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God of War Collection
Graphics: 8.9
Gameplay: 9.5
Sound: 9.5
Control: 9
Replay Value: 9.5
Rating: 9.3

Preface:  Well, this is certainly embarassing. In the midst of all this excitement, someone at Sony has forgot to put out any official screenshots of the games running. There are two videos, one of which you can watch here. But in the meantime, we'll have to deal without the screenshots.

So I'm sure many of you who own a PlayStation 3 now have probably played a God of War game in the past, whether it was God of War, God of War II, God of War: Chains of Olympus for PSP, or even a God of War demo. No matter which one of those it was, you can't deny that there is something special about the game that no other action franchise can come close to. The games were always beyond epic, and to see it all done on the PlayStation 2, which was last-gen's weakest console, created some serious jaw dropping. Now, as I found out during my preview of God of War Collection, a lot of you out there still haven't played either God of War games, and were looking forward to a picture perfect HD port within this collection. I'm happy to report this collection is for you.

So the basic story is simple: you are Kratos, an apprentice to the God of War by the name of Ares. In exchange for a victory against a barbaric tribe, Kratos gives up his soul to the God, only to be betrayed by him later on. I won't say exactly how Ares tricked and betrayed Kratos, but the plot twist is quite a nice one. Regardless, the betrayal sends Kratos into a fit of rage. Kratos would go on to serve a number of other Gods, all of which bestow tasks of gruesome brutality on him, until he could take it no more and calls upon Athena for help. He asks her to rid his conscious of the wretched memories he has to live with. But it is Athena who has a favor to ask of Kratos, and that is stop Ares' destructive path in Athens and kill him.

Now, if you've never played the games before, that's about as much of the plot I should really tell you, because the deeper and deeper you get into the first game, the more interesting and involved you become into this epic story. Furthermore, upon completing the first game, you'll immediately want to dive into the sequel and encounter a crazy turn of events for Kratos, drastically changing the very foundation of the original game and its story. I mean really, when I said that God of War was beyond epic, I meant it.

Gameplay is as fast-paced and action packed as you could possibly hope for. It is without a doubt the smoothest playing action series out there, yes, even besting Devil May Cry. Everything flows seamlessly from one attack to the next. Kratos' list of attacks is not only expansive but extremely brutal, as God of War is known for its gory and violent nature, capturing the absolute chaos and ruthlessness depicted within Greek mythology. Kratos can string hits of attacks simultaneously, with 100 hit combos made possible thanks to the amazing game mechanics and some really kick ass moves.

Wielding a pair of chain blades permanently affixed to his forearms, Kratos is well equipped for any situation, and with solid upgrade features, even dealing with tougher enemies is a breeze for this Spartan. You'll gain access to not just new moves, but also a variety of power ups and weapons which will come extremely handy throughout the game. But it is the boss fights in the God of War games that many call absolutely epic, and you simply have to see them for yourself and marvel at the kind of events many of us saw unfolding on our wimpy little PlayStation 2's. Some boss fights simply tower over you and take up so much of the game space, it's staggering. Even on a PlayStation 3 watching these bosses attack and animate is still extremely impressive, despite these being upgraded PS2 visuals. If there was one series that was the pre-cursor to the epic scope games have this generation, God of War is it - it really did pave the way for the action genre.

In this compilation, you get both God of War I and God of War II complete with trophies, in addition to being able to download the God of War III demo. But, gaming aside, you also have a "Making of God of War II" documentary, in addition to a whole bunch of other GOWII behind-the-scenes footage that runs for almost two hours, which adds even more content to an already rich game. Honestly, Sony could've charged $60 for this and got away with it, so for $40, God of War: Collection is an absolute steal and offers a plethora of gaming value, in addition to offering two of the very best PlayStation 2 games ever made.

Visually, both God of War games retain nearly every original detail, and then some. Textures are now sharper than they were before, allowing you to see more details in them. While the first God of War clearly demonstrates certain shortcomings, such as less polygon count in character, it still manages to look very good in its all new 720p skin. But it is God of War II that continues to really impress, looking like a bona fide next-gen game throughout bits of the game, as its improved textures and polygon count over GOW1 really help make this HD update look that much nicer.

Best of all, both games still run at 60 frames per second, with only minor hiccups here and there, certainly nothing we didn't see even in the PS2 games. Now, even though both games run at 720p, there is also a half-1080p mode that renders the game at 960x1080, which is an increase in pixel count, for those keeping count. You'd be hard pressed to notice the differences, really, but hey, the mode is there if you want it. On top of all that, the games are fully anti-aliased. My only complaint is that the cutscenes were left alone in their original and very grainy resolution, so when the game cuts to them, you'll get a distinctly different visual quality - it's much more a problem in the first God of War, since God of War II's cutscenes looked quite a bit better.

Audio is everything you remembered it to be. A superb soundtrack plays in the background, setting the tone and mood for the game with an almost perfect execution. To add to that, the voice acting is simply phenomenal and has not aged one bit between either of the games. You'd think that with the kind of games we've been playing lately, these God of War titles would at least show some age, but the moment you boot up either one, you're immediately reminded just how high Santa Monica Studios managed to set that bar.

Don't just buy this collection as a way to get your hands on the demo early, because this bundle of amazing software is dripping with quality. Both games have retained their signature gameplay, all the while gaining new and improved visuals, boasting full 720p resolutions, better texture details, anti-aliasing, trophy support, behind the scenes footage, and, yes, a demo of God of War III. Seriously, replaying this on your PlayStation 3 makes you often forget you're playing PS2 games. For $40, this is the steal of the year.

11/17/2009   Arnold Katayev