First Impressions: God Of War Collection

December 16, 2009

After experiencing the slick ultra-violence of the God Of War 3 demo at the Eurogamer Expo, and with my blood-letting appetite whetted by small-screen series entry God Of War: Chains Of Olympus, I’ve been kind of hankering after more of Kratos’ god-slaying adventures. With the European release date still TBC, and big chunky games Ratchet & Clank and Assassin’s Creed 2 successfully completed and under my belt, I decided to import the US version to tide me over until more original releases, safe in the knowledge that my little (actually, rather large now after the Slim’s release) black box is region-free.

So how much bang do you get for your buck? God Of War Collection comprises both God Of War and God Of War 2, both PS2 titles, and rounds out this package nicely with not one, but two sets of Trophies, each with its own platinum to obtain. As I’ve mentioned before, I never owned a PS2 at the first time of asking, so missed out on an awful lot of franchises that have since moved into videogame folklore. So, firing this disc up for the first time was like starting a brand new game, not a remastering, for me. Feeling a duty of a sense of chronology over supposed technical superiority, I chose the original game from the moody startup list.

Although I’m not qualified to give an impression on the updated visuals without ever having played the originals, I can say that the game does not look out of place running on a PS3. Character models are sharp, with hi-res textures, and the animation is fluid. When QTE’s are required, however, the legacy of a PS2 UI rears its ugly head; face button prompts are huge, blocky and centrally-placed and health meters and magic bars are similarly grating on the eye, particularly for those of us who make a living out of UI design! Other jarring throwbacks to the series’ early days come in the form of the numerous cutscenes, which seem to have not been touched at all. Textures are low quality and the animation has the feel of those small wooden marionettes with bulbous limbs that are the preserve of life drawing enthusiasts the world over. It is a testament to the crispness of the updated visuals, and the massive improvement in the visual fidelity of the current console generation that these sections look as bad as they do in comparison.

In terms of gameplay, there is little here that surprises after my playthrough of the PSP instalment. Beset from all sides by mythical creatures, Kratos shines, pulling off eye-catching combos that soon reduce his foes to a pile of shining red orbs (used to power up your weapons). Bigger foes, like axe-wielding minotaurs, can be finished off by mashing the circle button until you plunge a Blade of Chaos into its cavernous maw. Boss encounters are more impressive still; screen-filling skirmishes that require judicious use of Kratos’ evade and block manoeuvres and a healthy smattering of the use of his special abilities. To finish, the use of QTEs are employed – a feature oft-maligned in the videogame industry, but one that has yet to be bettered in order to deliver a well-scripted, spectacular set-piece climax.

Although I’m only a couple of hours into my first playthrough, frustrations that plagued my time with Chains Of Olympus have already begun creeping in. Namely, the lack of visual clues to discern the way forward in some situations. I spent close to ten minutes retracing my steps back and forth through the starting area of Athens before finally noticing the tiny clutch of pixels at the top of my screen that comprised a rope. Even then I had to wait for the pop-up instruction to finally trigger before I knew how to use it. These are clunky throwbacks to a former era; in a society where attention spans are rapidly decreasing, perhaps its time to eliminate these kind of foibles altogether, all in the name of a more free-flowing experience.

On a more positive note, I’ve earned 10% of the total Trophies of the game in just over an hour of playtime, proving that God Of War is as generous with its rewards as it is with gratuitous gore and over-indulgent violence.

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