Review by VaultTecBoy1986

"An exceptional aide memoire"

God of War Collection contains the two titles in the series previously released for Sony's home console system, the PS2. Essentially, Sony has re-released both God of War 1 and God of War 2 remastered in HD on one Blu-Ray disc for your entertainment.

I was referred to the series by a friend who had also recently purchased and played the series himself, with his only passing comment that it was really good. Having researched the games prior to playing, I found that God of War 1 (the first game in this collection) was preceded by Chains of Olympus (being the first half of God of War Collection Volume 2). I therefore felt it appropriate to play the games in chronological order in the hopes that the plot would feel fully fleshed out (where I feared it wouldn't if played out of sequence).

So, I had only played one half of Volume 2 at the point of starting God of War 1 (having not yet played Ghost of Sparta, which I would later find to be excellent), I was concerned I must admit. I felt sorely disappointed with Chains of Olympus – to read my comments on this, please see my review on God of War Collection Volume 2 (entitled “A Tale of Two Halves”). I had also just purchased the entire God of War series for the PS3 on a whim and I was worried that I may end up regretting departing with my money.

I am happy to confirm that my disappointment was soon dismissed after playing God of War 1 [and, thereafter, Ghost of Sparta and God of War 2] where I was served with an exceptional aide memoire as to why I began to play video games in the first place. Pure escapist fun.

God of War 1

We are, once again, introduced to the everlastingly-infuriated antihero, Kratos – a Spartan no less. After the decidedly subpar offering that Chains of Olympus served up, I found that the plot was immediately engrossing, it was hard to turn this game off. I found quite often I would reach a save point (distinguished by beams of white/yellow light) and I would tell myself to switch off, but something inside kept saying “5 more minutes won't kill you...” but it certainly did for the rest of God of War 1's foes, of which there are a plethora of disgusting, deadly and down-right mean variants of all things Greek mythology, of which serves as the series' foundation and basis for progression.

For anyone who has played other games in the series (and, for some reason, not this), then you will encounter the same, entertaining and addictive gameplay that has become a staple of the God of War franchise. An excess of attacking combinations are available for you to maim your way through your opponents, with more unlocked as you level your skills and weapons (using a red-orbs in a point-based gathering system). I was quite excited upon levelling the weapons and specials moves to see exactly what else I could make Kratos to do, how else I could butcher those poor idiotic fools who dared to engage me.

These attacking combinations and special moves are used to fight your way through well-structured and nicely diverse levels that are sometimes more distracting than they should be. Having experienced the somewhat linear Chains of Olympus, I was pleasantly surprised to find that God of War contains large, free flowing levels that, on occasion, take a little consideration and more thought in approach in order to progress. Ultimately, this applies to the puzzles as well which were rather simple in Chains of Olympus but here they are slightly more testing. Again, I found the insertion of these puzzles to be a welcomed distraction from the slaughter of the primary gameplay rather than a hindrance.

In terms of graphics, the game holds up well given its age with sharp, clear and sometimes stunning in-game textures and models which were, at times, impressive. This impression was unfortunately constantly interrupted by cutscenes that were blurred, showing characters with rough edges and pixels. It was at these moments I was reminded of the game's roots. I have found that this appears to be a common issue with HD Classics, having also played the Splinter Cell Trilogy collection where the cutscenes suffer similarly. It isn't too much of an issue as long as you remember these games were made some time ago and it also made me look forward to when the cutscene would finish, allowing me to gaze upon the sharp and crystal clear in-game graphics once more.

As the plot drew to a timely and, quite frankly, astonishing close, I was reminded of the length of the game also – a marked improvement on the short run time I encountered in Chains of Olympus (which I appreciate was always going to be the case given its handheld origins). I found the credits rolling after approximately 7 hours and I would suggest, upon unlocking the greatest difficulty that time would be extended to close to 10 hours.

The fun I had was nigh on constant; aside from a lack of camera control (which caused frustration on occasion), the non-HD cutscenes and an element of cheapness to some areas of the game. Unfortunately, I find this last point hard to describe but, as you play through God of War 1, you will find that several traps and areas of action are somewhat awkwardly designed – pushing a wooden crate as cover against archers (the crate will shatter within three to four arrows, which I recall was annoying given the length of space you had to push it across) and very tall rotating spike-covered cylinders which you must climb (and if one spike should touch you, you are cast back down to the bottom).

However, despite these minor elements, God of War 1 alone is a worthwhile investment given the excellent pacing of the plot, the genius presentation of some astounding set piece and a fantastic artistic direction, coupled with gameplay that is pure and utter fun make this a recommendation to buy I would give to any God of War / hack-and-slash platformer fan.

In short:

Positives

+ Same, entertaining gameplay
+ Simple yet effective levelling system.
+ As always, interesting mythology and background.
+ Lots of attacking combinations to play around with.
+ Structured and nicely diverse levels.
+ Puzzles are interesting and take more thought.
+ Game run time is between 7 to 10 hours (depending on difficulty setting)
+ The plot is well constructed with perfectly-woven flashbacks.
+ Fantastic jaw-dropping set pieces and challenging, oversized boss battles.
+ Useful special moves.
+ Sharp graphics and crystal clear textures (in-game)
+ Good voice acting, Kratos aside.
+ Generous save game / checkpoint placing.

Negatives

- Cutscenes are blurred and don't appear to be in HD.
- Lack of camera controls is frustrating on occasion.
- Two or three “cheap trap” elements.

9 out of 10.

God of War 2

After completing God of War 1, I returned to God of War Collection Volume 2 and played through the amazing Ghost of Sparta. I would find that it lead perfectly into God of War 2, a game which would surely follow in the traditions of the first game in this collection. God of War 2 opens with Kratos laying siege to the city of Rhodes, despite being warned by Athena against such courses of aggression. However, a certain event leaves Kratos' power dwindling and he soon finds his attack being strongly repelled and interrupted by a Colossus. A giant humanoid construction of metal and seemingly magic that serves as the first boss of the game, albeit split up into sections across the opening level.

Whilst I appreciate the game would present very little challenge if you continued under your current status for the remainder of the game and understandably the plot does a good job of removing said powers, it wouldn't have hurt proceedings to have allowed you at least the majority of the opening chapter to play around with such powers. Instead, for difficulty reasons, you are stripped of magicka, level upgrades and left with his signatory blades that we have come to know and love to once again begin the simplistic level-building progression. Despite the opening chapter which, I must admit, I felt was at its weakest, I was once again caught up on Kratos' merry little dance of vengeance and brutality across some stunning locales.

One of the first things you will come to notice about the second numbered game in the series is the considerable improvement in the number of set pieces. Whilst I would wish not to use such a phrase, there are several passages of gameplay in God of War 2 that, essentially, are interactive films (and, I appreciate some gamers dislike the quick timer events or QTEs that control how some cutscenes develop) but, by and large, these moments amazing and cinematically intense. Whilst the game has little in the way of new additions over its predecessor, it feels far more active and that more is actually occurring (which I didn't think would be possible). Whilst additions like the newly installed on-rail flying segments and limited slowing of time aren't original by any means, they certainly serve to increase the depth and entertainment the game offers to the player.

Another area which has had a positive affect in increasing the game's run time is puzzles, which you will notice are more numerous. These are of course far more diverse, interesting and, above all, challenging compared to previous entries in the series. I found that whilst, again, they are not overly complicated, more thought and consideration was required to solve them on my part. Even still, when I had figured out the solution, the game required more skill than anticipated to complete it. As I have pointed out above and in my review of God of War Collection Volume 2, these puzzles are welcome distraction to the main game and particularly more so in God of War 2's case given the added complexity. That said, whilst the puzzles are challenging, not once was I found to be frustrated by any of them and, unlike some games, they aren't a deterrent from playing.

The levelling system returns and again I cannot particularly fault its simplicity and design, only, this time around, I was longing for something more than the basic levelling up of weapons and special moves offered. However, it has certainly never been a feature that required fixing and again works wonders as you begin to see the moves develop and Kratos return to form, in terms of strength and ability when compared with the outset of the game.

Largely, the controls remain the same (aside from when opening doors, you are required to press R1 and then rapidly tap the Circle button, whereas it was simply rapidly tap R2 in God of War 1) with the necessary light and strong attacks via the Square button and the Triangle button respectively, the jumping and climbing features performed via the X button and the onscreen interactivity via the Circle button. L1 is used to block and L2 is used to perform the special moves which are acquired as the game progresses (accessed via pressing the corresponding direction on the D-Pad).

Kratos also gains new weaponry throughout and this is accessed via R2 (although only one secondary weapon can be assigned to R2, with the remainder having to be selected from the Start menu). The game also introduces a slowing of time feature (when in the presence of statues carrying green orbs) that is activated by pressing L1 then R1. Whilst certainly unoriginal, this adds an extra layer of depth to, primarily, puzzles and, after that, becomes useful when fighting a large number of enemies.

Talking of enemies, the majority of which remain the same or similar to God of War 1, I found that there is large increase in their ranks. Most of the battles you encounter will be against 10 at the minimum with quite a number of fights boasting much, much more which can certainly become challenging when you encounter a mixture of them – for example, two Cyclops (who attacks you cannot block) attack amongst winged beasts, together with at least 7 to 10 regularly Undead centurions together with a mage-of-sorts who continues to summon enemies until they are dispatched. In terms of bosses, these are a wonder to behold with a vast array of behemoths for you to defeat.

In terms of presentation, textures, rendering and models all look fantastic and, given that there are stunning set-pieces and locales, it looks simply amazing in places. The cutscenes, whilst a marked improvement over the first game in this collection, still unfortunately remain blurry and serve as a reminder of its roots. The only other issue I have with this game (and, that said, all games in the series so far- with God of War 3 being the only game in the franchise I haven't played at this stage) is the lack of camera control. There are quite a few moments where such control would be beneficial, especially in assistance with puzzles and, sometimes, the generally direction of progression (which, for the most part, is obvious but, on occasion, several paths can be hidden from player view).

Ultimately, these are very, very minor blemishes on what is such a fantastic game that really is a joy to play.

In short

Positives

+ Same, entertaining gameplay
+ Simple yet effective levelling system.
+ As always, interesting mythology and background.
+ Lots of attacking combinations to play around with.
+ Structured and nicely diverse levels.
+ Puzzles are challenging and a pure joy to fathom.
+ Set pieces have multiplied, for the good.
+ New on-rail flying segments and time control add a whole new dimension of fun.
+ Whilst weak at the outset, the story quickly gathers momentum and easily matches its predecessor.
+ Crammed full of enemies, so there's never really a dully moment.
+ Sharp graphics and crystal clear textures (in-game)

Negatives

- Whilst cutscenes do seem generally better than the first game, they do remain blurred.
- Lack of camera controls is frustrating on occasion

- Conclusion

And so, God of War Collection serves as an exceptional aide memoire as to why we began to play video games in the first play – pure escapism fun. For those of you out there who like hack-and-slash / action games and aren't adverse to Greek mythology, then this is a must-have for your PS3 games collection.

9 out of 10.


Reviewer's Score: 9/10 | Originally Posted: 01/10/12

Game Release: God of War Collection (EU, 04/30/10)


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