Love him or hate him, Kratos is an important part of the PlayStation brand. The vengeful antihero has starred in some of the platform’s very best titles, and the God of War Collection brings those classics back to life with startling clarity.
Remastering PS2 favourites God of War and God of War II in beautiful high definition, the God of War Collection makes a case in favour of the critics that argued God of War II should have been a PlayStation 3 title. Indeed, the upgraded God-conquering game rivals most other PS3 titles for fidelity and sheer spectacle, and, for its part, the first game hasn’t aged too badly either.
For those unclear with the series' formula, the franchise revolves around the aforementioned Kratos. Angry at the Gods for the torturous tricks they’ve played upon him, the series plots the so-called Ghost of Sparta’s quest for revenge against the Olympian Gods that have wronged him.
What ensues is a compelling mash-up of fast-paced combat – propelled by Kratos’ trusted chained blades – puzzle-solving and some of the most outrageous boss battles in games. God of War would be a shell without spectacle, but thanks to the game’s fixed perspective and strong art direction the franchise is able to provide some of the most outrageous set pieces in video games.
While the God of War Collection is derived from the original PlayStation 2 releases, developer BluePoint’s done an outstanding job repurposing Sony Santa Monica’s code for the PS3. It’s still clear that you’re playing an older game, but the remastered textures and locked frame rate elevate the whole package so far beyond the original releases that it feels entirely appropriate for the platform.
The improvements to the frame rate really help to enhance the combat. The original releases on PlayStation 2 pushed the ageing hardware hard, and that resulted in lots of dropped frames and tearing, but with the game locked at 60 frames per second on PS3 the gameplay feels as slick and fluid as it was intended.
Critics would argue that God of War is a button masher, but it toes the line between deep and accessible extraordinarily well. While you can get by using simple combos on the lower difficulties, you’ll need to really hone your skills to progress through the more challenging settings. There’s a decent amount of depth to the combat fuelled by the addition of supplementary weapons, magic attacks and a decent variety of moves, and the series gives you the freedom to take the systems as far as you feel comfortable.
If the games could be criticised for anything, it would be their formulaic nature. There are moments during both titles where you can almost see the design blueprints running in the background: combat scenes bleed into puzzles which funnel into boss fights and so forth. The structure is so well formulated that it almost feels detrimental to the flow, particularly in God of War II where you get the very real sense that you’re playing more of the same.
Also disappointing is the lack of improvements to the game’s cut scenes. Obviously it would have taken a lot of additional work to clean up the game’s original narrative segments, but it’s jarring when you switch between gameplay and cut scenes. The CG scenes hold up reasonably well, but those sequences rendered in-engine look terrible. Sure, it helps you to appreciate how far the visual enhancements have gone, but it ruins some key moments of exposition when all you can focus on is Kratos’ jaggy, blurry face.
All of the content from the main games has been retained, including the behind-the-scenes videos which detail both games’ development processes. Both God of War and its sequel set the benchmark for that kind of content, and while the quality isn’t great – given it’s all pulled from the PlayStation 2 releases – it adds a lot of post-completion content to the games. There are also challenge rooms, costumes to unlock and, of course being a PS3 release, trophies, to add to the longevity.
God of War is one of the strongest franchises on PlayStation 3, and whether you’re planning a return trip to the underworld or a first look at the mythological series, this collection is the definitive point of entry. It may be derived from two PS2 releases, but few native PS3 titles rival the fidelity and spectacle of this compilation. With slick gameplay, outstanding visuals and some of the most iconic action in the industry; the God of War Collection is pretty essential. But take note: if you didn’t like the original titles on PS2, the remastered graphics will do absolutely nothing to change your mind here.