The God of War series has become one of the top-tier franchises for PlayStation over it’s span of 5 (soon to be 6!) games. They offer deep and rewarding combat, clever and detailed puzzles (that occasionally make me want to rip my hair out) and stories that completely define the word “EPIC”. If you were at all into hack and slash games like Devil May Cry and Onimusha back in the day, then you will see that God of War very much picked up the torch passed on from those games. This collection contains the first two games in the series, which were both originally released on PS2.
Here are some notes on what has been improved in the original games:
- Both God of War 1 and God of War 2 are presented in HD resolution, upgrading from the original 512 x 448.
- The graphics have been polished a bit to reduce edge artifacting and provide a smoother looking experience.
- The framerate has been increased from a variable 60 frames per second to a now consistent 60 frames per second.
- Full PlayStation Trophies support has been added to both titles, so you can now track your progress of the overall game and more easily scope out those extras.
Although the games are just as fun now if you were still playing them on PS2, the added polish and work that went into the presentation is very much welcome. The complete CGI cutscenes look phenomenal, and even the in-game engine doesn’t look too shabby. The only real graphical smudges are when you come across cutscenes with the in-game engine running. It looks a little rough and definitely isn’t up to the standard seen in other areas. That is more the fault of the graphical limitations of the PS2, and could only be remedied if these two games were remade from the ground up.
For those unfamiliar with the God of War story, allow me to bore you with the details. The world is an alternate version of Ancient Greece, and contain the Olympian Gods, Titans and other creatures from Greek Mythology. It follows the story of Kratos, a warrior who serves the Greek Gods of Olympus. In the first game he is aiming to kill Ares, a god who granted Kratos the power to avoid death and destroy his enemies, but at a severe cost. He wants to kill Ares in hopes of reversing the terrible fate that has fallen upon him. Themes from this game are continued in the sequel, but I won’t go into the plot to avoid spoiling anything.
Kratos is a very different kind of protagonist compared to the ones you usually come across. He often comes off as arrogant, self-centered and ruthless throughout both games. You’ll get a better understanding of why he is like this as the games go on, but even when you do see what made him so harsh you still think, “dude… that was mean!”. This kind of anti-hero definitely brings up some interesting scenarios, and really makes you feel like you are a cold-blooded killer as you hack your way through the numerous beasts that seek to bring you down. Nothing will get in Kratos’ way, not even the people who aren’t in his way!
What makes these games so fun and addicting is that they immerse you in a fully-realized and authentic Ancient Greek setting. As you traverse the crumbled cities, deep dungeons and even hell itself, you feel as if you have been transported back in time to a world only spoken of in myths. The landscapes are often jaw-dropping in their beauty and the size and detail that went into them is easily apparent. All of the characters have terrific voice acting, and the the variety of different monsters, gods, and humans you come in contact with is impressive. The entire experience is also backed with terrific orchestration that contains some simply gorgeous musical pieces. In just about every area, God of War 1 and 2 are the epitome of epic.
These games are very much what you would call button mashers, but the combat system has enough variety to keep it from becoming stale. You constantly find yourself in combat situations where you are greatly outnumbered, though you have a variety of weapons, magic and techniques that allow you to take down even the toughest foes. Kratos’ weapons of choice are these two blades that are chained to his arms, and are what I used for pretty much the entirety of both games. The other weapons range from long swords, spears and hammers and all add a different combat experience. The variety is nice to have, but I found that most of the time they were unnecessary and didn’t really offer a noticeable advantage in any particular situation.
The magic system is just as varied, though unlike with weapons I used every kind of magic available consistently throughout both games. Some magic allows you to electrocute several foes, allowing you to come in for some easy hits while they thrive in pain, and others allow you turn your foes to stone and then smash them into itty bitty pieces. Regardless of your foes and combat situations, each type of magic is very helpful and can greatly increase your chances of victory.
The gameplay of these two titles are very similar, with little tweaks and changes in the second one to keep it fresh. You will be subjected to swarms of enemies that are regularly broken up by puzzles, and they usually lead to some kind of a boss. In 2, there are a greater range of bosses and some new combat scenarios like sky combat that are a welcome change of pace. The God of War system is a very well oiled machine, and yields great if not greater results in the sequel. They fine-tuned everything in the first game, and as a result I think God of War 2 is better from a gameplay standpoint. However, the game ends on one of the biggest cliff-hangers I have ever seen and had me sitting there thinking, “AWW COME ON!”
The cream of the crop in the God of War series is the boss fights. They are incredibly well made and have an epic and cinematic feel to them that almost always left me in awe. They mix some puzzle elements, skilled combat and time-sensitive button pressing into glorious battles that will really push you to your limits. You come across Medusa, Perseus, Ares and even Zeus himself throughout these first two games. They all offer intense battles that are very unique from each other, and are some of the best boss fights you will come across in any action adventure game.
Both games include HUGE amounts of bonus material that reward several playthroughs. You unlock new costumes for Kratos to wear while he obliterates his unworthy enemies, new cutscenes, concept art, scrapped enemies and levels and more. The amount of content available here is exhaustive and adds a lot of insight on the initial ideas for the games, the creation process and all of the ins and outs of the production. The extras for God of War 1 are watchable in the game menu, while God of War 2 requires you to go to the video tab on your PlayStation homepage. This is a nice addition because it allows you to view the features as you would on a DVD or Blu-ray, with options to pause and skip to whatever part of a video you want to.
This collection is an absolute steal if you haven’t played these games yet. It offers two of the most highly-acclaimed PS2 titles brought to PS3 with a new coat of shiny paint. God of War 1 took me around 10 hours to beat and God of War 2 took me around 15 hours to beat, but you could double those times if you went for all of the extras. The games still hold up incredibly well despite their age and graphical limitations, and offer deep and rewarding gameplay experiences that will have you refusing to put the controller down, even if you have died in the same spot 100 times and are ready to smash your controller into a million pieces. This is a testament to how well-made the games were when they first released in 2005 and 2007, respectively, and proves that the formula shows no signs of aging.