God of War Collection Volume 2
The Ghost of Sparta returns to HD glory in this follow-up to the original God of War Collection, which included re-releases of the PlayStation 2 classics. This time, we join the ill-tempered warrior for his PlayStation Portable outings, which take place before and after the first game respectively. Kratos is as vicious as ever (we’d be disappointed with anything less), but should the quality of this high-definition port calm his nerves or can we expect him to unleash his insatiable wrath upon those that created it?
To answer the immediate question, these HD ports not only run with aplomb on the PlayStation 3 – they positively thrive, managing to one-up the original collection which, as stated before, included the beautiful God of War 2. When playing these titles, there will genuinely be moments when you’ll find it unbelievable that they were on a handheld to begin with. Clearly, original developers Ready At Dawn knew how to use the portable hardware, but the same can be said of Bluepoint Games – who continue to show off their skill in bringing SD titles to our high-def screens. There are of course a few tell-tale signs, and you would never confuse either game for the truly spectacular God of War 3, which to this day that remains in a league of its own.
The standout flaw would probably be the bland textures in the early stages of Chain of Olympus – set during the Spartan’s service to Ares – more specifically during the battle on the beach, where the game has an unfortunate habit of closing in on some of the very blocky, stock character models. It’s not a bad start by any means, thrusting you in to the action via a thrilling set-piece, but it can be jarring as the rather basic graphics fail to stand up to the game’s contemporaries. This sense is merely fleeting however, as the rest of the game throws in some impressive locations such as a temple complete with shiny floors and stylistic architecture. Chains of Olympus has fantastic artistic direction with a good range of environments, although it does appear to be the easiest title in the series overall.
There’s an absolute abundance of red orbs and the first magical ability obtained is that of the powerful Efreet; a being wielding immense strength that can floor even the strongest of foes. In fairness, the difficulty was probably scaled down given the game’s portable roots and there are multiple difficulty levels for those in search of a greater challenge. Players are in for some late-game surprises which may even tug on the heart strings, and the story is relevant as it provides some insight in to what made the Spartan in to the man he would become. Chains never feels as epic as the core adventures, but it nevertheless holds its head up high as a worthy and well produced addition.
While Chains of Olympus throws in the occasional puzzle and makes the most of the environments it has, Ghost of Sparta is considerably different, evoking the pace of God of War 2 and taking Kratos between locations as quickly as possible. Graphically speaking, this is the most accomplished of the four re-releases – making it second only to God of War 3 – as the vistas detailing the carnage left in your wake look beyond anything seen in the waning days of the PlayStation 2. Water and particle effects abound in Ghost of Sparta, and swinging the signature blades feels even more satisfying than in Chains – it’s just as well given the demonic armies you’ll be facing. Where the last game pulled its punches, you’ll find no such kindness in this tale. Magic is less effective until upgraded, enemies come in their droves and are tougher to kill, and so planning how you will upgrade your arsenal is given greater importance this time around.
There was once much speculation regarding Deimos, the brother of Kratos and the mystery surrounding his fate. In Ghost of Sparta, secrets are revealed and questions are answered, though the resolution might not be as satisfying as you had once hoped. The entire game is one sweeping journey displaying high production values and solid design, although the game is noticeably darker in environment and tone than Chains. It’s also not averse to dropping Kratos in to grey and red hallways for long stretches of play, but you could consider this criticism a form of nit-picking. The gameplay is as solid as ever, and you’ll soon have the blades imbued with fire abilities; the meter drains as you use it and refills over time, so this devastating power must be used wisely, and it’s even mandatory when trying to shatter armour.
Once the main campaigns have been completed, players can sink their teeth into the challenge modes and unlock videos, artwork and other awards (and yes, the GOW Collection fully supports an array of amusingly titled trophies for you to shoot for). Beyond the obvious quality there’s reason enough to return to the story in Ghost of Sparta, to obtain the red orbs necessary for the unlockables that wait in the Temple of Zeus. You also have access to a customisable arena mode, but God of War as a series has always focused heavily on the story itself, meaning that this is where you’ll find the most mileage.
God of War Collection Volume 2 is an absolute must for fans that never experienced the games on the PSP, and the HD reworking has been so successful that even those who did buy them – and have played them fairly recently – are unlikely to regret this latest purchase. The package simply exudes polish, providing an experience that many may have missed the first time around. These two games may have been the missing pieces of Kratos’ tale, but at last the saga comes together for PS3 gamers to enjoy. Whether you pick this up as a download or simply head to the store for the retail collection, fans of Greek mythology are in for one violent and thrilling time.
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