Existing fans will lap up the technical proficiency of God of War Collection: Volume II, but those new to Ready At Dawn's work will also find a thoughtful empathy towards the franchise's anti-hero, Kratos, contextualising some of the aggression found later in the series. For our money, Ghost of Sparta is the best game in the series. That God of War Collection Volume II — a compilation of Ready At Dawn's duo of PlayStation Portable pocket brawlers stunningly remastered in high-definition — includes the not-quite-as-good-but-still-brilliant Chains of Olympus too is just the icing on the cake.
God of War Collection: Volume II sees Sony's eternally angry anti-hero, Kratos, pushed to the forefront once again, as he slashes his way through another army of mythical beasts, screaming about his bitter existence along the way. What Ready At Dawn's titles do is add some context to Kratos's anger; while the mainline titles settled for little more than boisterousness and bloodspill, both Chains of Olympus and Ghost of Sparta explore a new side to Kratos. Well, in addition to the rage and elaborate murder anyway.
A sequence in Chains of Olympus challenges Kratos' emotional instincts, as the franchise's now trademark QTEs transform into something infinitely harder than punching a minotaur in the scrotum. We'd love to go into specifics, but we suspect there'd be a few hundred angry readers raging in the comments about spoilers and what-not if we did. But then, if you've already played the game on PSP, you'll already know what we're talking about.
In Ghost of Sparta, the almost always detested protagonist becomes a celebrated hero, as the game lingers on a slow waltz through the character's home town. Perhaps freed from the pressures of the main series, Ready At Dawn feels willing to experiment in a way that God of War's host developer, Santa Monica, does not. And while this compilation represents very much more of the same, there's an emotional underbelly to each of the campaigns.
With both titles having already been available on PSP for at least 12 months — Chains of Olympus considerably longer — we're going to suspect that most self-confessed PlayStation fans have already experienced both campaigns. We guess you're itching to know what's new.
Well, not a lot really. Outside of the addition of trophies, these are pretty much the same games, but it's in the amount of work Ready At Dawn's put in remastering them for PlayStation 3 that the package finds its value. Everything on the disc — from the framerate, to the menus and user-interface — has been reworked in high definition, giving the games a fresh flavour that (incredibly) stands up when stood next to even the very best looking PlayStation 3 games.
Sure, it's in the slightest technical deficiencies that neither game quite stacks up to the best on PlayStation 3 — there are very few enemies on-screen at once and environments lack polygonal density — but Ready At Dawn still deserves commendation for transforming two PlayStation Portable titles into visual tour-de-forces.
Ghost of Sparta in particular even manages to surpass Blue Point's work on the HD upgrade of God Of War II, providing staggering image clarity and some wonderful effects. We're not exaggerating when we say the game's opening stage in Atlantis genuinely gave us goosebumps.
Ready At Dawn's even revisited Ghost of Sparta's pre-rendered cutscenes, reworking them in high definition and maintaining a consistent quality from start-to-finish. Chains of Olympus fares less well, but still includes a significant improvement over its pocketable equivalent, and both games benefit from the inclusion of beefier surround sound audio and 3D support.
The framerate too has been upped, hitting a consistent — and never in doubt — 60 frames per second that's so key to the fluidity of the game's action. Thrashing Kratos' Blades of Athena about feels silky smooth, adding to the satisfaction of each and every collision.
The DualShock controller also means that, for the first time, both games can benefit from the sensory enhancement of rumble, with the games responding to every slash.
Clearly God of War Collection: Volume II is aimed at fans, designed to give lovers of the franchise's distinct breed of blockbuster action a fresh opportunity to tear up ancient Greece on a whole new platform. Presumably Sony is also planning on picking up a couple of portable-shunning players too, what with the PSP being somewhat of a tough sell in the regions where God of War is most popular.
Those looking for more of their favourite series will find exactly that here: sex mini-games, button thrashing and QTEs are the crux of the collection's experience, and it's all the more loveable for its transparency. If you like God of War, you'll find everything you love about the series in this collection, and you'll get it all across two campaigns. It's sort of a 'buy one, get one free' scenario.
The compilation's underlying attraction is in its technical achievements. Ready At Dawn's work on the PSP was sensational, and its made all the more staggering when you witness it remastered on the PlayStation 3. Both games withstand any technical shortcomings through brilliant artistic endeavour.
To focus on the technical merits would be short-changing the titles themselves. In both games, Ready At Dawn empathises with Kratos in a way that the mainline God of War titles don't. Though the culmination is two campaigns in which a lot of blood is spilled, at least you're made to feel an inkling of Kratos's torment.