Wednesday, September 13, 2000

God of War Origins Collection | 9.0

I LOVE the God of War series with a passion in the same way a film lover loves the works of Ingmar Bergman/Alfred Hitchcock/Stanley Kubrick/Andrei Tarkovsky. As a matter of fact, it's easily my all time favorite game series. It's art direction, story line, characters, emotions, and game play are all among the cream of the crop. It's a force to reckoned with in gaming, and it's no secret that all Sony game systems benefit from having God of War on it. The highlights of the PSP's game library were definitely the two God of War games, so naturally I was very excited when I heard the two GoW games were being ported over the PS3. I've played both games on the PSP before, but ever since my aging PSP died on me, I was definitely bummed I would never be playing the two God of War PSP games. Rest assured, two of the PSP games are now available on the PS3, and they are better than ever.

First off, the games themselves. What exactly do these two new games offer for God of War fans? Are they worth the journey? The short answer is YES!!! (OK, that's pretty obvious, but read on anyway). (Minor Spoilers Ahead).

Both games have their own original plots, with CoO being a prequel to the whole series, and Ghost of Sparta being set after the second game. Both stories are well written and bring out entirely new elements and subtexts, filling out plenty of back story and developing the characters, especially Kratos. In particular, Ghost of Sparta does an amazing job at really setting the tone for the rest of series. More members of Kratos family appear, and it's the suffering and the negativity about that is caused by the gods, that really give an understanding of the agonizing ten years he spent serving the gods. It actually doesn't QUITE explain why Kratos went on a killing rampage in the beginning of the second game (it's actually because he was betrayed, in game, in the cell phone game God of War:Betrayal), but it really lingers on Kratos own suffering and more intimate feelings, really showing you as to WHY he's so pissed off. Chains of Olympus is an excellent prequel as well, highlighting the seemingly never-ending quest of serving the gods. At the end, it all comes to a deadly conclusion that would ultimately lead to the most harrowing journeys in video game history (at least for Kratos). In particular, the revelation near the end of the game is the light bulb moment if you always wondered why Kratos made the ultimate sacrifice at the very end of the series.

The games basically follow the same GoW formula, as you will perform combat, solve puzzles, execute quick-time events, and collecting red orbs in order to level up and gain new abilities. The same action-based, combo-stringing, combat is here and works as great as before. You will still gain access to awesome magic and weapons, including my favorite new weapon, the Arms of Sparta. You will be able to combine and use a single combat spear with a heavy duty shield. As a matter of fact, the two games contain some of my favorite magic and weapons. I also love the Djinn, which let's you summon a fire genie that pounds flames into the ground, and The Horn of Boreas let's you wield the name sake, with the ability to freeze enemies in a whirlwind of Ice and wind. However, I'll let you explore all of the new abilities yourself. The controls have also, actually, improved a bit thanks to the PS3 controller. The addition of rumble is a nice feature, and the the DualShock 3's extra buttons provide for easier controls as well (rolling with the analog stick, for one), since the PSP didn't have as many buttons.

Most of all though,those who LOVE the game series for it's awesome level design, excellent stories, great writing, emotional ability, and the GoW artistry will love these games. None of the games feel redundant; they are always fresh in it's execution of its world. From exploring the monumental Helios temple, exploring the Pits of Tartarus from the very deep, being present during the seize of the city of Attica, and watching the world crumble beneath a stone pillar, I've always played these games knowing exactly why I treat this game series the ways fantasy fans do The Lord of the Rings. You will not regret playing these games, as you will gain more insight into the unique GoW myth, understand the characters even more, and the God of War universe itself. After all, one main reason I play these games is because you love the art of the game, and all of the games here would be utterly indispensable to the series in my eyes. They are just that important to the series.

As you all wanted to know though, God of War Collection, besides giving a wider audience a chance to play these two games, is known for it's "remastered graphics". The team responsible for the previous collection did an excellent job with remastering the visuals for the first collection, as it was one of the big selling points of the first collection. For those of you unfamiliar with the process, the HD remastering adds better texture, speeding up the frame-rate to a constant 60fps, and cleaning up the rough edges and shoddy textures of many PS2 games. It really cleans them up and makes them look more vibrant enough they can hold their own against today's visuals. While these PSP games obviously show some graphics shortcomings due to the fact these are PSP games, they still look excellent. In particular, I personally think Ghost of Sparta looks terrific. Ready at Dawn used excellent graphic technique, and it honestly is the second best-looking GoW game, with the third with the lead. Colors look amazing, the liquid and particle textures looks ultra clean and dense, and the backdrops are stunning and slick. Chains of Olympus is a bit more rough around the edges, but it still looks great and much of the rough edges have been cleaned up.

Perhaps the best upgrade, however, is the HD experience. This may just be a selling point for those who still are able to play their PSP versions. While it's plenty possible to connect your PSP to your PS3, the image will not be very pretty, and it's definitely not as easy and you might end up spending around the same amount of money to do so. But with this collection, the crisp High Definition picture, the pounding, visceral, earth-shaking sound design, all work together and can truly floor your home theater system and your own God of War experience. This is what the medium/art game gamer mindset LIVES for! Besides, these games SCREAM epic treatment. You don't play GoW on a little portable handheld that only has a 4.3 inch screen. You play it with a TV, a home theater system. With astounding sound design, larger than life, awe-inspiring visuals, these are the types of games you buy a Home Theater system for. Thanks to this collection, you can finally translate the PSP games to the area it's truly known for.

On top of that, God of War Origins also features a lofty new addition for people who really enjoy such a thing (nothing wrong with that): 3-D. Alright, fine, I admit it. I did not get any time to check out the 3-D first person. I don't own a 3-D TV, and I agree with such figures as Roger Ebert that 3-D is largely unnecessary and a complete gimmick. However, I can definitely understand why people like the effects, and from what I heard, the 3-D works fine and really helps amplify many effects such as fog and other material. However, I'm definitely hear to tell you that It really shouldn't detract you either way from purchasing this, as 3-D or not, it should not disappoint. If you like it, great. If you don't, also great. It's not a make or break decision in buying the collection, as the main feature here are the games themselves.

As far as bonus features go, you can also unlock trophies. watch documentaries, and spend some time with the DLC. I didn't find the bonus features to be a "must-buy factor", the games included are, but they are fun and interesting. The DLC is definitely interesting and fun, and most GoW fans will definitely find some use and value in it. The Forest of the Forgotten is a brand new arena challenge similar to previous ones, and you will get all new objectives to solve in the vein of Super Smash Brother's challenges, like most of the challenges. The Kratos Legionnaire is basically a costume where you play with a very Golden Spartan soldier, complete with awesome helmet.

The roundtable video is where all five creators of the series all meet together and discuss the franchise together. You also get Trophies, which are mostly just virtual bragging rights and a way to compare each others skills. Well, skills predetermined by the software company, but hey. Personally, I'm not a big fan of trophy achievements (I find them trivial and I never go out of my way to achieve them, I just achieve them unintentionally), but some people like them and they aren't too difficult to unlock, as you get them for activities such as beating the game on higher difficulty levels, using items for a particular amount of time, or achieving/completing/coming to certain plot points.

I easily give this five stars for what it is, as all God of War fans who haven't played one of the games here would be fooling themselves if they didn't own this one. The games here are essential to the series, and if you don't have these games, then you should buy this collection as soon as possible. It's true that, if you own the PSP versions, the value of this collection may not be AS obvious (although I don't think many would regret it, given that you can play these PSP games on an awesome Home Theater System). For everyone else, you will be spending your hard earned money very well. I can't think of a single God of War game not worth playing, and this collection is just as essential as God Of War 3 is. The games are, in many ways, more intimate, more personal, and emotionally satisfying, especially Ghost of Sparta, which has one of the best story lines in the game series. Really, I'm running out of things to say here, just get it, and you will not be disappointed.

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