God of War Collection Review
I have a confession to make. I'm an absolute sucker for the holiday seasons' high-priced, totally unjustifiable Special and Collector's Editions. Yup, I even have the mini Master Chief helmet—and no, I didn't try it on my cat—displayed proudly on my bookshelf. Despite my love of these geek-magnet impulse buys, I also love a good gaming deal. And this year's seen plenty of them; from the Metroid Prime Trilogy to the Fallout 3: Game of the Year Edition, it seems publishers are finally becoming sympathetic to our economic woes. The latest wallet-friendly franchise to glare at my Modern Warfare 2 night vision goggles in utter disgust is God of War. Yup, even crotchety Kratos is getting in on the season of giving with his epic, two-game God of War Collection.
The god-killing, loin cloth-sporting, Athenian ass-kicker returns to gamers after his successful bloodbath on the PSP, with remastered versions of the titles that put him on the blood-soaked map and earned him the sort of revered status it usually takes other game protagonists several entries to achieve. It's no surprise, though, as God of War and its sequel were two of the PS2's greatest games, and ones that have been cloned multiple times over by wannabe competitors. Replaying these titles, I was surprised how well they've held up. The second entry, especially, easily holds its own next to most current-gen titles. The hi-def upgrade and 60 fps tweaks are more than mere hollow bullet points on the box—they noticeably make both titles easier on the eyes. If it weren't for the cutscenes, which look as though they didn't receive the same care as the in-game action, the God of War Collection could fool you into thinking you're playing a current-gen release.
But it's more than a pretty new paint job that make this two-disc anthology a worthwhile purchase. The implementation of PS3 Trophies is an awesome addition for score-minded gamers. Lots of folks, myself included, pined for Achievements and Trophies in backwards compatible games for the PS3 and 360, respectively, but alas it would not be. So, to be able to pad your gamer score by replaying two of last-gen's greatest games, is a bonus I can only hope future such releases include—how sweet would it be to hear the satisfying “plink” of unlocked Achievements and Trophies while playing through Halo: Combat Evolved, Splinter Cell, Shadow of the Colossus, or any number of games released before gamers were gripped by this generation's score-ratcheting obsession?
Aside from the Trophies and hi-res enhancements, God of War Collection doesn't bring much new to the table, but that's okay. The opportunity to replay these games on one Blu-ray disc, on the PS3, just a few months before the sequel is released—a previously impossible feat for anyone who bought their console after the backwards compatibility feature was removed—is more than enough to to make this package worth the forty bones. It'll only take hacking your first mythical beastie to be reminded how this series redefined the action genre. It's fast, fluid, and gory as hell; the boss battles swallow up the screen with jaw-dropping presence—even more impressive today, as many of us are now playing on HD flat screens that make our PS2 era sets look pathetic; and the story, brilliantly narrated by actress Linda Hunt, still offers an irresistible twisted take on Greek mythology.
Of course, these games weren't perfect, so playing them again will also remind you that falling to your death while trying to balance on narrow beams is still frustrating as hell. As is the patience-testing trek up that structure with the poking spikes. The fixed camera, too, will still have you swearing like a drunken sailor during the more tedious platforming moments. Mostly, though, you will be reminded of the balls-out visceral thrill that accompanies turning armies of grotesque beasties and baddies into pulpy piles of blood-spurting meat. If you've forgotten why games like the upcoming Dante's Inferno continue to try and recreate Kratos' kill-happy recipe, just a few minutes behind his Blades of Chaos will remind you.
The best compliment I can grant this collection is that I actually played through the entirety of both games. I didn't plan on it. Seeing that I'd already completed them in their original forms, I'd felt I could do a competent critique on the new features simply by logging a few hours on each game. However, with the help of a long holiday weekend and a Keurig coffee machine to keep me well-caffeinated, I found no reason to put down my Dual Shock 3. I was just as engaged in the Ghost of Sparta's story today as I was when I first carved a bloody path through it. And, with the release of God of War 3 looming like a vengeful Greek god with a fistful of lightning bolts, I felt the need and desire to freshen up on the franchise. Speaking of Kratos' next console conquest, this collection also grants impatient gamers a peek at the upcoming game through a downloadable demo—yet another reason to allow Kratos to plunge his blades into your PS3. Whether you've already played the originals, or are yet to discover one of gaming's best action franchises, this one's not to be missed. May the gods have mercy on your soul if you pass it up.