It seems as though the breakout success of Sony’s God of War Collection back in 2009 started a trend because since then publishers have been scrambling to produce HD re-releases of popular franchises. Well the God of War himself is back to reclaim his throne with the God of War: Origins Collection, which brings the formerly PSP-exclusive titles God of War: Chains of Olympus and God of War: Ghosts of Sparta to the PS3. Both titles received praise upon their respective releases but does that magic survive the jump to the home console?
Upon its original release, Chains of Olympus wowed because it proved an authentic God of War experience was possible on the PSP. Three years and a HD port later and the game does not hold up as well. The colors look washed out and all of the visual chicanery employed to bring the game to the handheld are more apparent. Some of the earlier enemies look as though they lack faces and environments are repeated too often. There are some benefits to HD transfer: the large bosses look more impressive than they did on the PSP’s small screen and the same goes for the sense of scope. The game feels as if it were made to be played on a large television, not simply formatted to fit one.
Chains of Olympus has more technical issues than Ghost of Sparta, including screen tearing, occasional freezing and some animation glitches. Nothing game-breaking, of course, but it feels weird playing a God of War game on a console that is not a relatively smooth experience. Both titles feature strong audio design, high quality voice acting and epic musical scores.
The controls are much better thanks to the Dualshock 3. Actions such as blocking and evading are much easier to pull off. Quick Time Events that require you to rotate the analog stick feel more natural compared to manipulating the PSP’s analog nub. It's a shame the developers didn't see it necessary to adjust the default controls for pulling off magic though, requiring you to hold a shoulder and face button at the same time. It is a hindrance the next PSP follow-up solved quite well.
Ghost of Sparta is a much stronger experience. Less than a year old, the game still feels fresh and at home on the PS3. It improves upon Chains of Olympus tremendously, although it found its way into the hands of far fewer gamers due to waning interest in PSP software. Hopefully this collection will provide sufficient incentive for GoW fans who originally skipped this title to finally check it out.
The leap between Chains of Olympus and Ghost of Sparta charts how much Ready at Dawn grew as a development studio in the time between games. They managed to squeeze so much more out of the PSP. Not only did they enhance the combat and animation, they threw in more items to collect, including some that you can use only after you complete the game. Kratos has a new technique called the Hyperion Charge that allows him to take down smaller enemies and deliver a brutal beatdown on their heads. He also acquires Thera’s Bane, which adds firepower to his Blades of Athena and receives its own meter. The controls are much improved: using magic only requires a press of a directional button, rather than the clumsy two button set-up alluded to earlier. The button prompts were moved to the side of the screen rather than the center, which is an aesthetically pleasing change. The graphics are a far cry from what the PlayStation 3 is capable of but considering these games originated on the PSP the clarity of the visuals is remarkable.
The story this time around feels much more fleshed out and entertaining overall. You gain real insights into Kratos’ past not available elsewhere. That's not to say it adds any real depth to the character. He still largely speaks in declarative sentences beginning with “I”, and his solution to all of his problems is to either break something or kill it. Dumb character, great game. I feel I have to restate a point I made in my original review of this game: it features the best sex mini-game in the series, now in HD and optional 3D.