the action adventure genre kind of bores me as I've entered my twenties; at best I'm the type that will play one of these games for an hour or so, and really just lose interest - the best example of this would probably be Prince of Persia. Yep, I'm one of those gamers who'd rather spend 10 hours grinding with pointless turn-based battles on his Nintendo DS than have to fight legions of baddies "that look real nice". Why? It sounds hypocritical of me to say "Been there, done that" but the truth is, I can't even describe why I don't like the genre any longer - I'm just turned off by it. I think I just have something against the endless library of boring, popular shooters and I probably let that distort my view on ALL "North American style action games." My only real justification for buying the God of War Collection was the obvious one: "it's two games for forty dollars."
Story - 9/10
I called this game epic. That word holds very much weight by virtue of association with things that are really grand, really important, and then some. Trust me when I say that I'm not doing that word any injustice when I describe this game as such. If you're reading this review, it's likely you already have some understanding that God of War Collection very strongly uses Greek mythology in constructing its world, and indeed it does. It does take its liberties, but overall its representation of locales, characters, and events in Greek mythology is engrossing and intricate. Where the story truly excels, however, is beyond the setting. It's the emotional, intriguing characterization of Kratos, the fictional-even-within-fictional-settings main character. From the very first scene of the first game, there is enough mystery to engage the player until further revelations are made. And by the end of the second game, the development and sense of accomplishment associated with the character are enough to call it "unforgettable." There are indeed surprising and even emotional twists, and in all that, the story proves to be well worth the game in between. It's not flawless, and it's not about to win an Oscar, but for an action game, it's just excellent.
Gameplay - 9/10
God of War is fun. That is all that really needs to be said, but of course I'll elaborate. The first and foremost thing to be said is that defence and dodging are done right - in essence, they're something that actually does feel like it helps without being overly complex. Too often I've played games where defence is so unreliable and frustrating that as a beginner, I just don't want to bother learning. God of War keeps that simple, and in the process, being overwhelmed by the numbers of enemies during combat doesn't occur or deter. That's just the start of it, though. Kratos' Blades of Chaos are just plain fun to wield during a fight - a huge upgrade over the dull swords and guns that plague most games of the sort. The combos are simple enough; and when button mashing isn't enough, there's plenty of great magic and sub-weapons at your disposal. Finally, for those moments where the player is truly overwhelmed, there's a desperation ability known as Rage of the Gods which keeps the action from getting too frustrating or tedious.
With that said however, the real fun of this game is actually often outside of the action. The sense of adventure is what makes the two games in this collection worth playing. Puzzles are fun, in a Zelda type of way, and there's plenty of platforming, rock-climbing, swimming, and secret-finding to be done. That's the real fun in this game. While there aren't too many completely rewarding treasures(essentially: HP and MP upgrades), just finding chests containing experience orbs (which strengthen individual magic or weapons) in itself is a genuine feeling of satisfaction. Dungeon design is flat-out excellent, and that's the other reason I compare it to the N64 Zeldas - it's just fun to advance. A better comparison as far as actual game design is probably to call this a more epic, 3D version of the 2D Castlevania series.
Where the game play is flawed is mainly in the fighting - it can get excessive at times - enemies often have too much health and take forever to kill, which is kind of annoying when there's like 15 of them you have to fight! The first game also suffers from a serious lack of boss battles - which is very frustrating after the sheer amazement induced by its first true boss battle. And both games have the very occasional sequence where the player must fend off enemies while trying to push a block of some sort - up a hill, against a moving belt, or against a giant flame of fire which all serve to push it backwards. This is flat-out tedious and annoying. Luckily, these sequences are indeed limited. Overall, a lot of flaws in the first game are corrected very nicely in the second - which has almost perfect gameplay including an excellent array of boss battles and an improved version of the aforementioned desperation ability.
Graphics - 7/10
It's a given that these are Playstation 2 games being ported over to a system where the benchmarks are true jaw-droppers like Uncharted 2. God of War Collection doesn't take advantage of the Playstation 3's amazing shading ability or other advanced techniques used to make PS3 games look unbelievable.
So... first, the bad: Some textures look mediocre, and a lot of the cinematic are reused from the PS2 version. What this means is that the real time gameplay actually looks better than the grainy, low-res cutscenes with a bad case of the so-called jaggies. Indeed, the transition from real-time 3D to pre-rendered is easily the worst part of the visuals in this game.
But, considering I game a PS2 game an above average score for a next-gen system, that must of course, mean that what it does do well, it does really, damn well. First and foremost, the resolution is an excellent 720p with 2x Anti-aliasing with a frame rate of 60 FPS. Basically... everything is very smooth and very crisp. A few cutscenes in the second game have even been remastered in High Definition, and they are absolutely, gorgeously stunning. Environments are very nicely designed and certainly breathtaking, and certain sequences have the same effect (off the top of my head, scenes involving Ares, a Minotaur, Zeus, Pegasus, Atlas, blood, guts and the Phoenix are all particularly nice-looking).
As a port, by no means does this title push the limits of the system, but for that, there is always the included demo of God of War 3, which looks stunning and really serves to hurt this game's graphical score by serving as a point of reference.
Sound - 10/10
The voice acting isn't just superb, it's completely memorable. Kratos and the Narrator's voice actors do excellent jobs in particular, but the acting is top-notch throughout the board. There's a genuine sense of despair, of the grandiose, and of pure raw emotion. The brutality of MANY situations throughout the game is expressed through evocative acting, and that lends itself strongly to the storytelling.
However, voice acting alone doesn't make up a game's soundtrack - and God of War's soundtrack again harkens back to the emphasis on "epic". The use of instruments and choir chanting combine to make every single moment intense and heart-pounding. In a word, the music for this game is perfection incarnate. That's two words? Well, this is two games.
Replayability - 7/10
It's not the kind of game I really want to start playing right after finishing it - there's a sense of accomplishment from completing the plot that deters me from doing so. One of the main flaws is that although it's very fun, there's a real sense of both games being a sort of "grind". The objective of both games is often isolated to one or two overarching dungeons separated into sections over the course of eight to ten hours, and as such, there's little motivation to immediately return to those same levels. Still, there's very much to be done as far as optional post-game content and the supremely terrifying very hard difficulty levels are a challenge I do want to someday tackle. There's other little things, too, including an optional game mode as well as costumes, among other things. For the trophy fiends unlike myself, there's probably plenty of those, too, which is certainly an upgrade over the trophy free PS2 versions!
Final thoughts - 9/10
So how do I come across giving it such a high score after keeping some scores limited? Simple. All of the above COMBINE into a truly amazing experience! Yes, it's probably unnecessarily gory and ostentatious with its nudity. That doesn't really mean anything. Buy this collection for THE version of two of the best PS2 games ever.
Rent or Buy - Buy - Yes, you can probably beat one game in 3 days, which means it'd take a week to beat the whole disc. However with so many extras, including a demo of God of War 3, which comes out March 2010, and the fact that this is two games for a price less than one, it just makes sense to buy it because it's so memorable - I may not want to replay it now, but I can imagine myself replaying them in the very hard difficulties 3-4 years from now.
Reviewer's Score: 9/10 | Originally Posted: 01/04/10
Game Release: God of War Collection (US, 11/17/09)
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