God Of War Collection // PS3

January 13, 2010

I had to stop myself from writing this review for the God Of War Collection after I’d finished the first game, ready to wax lyrical about the epic scale of Sony Santa Monica’s initial tale of God-slaying at the hands and blades of Kratos, the Ghost of Sparta. The sequel needed to be played to be able to have a full opinion on this two-game set, and, true to form, the developer dialled the Epic meter all the way up to 11 for God Of War II. The result is a package of staggering quality, and it’s very easy to overlook the fact that you are playing PS2 titles on the latest generation of hardware; a few ropey cinematics aside, of course.

It’s the jarring juxtaposition of these cutscenes against the rest of the aesthetics that give the remastering away; if time had been found to polish these as much as the in-game visuals, you would be forgiven for thinking that these games were native to the PS3. It’s a testament to how much Sony Santa Monica squeezed out of the PS2 in how exquisitely complete these games feel. Everything works as it should, and special credit needs to go to the animation team for creating a protagonist that moves so smoothly whilst still being an unstoppable killing machine; a raging mercenary that almost becomes an anti-hero; a seething mass of destruction without mercy and without remorse.

The game built around such an iconic central character is equally well-realised. Often dismissed as a ‘button-masher’, God Of War punishes those who would win through by repeatedly pressing the Square button. Combos yield better visual results and award more orbs, and blocks and parries – which become vital to Kratos’ survival in the latter stages of both games – require careful concentration and accurate timing. Alongside this deceptively deep combat system, both games surprise with their puzzle elements. Although sporting its fair share of statue-moving, plate-stepping puzzles (which are almost as old as the medium itself), each title also throws the player more complex logic problems, requiring a level of lateral thinking that had me searching for solutions online more often than I care to admit.

But the real draw here is the epic narrative; a grand tale of betrayal, debt, remorse and bloodshed. Of god-like powers won and lost. Of ultimate sacrifice. And, of course, of jaw-dropping bosses; The behemoths that graced the levels of God Of War were somehow bettered in the sequel, with the entire opening level – set in a war-torn, burning Rhodes – beset by a ginormous colossus, animated by the gods, and hell-bent on Kratos’ destruction. Factor in a strong bestiary, with literary monsters such as gorgons, sirens, minotaurs and cyclops, and you begin to wonder why Greek mythology hadn’t been explored in videogames before the industry saw God Of War. The only game I can remember touching upon this subject matter was the ancient Battle Of Olympus, for the NES, released back in 1991. The result is a series that makes the Greek gods and titans its own, giving them a gaming twist, and presenting them in a ferocious thrill-ride, each set-piece trouncing the preceding one with a thunderous laugh.

In an era when stunningly-realised games are coming thick and fast, it speaks volumes that as the final climactic battle in God Of War 2 was successfully navigated (with a sigh of relief), I was was truly impressed by the epic spectacle that I had witnessed. Not only does Sony Santa Montica leave an enviable legacy behind them already, and a pair of stunning, high-quality games packaged together on this one disc, they also promise much in the upcoming God Of War 3, to be released in March this year. Improved graphic fidelity is a given, but it’s the preservation of grand narrative, the larger-than-life bosses, and the smoulder of its leading light, the murderous Kratos, which will ensure that the trilogy ends on a spectacular high.

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