When Sony announced that they were going to release God of War and God of War II on a single Blu-ray disc, I was pretty excited. After all, the God of War franchise is without a doubt the greatest two releases for any series of games that made its debut on PlayStation 2. Making the franchise and series available to new adopters and owners of PlayStation 3’s only made perfect sense in the long run since the majority of consoles out right now don’t have backwards compatibility. The announcement also brought a flurry of support for Sony to create 2-for-1 bundles with other of their famous PlayStation 2 family like ICO and SotC. Hopefully the sales figures of this collection prove valuable enough to continue in that direction.
God of War’s front man, Kratos, has always been known for his badass ability to wield chain blades and carve up anything from the Underworld. Though he’s had a troubled past filled with murder, guilt, and shame, Kratos still remains a character most of us would refer to as “epic.” Kratos is the perfect anti-hero not looking for glory any longer, but simply looking for a way to increase his power and a way to forget the terrible acts he has committed in the past.
God of War:
Prior to the events in the game, Kratos was the youngest and most promising captain in Sparta’s army, quickly gaining recognition due to his violent tactics. During an attack by a barbarian tribe, they were outnumbered. Before being killed by the barbarian king, Kratos summoned Ares, the Greek god of war, and offered his soul in exchange for a victory. He continued to serve Ares until the god tricked him into killing his own family, after which he served several of the Greek gods for a decade. After becoming tired of serving the gods to erase the memories of his family’s murder, he contacted Athena, who offered him forgiveness if he was able to stop Ares’ destruction of Athens. After defeating several monsters which were attacking citizens, Kratos saves the city’s oracle who tells him to retrieve Pandora’s Box in order to defeat Ares. Kratos succeeds in this task, but is killed by Ares and sent to Hades. After escaping from the underworld he returns to Athens and confronts Ares, regaining control of Pandora’s Box and using its power to kill the god. When he discovers that the gods’ forgiveness does not include allowing him to forget his mistakes, he attempts suicide, but is stopped by Athena who informs him that he has been granted Ares’ throne on Mount Olympus.
God of War II:
God of War II begins with Kratos performing his office as the new god of war. He however had chosen to avoid the other gods, instead using his powers to aid the Spartans in battle. This angered several of the other Olympians, but after receiving an ultimatum, Kratos ignored it and decided to destroy the city of Rhodes, where the Spartan army was fighting. Upon descending to the city, Zeus brings the Colossus of Rhodes to life and tricks Kratos into transferring all of his godly strength into the Blade of Olympus, the sword used to defeat the Titans in the Titanomachy. Zeus then gains control of the sword and stabs him with it, declaring to Kratos “you will never be the ruler of Olympus.” After this, Gaia aids Kratos in escaping from Hades and tells him to find the Fates in order to change his destiny. He travels to the island of the Fates, where he retrieves the Golden Fleece and the power of some of the surviving Titans. Kratos eventually reaches the Temple of the Fates with the help of Atlas and confronts them.
Sony Santa Monica and Bluepoint made a smart decision by leaving the underlying gameplay surround the God of War franchise in tact without any changes whatsoever. The button mashing goodness from past titles mixed with some Quick-Time Events fill up the game just as before and like the past, no titles do it better than these two. As expected, your face buttons are mapped to control your blade skills and you utilize square for standard attacks, triangle for strong attacks and circle in order to grab your opponents. Combining these buttons in any imaginable way can create linked combo attacks that just pile up the hit count to epic proportions. Kratos is also still able to double-jump to an extent with the cross button and your triggers open up chests and activate objects.
Another unchanged element is the upgrade system as well. Players still utilize the same red gauged meter in order to pump points into each attack skill or maneuver and in turn it aids in leveling up that ability. Like in the past, it adds a nice element into the title that allows for the game to play a little differently for every user. These two things are the core mechanics to the franchise and leaving them untouched was the best way to go. There is little else to discuss about the gameplay itself.
This is the area in which the God of War Collection truly shines. No longer is the resolution in sub-HD temperatures filled with screen tearing and a tad of slowdown during action packed sequences. Instead, the developers have revamped the entire system into a high definition format combined with a beautifully crafted 60 frames per second frame rate. Not only has this changed the dynamic of the title entirely, but it has also removed any slow down or screen tearing completely. It’s hard to actually believe it, but the team at Sony Santa Monica has actually made God of War and God of War II better.
One of the odd decisions in the HD process of this franchise, however, was the decision to leave the cut scenes in their original formatting. The CG scenes are still standard definition, resulting in the switch from CG to gameplay leaving a little to be desired. While the CG still looks fantastic, it could be a bit more refined to match up with the vastly improved look of the title during play. The same can be said for the in-game cut scenes as these assets stick out like a sore thumb in comparison to the gameplay itself. Why Sony and Bluepoint chose to not change these two things is beyond me, but it has left this title shy of perfection by doing so.
The extras on the God of War Collection disc are vast and interesting. Sony has included over 20 videos depicting the creation of God of War and God of War II. These videos range from how Kratos was presented to the media to how God of War II was made. While the videos are still in their original formatting as well, they serve as a nice reminder and in-depth look into everything that went into the game behind the scenes.
The God of War Collection is easily the best $40 you can spend this Holiday season. Despite both titles being years old, both hold up to the test of time marvelously and you can hardly tell you’re playing a game from the past. If critics considered the GOW Collection as a potential candidate for GOTY consideration (which they probably don’t/won’t), it would have a strong chance to win the award, but would ultimately fall short to Uncharted 2.