God of War Origins Collection Review
God of War is one of the most popular and revered franchises in video game history. What David Jaffe and Co. initially developed for the PS2 has become synonymous with elite action excellence; the combination of fantastic combat, great platforming mechanics, solid storylines, and even a few compelling puzzles has always proven riveting. We already have a GoW Collection for the PlayStation 3 (it featured the first two PS2 titles in high definition), but we can always use more.
Enter the God of War Origins Collection, which features the two PSP installments: God of War: Chains of Olympus and God of War: Ghost of Sparta. Graphically, the earlier entry lags a little, especially when compared to something like God of War III. But that’s to be expected. Ghost of Sparta is definitely the visual gem in this dual pack, as every detail explodes off the screen with fresh, vibrant HD life. I think both games seem a little on the dark side – perhaps even darker than I remember them when playing on the PSP – but that’s a very minor complaint.
The bottom line is that this new HD sheen really helps a great deal, and the audio elements are equally polished. In regards to voice acting, Kratos is hit or miss in my opinion, but the rest is absolutely stellar. The soundtrack consists of epic, sweeping orchestral pieces that augment the ceaseless action, and the effects are crisp and oh so satisfying. Both titles were considered technical tour de forces in the portable world and although this HD upgrade can’t put the games on par with PS3 productions, you won’t be disappointed. PSP games have never looked or sounded better!
In addition to the gorgeous 1080p high definition overhaul, the Origins Collection features Trophies, rumble (DualShock) functionality, surround sound and yes, 3D. Both titles in question play extremely well on the PS3; personally, I often get hand cramps when playing fast-action games on the PSP. God of War is one series I really need to play with a regular gamepad, and I’m so glad I can experience Chains of Olympus and Ghost of Sparta with the PS3 controller and my great HDTV. Honestly, despite Ready at Dawn’s unbelievable handheld efforts, this is how GoW should be played.
If you’re unfamiliar with the two stories, let me issue a brief explanation of each (without giving anything away): in Chains, the evil Morpheus has cast a spell on the world and it’s up to Kratos to save it. He just has to put aside his personal vendetta in order to do so. Many fans will tell you it offers a nice tangent to the plots found in the first two GoW games. In Ghost, it’s another classic story; Kratos must explore Atlantis and save the damsel in distress. In both cases, the gameplay remains the focal point but the storylines are well paced and generally well told.
Control-wise, it’s an almost flawless adaptation. Everything is tight and responsive, and you never feel shortchanged or cheated. One of the most appealing aspects of all Kratos' adventures is the solidarity of the control; you’re powerful but not immortal and if you die, it’s because you failed to execute. It’s not because a combo is unfairly difficult or an enemy is frustratingly cheap. The developers do an amazing job of awarding new powers while continually introducing more powerful enemies; there’s always a challenge, but it’s always fun. It’s never not fun.
The only downside is what appears to be frame rate issues from which no GoW game has ever really suffered. Or maybe it’s inaccurate to call this a “frame rate” problem; all I know is that the game would occasionally pause – not freeze – during certain important moments. It never really affected the intensity of the combat; it was more like the graphics needed more time to…install, or something. I’m no coder or programmer so forgive my ignorance. I can only tell you want I see. That being said, this flaw isn’t enough to cripple your enjoyment.
In terms of longevity, I will admit that other HD Collections might offer a bit more bang for your buck, simply because there’s more total gameplay hours in other packages. Some have three games rather than two, and some titles are just longer overall. Neither Chains of Olympus or Ghost of Sparta will take you longer than 8 or 9 hours and if you rush, you could probably finish both in less than 15 hours. Still, we’re talking about some of the most addictive and fulfilling action gameplay in existence, even if it does have portable roots. There’s little chance you’ll finish one and go, “meh.”
There’s no “meh” anywhere in the God of War Origins Collection. It’s exactly what you would expect: two of the finest PSP titles in existence, re-produced in high-definition with all the PS3-related bells and whistles. It can look a little too dark in places and there’s a strange halt or pause at particular points, but overall, this is a package that absolutely cannot be missed. If you never got a chance to play either title on the PSP, you have no choice; get it now. If you have played them already, I leave the decision up to you. I will say this would be an excellent addition to any game library.
The Good: High-definition overhaul brings everything to life. Great music and effects. Control remains spot-on. 1080p, Trophies, and 3D are great additions. Two of the best PSP games ever are featured.
The Bad: Voice acting isn’t as impressive. Bizarre, albeit rare, gameplay pauses. Questionable longevity.
The Ugly: “Has there ever been anything ugly about God of War? I mean, bad ugly?”
8/29/2011 Ben Dutka