The second God of War HD Collection is here. Another two games which begin with the manliest of men, Kratos, glaring at you, while an orchestra beats itself to death in the background and something either burns, rains or screams, too. Why would you NOT want to play it?
I’m not entirely sure about this review. Like gaming manuals, racing games and a digestive tract, I’m wondering whether it is redundant. We are talking about not only two God of War games, but an HD remastered version of previously released God of War games (this is the Second Collection, since the first included God of War and God of War 2). But those games were not on a system many of us owned – something called a PSP, which you’d be forgiven for thinking is a medical condition – so the wonderful people at Ready at Dawn studios have blessed us with, dare I say it, the proper version of this amazing series. Included, we have God of War: Chains of Olympus and God of War: Ghost of Sparta. It’s an amazing collection. And if you enjoy the God of War series at all, you must own it.
God of War has now become a template of gaming. Games are now classified as ‘God of War clones’, like Castlevania: Lords of Shadows, since God of War managed to develop a fairly unique take on of 3rd person action-adventure games. Fairly static cameras; beautiful, complex puzzles; real-time events; creatures the size of continents; great characterisation; and generally disposed to the darker side, where the shocking part is not the brutality of the creatures but of the character you’re playing. GoW has remained remarkable for having a character both amazingly cool but incredibly hard to relate to. Kratos may be manly and incredible to control, but I would worry about anyone who thinks “Kratos gets me!”
No doubt many of us have all drooled over God of War 3, which remains the most visually stunning game I’ve ever played. It was a powerhouse of a story, bringing to conclusion the epic journey of The Ghost of Sparta, Kratos – who serves the gods, kills a god, becomes a god, has powers taken away by a god, then proceeds to hunt down all of the gods.
The story from the main trilogy is fairly complex, as it attempts to connect the wonderful mythology and pantheon of Greek mythology into a complex tale of politics, betrayal, murder and something called ‘love’. I won’t try recounting it here. Needless to say, when playing the games in the current collection, much was revealed about Kratos’ past and his motivations. Therefore, to fully appreciate the entire of the God of War series, it is necessary to play and understand these two games.
In terms of the story’s timeline, Chains of Olympus takes place before the first game. Ares is still alive, has chosen Kratos as his warrior, but Kratos has had some disagreements with his boss. He is in the service of many other gods, doing their duties in order to get rid of the nightmares that plague him. During his service, Kratos witnesses the sun fall from the sky. This sends him on a quest to discover why the sun – as pulled across the sky the god Helios – has disappeared. With the sun gone, the Dream King, Morpheus, will envelop the world and make it his own. Kratos must discover why Helios has disappeared and bring him back. The story is wonderful, beautifully displayed and has the usual insane-action we’ve come to expect.
There were some minor flaws, of course. Firstly, the graphics are quite jarring. Now, before you bash off letters to indicate it’s a friggin’ port, I know. Even so, I’m letting you know the graphics are really, really jarring. Most of the time, it is very obvious you are not dealing with a PlayStation 3 game. When I played the previous HD-remastered collection – the Project Ico Collection – this was not apparent. It didn’t slap in the face like a wet fish every few minutes. Here, it does.
Secondly, there were a few minor loading problems where the screen freezes dramatically, despite the music thumping on. Other than that, the game is a solid, decently long (it’s about 6 hours) and wonderful part of the GoW franchise. Kratos encounters his daughter and we witness Kratos perform a series of actions – I won’t say what – that gives you greater insight into his wonderful character. Sure, the gods have taken everything from him, as we know from the main trilogy, but what he does in this story shows a side you might find surprising, but not entirely unexpected. (Some will recall killing Ares from GoW 1 was supposed to be the final task for the Gods).
Ghost of Sparta takes place almost immediately after the first game, when Kratos becomes the new God of War. Called back to Earth by his dying mother, Kratos discovers his brother, Deimos, is missing. Deimos is in the domain of Thanatos, the older incarnation of death, and Kratos must travel into Death’s domain to get his brother back.
What’s incredible about playing these games is seeing the progression of the graphics. Ghost of Sparta is genuinely a good-looking game. It’s not God of War 3 – goodness, what is!? – but it’s actually pretty close. It’s really impressive to see how one franchise can display how far graphics has come. When you start playing Ghost of Sparta after Chains of Olympus you will probably also feel that the graphics in the former game suddenly appear jarring in comparison.
Chains of Olympus is as epic as anything Kratos has performed: the game starts off with you battling giant sea-creatures and ripping them in half and throwing half a ship into one of their mouths. As in nearly all the games, Kratos destroys cities and lives in order to achieve his goal. It’s wonderful to see that Kratos is responsible for the sinking of Atlantis – oh well, we need to cross that bridge somehow. If that means turning a lever, to activate a volcano, which happens to sink a legendary city, so be it.
As with the first game, there are minor loading issues but the game itself is fluid and beautiful. Both games have what might be called a harpy-glitch: with the “Grab” button, Kratos grabs flying creatures and rips their wings off. Sometimes, the game generates close to a hundred of these at a spawning point. However, if you just keep grabbing them, the others can’t touch you. You can easily get close to a hundred hits in a row, without sustaining damage, by pressing the grab button when winged creatures are around. There’s nothing quite like watching Kratos growl as he rips the wings off one, as he holds it down with his foot.
We again get further insight into the character. Kratos actually returns to Sparta where he is welcomed as their god. Furthermore, we get insight into Kratos as a boy and witness an incident which actually changes our perception of Kratos as a whole (ever wonder how he got that scar on his face? You finally find out). Just as with the previous game, though Kratos does some surprising humane things, it’s not jarring with the character but much in keeping with his complex, tortured nature.
Is there much to criticise beyond the loading and some minor graphics problems? Not really. Sure the controls are sometimes wonky – to interact is the same as grab, so sometimes the games mistake the two and you have Kratos trying to open a gate by hugging it. Sometimes the fights feel unfair – if you have low health and the game keeps respawning you with that low health – and sometimes Kratos doesn’t respond to fighting commands fast enough. God of War 3 definitely was the best in terms of these aspects of control – no doubt because it was made for the system. But, in fact, all these are minor complaints that will only sometimes get in the way of your enjoyment of the game.
I found it wonderful to get insight into this powerful character, his world, and to witness the stories unfolding with some of the most powerful beings in the game’s world. Furthermore, several incidents in the latter games, especially the GoW 3, really only make sense because of what happened in these two games (Atlas greets Kratos as an old friend, how did all the Titans become free, and so on).
I love these games. It was wonderful to go back to them and unveil further aspects of the world. Nothing felt rehashed or boring – the fights were amazing and, as usual, you feel unbelievably powerful though not so much that everything just dies because you blinked in their direction.
Because the controllers get stuck and Kratos doesn’t respond as fast, it doesn’t feel as fluid as its more powerful predecessors/successors (like God of War 3). This makes playing the games sometimes jarring. Mostly though, you feel powerful and capable. There are few games which give you that feeling of accomplishment when you fight and take down 50 different creatures, of varying sizes and speeds, each requiring different strategies.
Design and Presentation: 8.5/10
Yes they’re ports, but they look decent – especially Ghost of Sparta, which is shiny, pretty and has lots of colours. Even Kratos’ face looks detailed. The first game is a bit jarring and sometimes the textures look like cardboard boxes. The creatures also are sometimes flat and uninspiring, but that’s not true in every instance and not completely obvious.
Every one who played and enjoyed the other GoW games must own these. The series won’t make sense to newcomers, but hardly anyone would start with this – the Second Collection – anyway. Also, in terms of understanding the whole story and the development of Kratos as a character, these are essential.
I love this series and I love all these games. This series reminded me why, provided further insight, provided plenty of amazing fun and completely badass fight-scenes and had gorgeous design. But, enough. Go guy it! You won’t regret this amazing, two-in-one purchase.
Last Updated: October 20, 2011