God of War Origins Collection Volume II Review
Game: God of War Origins Collection Volume II
Developer: Ready at Dawn
Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment Europe
Available on: PlayStation 3 Only
God of War Origins Collection Volume II sees two PSP classics, God of War: Chains of Olympus and Ghost of Sparta, remastered for its bigger cousin, the PlayStation 3. First released in 2008 and 2010 for the PSP, both to critical acclaim, just how will these two flagship PSP titles fare on the PlayStation 3 with high-def graphics and beefed up audio?
STORY: In Chains of Olympus, which is the prequel to PlayStation 2’s God of War, we take control of Kratos as he embarks on a journey through mythology during his ten year service to the Gods of Olympus to defeat Morpheus, the God of the Dark, who has taken the sun from the sky. He is angry about his servitude, he feels the Gods should free him as he has done enough, but they refuse to do so unless Morpheus is defeated. So Kratos has no choice, and must defeat many familiar characters along the way, including Medusa and Cyclops.
In terms of time, Ghost of Sparta is the third game in the series, set in between God of War I and II. Kratos is the God of War in this title, but is still tormented by his mortal past which as you can imagine, only adds to his extreme anger. In an effort to rid himself of his tortuous past, Kratos sets off on a journey which sees him travel to Atlantis, Sparta and eventually to the realm of Thanatos, the God of Death.
Both games follow the same structure in terms of how the story is told; narration and cut scenes are the order of the day. Kratos is haunted by his mortal past in Chains of Olympus by a strange melody, which he later recognises to be his daughter. In Ghost of Sparta, it is the image of a woman lying frail on a stone. This imagery is the driving force behind Kratos’ goals in both games, he wants to root out the torture that Athena has constantly promised him would end — even if he is carrying out tasks he would rather not. While it isn’t by any means the richest story in a game, there is plenty of backstory to keep the ardent fan happy, while keeping others informed and involved.
GRAPHICS: With God of War Origins Volume II, this is the all important part of the review, some of you will have of course played through both games before. It has to be said, the transition to PlayStation 3 has been handled with care and an attention to detail to take the titles from 480 x 272 at 30fps on the PSP to PS3’s 1920 x 1080p at 60fps, particularly in Ghost of Sparta.
Chains of Olympus is beefed up with HD smoothing, which makes the foreground and combat look extremely impressive when you take into account that the PSP title was released in 2008. There’s plenty of blood splattering to enjoy, and the set-pieces and larger enemies look as detailed as possible.
Ghost of Sparta looks even better, as our very own Martin Baker said in his original review for the title, developer Ready at Dawn has “pulled the PSP apart in order to squeeze every single drop of power from the ageing system”. Its PS3 port made room for a few more drops to be squeezed, and that is exactly what the developer has done, with the HD graphics being as impressive as they can afford to be. It has to be remembered that these are PSP games, so the backgrounds aren’t as rich as players of the main series will have come to expect, and neither is Kratos and his violent ways. One thing is clear, this isn’t an overnight job and you are constantly reminded of the effort put into both HD versions. The cinematics in both titles have both been given a complete overhaul, and these are especially impressive to watch. It’s worth noting that for the 3D lovers out there, both games are playable in stereoscopic 3D.
SOUND: Both titles have been given a Dolby 5.1 surround sound bolt in the arm, and this is instantly noticeable as the game begins. Most of the backstories and plot points are told through narration, though there are some cut-scenes thrown in for good measure, as well as the old favourite QTE sex scenes, which are sure to disturb whoever is in the next room. The noise of Kratos’ chains as he fights is crisp and clear, much more so than the limited PSP version of the game. All of these things make Chains of Olympus and Ghost of Sparta sound more atmospheric in comparison to the PSP versions, therefore improving the experience tenfold.
GAMEPLAY: This is perhaps where moving from a PSP to a PS3 has the most negative effect. While both games are enormously enjoyable to play on any screen, seeing a maximum of four or five enemies on-screen at any one time can be a little frustrating. Obviously we know why this is the case, but having been used to having swarms of skeletal soldiers coming at Kratos in God of War III, for instance, it can feel a little underwhelming as you build up momentum and hit combos, only to run out of people to slaughter. Single, larger enemies are still as tough to fight as they are in any God of War title and more than make up for the lack of smaller, easier enemies at times. One great thing about the PS3 transition is the ability to use the left analogue stick to dodge opponents, which will make life just that little bit less stressful when playing.
Many people have the God of War games down as a button masher, and while it is easy to see why some people think that, in reality, when you perform different combinations, Kratos will often carry out a move that will last a few seconds, making button bashing irrelevant to the outcome. Also, as players level-up weapons and gain new ones, they are left with a wide selection of moves to choose from. Taking some time to learn those moves and string them together with others is immensely satisfying not only in the Origins titles, but in all God of War titles. Also, it will help a great deal against the harder opponents such as Minotaur Brutes and the icy Dredge of Boreas. The combat mechanics are as silky as we’ve come to expect from a God of War title, and the QTE finishing moves never lose their sense of satisfaction.
Puzzles are present again in both games, but while the player is never really challenged, it is a bit of respite from constantly tearing enemies heads off. Those who have played the PlayStation versions of the game will instantly settle down and know instinctively what to do, while newcomers will find it easy enough to pick up as time goes along. God of War gameplay is, and always has been, an absolute romp. Even if it isn’t the most polished product on the market, there is plenty to keep people entertained, and more importantly, coming back to the series.
LONGEVITY: Both games will take around 7-9 hours each to complete, making the collection great value for money, especially to those yet to play either title. That’s not to mention all of the orb collecting players can busy themselves with, which could easily make a second playthrough a must for some. Gorgon Eyes and Phoenix Feathers will also keep completionists happy, as will the chance to play through again in different attire, or in God Mode. Those who don’t want to play through the games again can spend some time on the challenges, which can be extremely hard and take plenty of time to finish.
VERDICT: God of War Origins Collection Volume II is undoubtedly the best way to experience the two PSP classics on offer. Any differences in gameplay are more than outweighed by the HD graphics, surround sound and the fact players have the PS3 controller in hand. All things considered, the Origins Collection represents fantastic value for money, and will give fans a generous Kratos fix, while perhaps being a starting point for those who haven’t played the games before. The must play PSP titles have made the move to PlayStation 3 with an attention to detail that we wish we saw from all HD remakes, arguably making them must play PlayStation 3 titles.