God of War is a game that has defined PlayStation. Originally appearing on the PlayStation 2 in 2005, David Jaffe’s epic masterpiece has gone on to sprout sequels that would appear on the PS2, PS3, PSP, and now the PS Vita (yes, we are going to forget that God of War: Betrayal for feature phones was ever a thing). In 2007 Cory Barlog took the reins of the series and guided Kratos through a journey that was bigger, bolder, and even more epic in God of War II.
God of War Collection combines both of these monumental games into one package. With improved graphics and trophy support, this remastered version first appeared on the PS3, but now after long last, the tale of vengeance and betrayal can be played anywhere with the PS Vita.
Set in the days of ancient Greece, the story of God of War is ultimately that of revenge. Kratos was once the most admired captain in the Spartan army. He was the ultimate warrior who made armies tremble before him. The limit of his conquest seemed to be endless. But when he finally met his match, Kratos foolishly turned to Ares, the god of war, for help. In return, Kratos pledged his life and loyalty to the god. As a reminder of the oath he had taken, the iconic Blades of Chaos were permanently fused to his arms. With his new powers, Kratos would brutally carry out the will of his new master, leaving pools of blood in his wake.
That is until Ares betrays him. This sets Kratos off on a new quest. It is a quest of revenge to kill the god of war.
The story unfolds through the use of cut scenes that fill in bits and pieces of Kratos’ back story as the game game progresses. The motivation for why Kratos is seeking revenge starts off as a mystery. Through a series of flashbacks we learn his history, but never the full story at once. Often each clip will leave more questions than answers. This method of storytelling works really well, and I found myself being pulled in because of it. I wanted to know the secrets from his past. By always keeping you guessing, and never revealing too much, I always felt a compulsion to go deeper into the game.
Following the events of the first game, God of War II continues the story of Kratos in an adventure that is even grander in scope and vision. Having ascended to the throne room of Olympus, Kratos has taken the position of his vanquished foe and sits as one of the gods. With the soldiers of Sparta as his army, he wages a war of conquest against the rest of Greece. The other gods will not stand for this and band together to stop his rampage.
Zeus, at one time an ally to Kratos, would ultimately trick and betray him. And Kratos, not one for being made the fool, would once again seek revenge against the gods who wronged him.
The story in God of War II is told differently than in the first game since the events out with the game. It is less about what happened in the past, and this time around the player immediately knows what Kratos’ motivations are. His intentions are known from the beginning, but it’s the journey to that destination which brings the excitement.
In both games in God of War Collection, you play as Kratos. Using the Blades of Chaos you must hack and slash your way through waves of different enemies in order get your revenge on the gods who betrayed you. The mythical beasts you slaughter along the way (Spoilers: this game is extremely bloody and violent. Mature audiences only) range from common skeletons to a gigantic Minotaur. And while the variety of enemy types can become a bit repetitive as the game goes on, new, more powerful creatures are always introduced to keep things challenging.
Kratos will grow in power throughout the game as you upgrade his various attacks. This is accomplished by collecting and spending the red orbs which are awarded frequently. These orbs seem to appear with each swing of the blades. Kill a monster, get red orbs. Break a flower pot, get red orbs. Open a red chest and get a health boost (I’m kidding… you get red orbs… though open a green chest and you get the health boost).
In addition to viciously murdering the hordes of bad guys, there is also quite a bit of complex platforming involved, especially in God of War. I died more times falling off a beam or failing to make a platform jump than I did fighting any monster. They are challenging, and often times brutal. Add to that the various puzzle elements that are scattered throughout the games, and you have two very well rounded games.
The controls make the transition to the PS Vita pretty well. Square and Triangle are your light and heavy attacks respectively while Circle and Cross are your grab and jump buttons. The camera is fixed in both games, so the right stick is dedicated to a dodge-roll. And since the Vita simply does not have as many buttons as a Dualshock, some of the controls had to be assigned to the touchscreens. The one that is used most frequently, the “interact/action” button has been placed on the rear touchpad, and while it takes some getting used to, it does work fairly well.
One improvement they made to the controls was in standardizing certain interactions across both games. For example, to open a door in the PS3 version of God of War, players would have to mash R2, while in God of War II the same task was accomplished by holding R1 and mashing Circle. It‘s a small thing that always bothered me when switching between the games. On the Vita, they have chosen one approach and implemented it in both games. It’s a nice touch.
A big reason for God of War’s epic feel is the superb orchestral score featured throughout both games. The drums pound, the horns blare, and the voices of the choir crescendo with the full force and power befitting a god. The melodies of God of War Collection are beautiful, and at times haunting. But like everything else in the games, they are astounding.
As for the rest of the audio, I discovered that things were mixed. The voice acting is generally top-notch, and Kratos is played off very well as both villain and victim at times. But the quality of the recording seems to vary. Most of the time everything is very crisp, but there are sections where the audio gets distinctly muffled. It’s a problem that doesn’t appear as much in God of War II, but throughout the first game I would encounter random areas where the vocals would sound muted.
Overall, the quality of the port is pretty decent. Sanzaru Games, the team behind the Sly Cooper games for the Vita has done an admirable job of bringing this massive game to a handheld. There are a few hiccups however.
The game is beautiful with some of the background art being downright breathtaking at times. The high definition treatment makes the characters look crisp, but the cut scenes are a bit jarring since they are mostly still in standard definition. This is a carry over of the PS3 version, which also suffered from lower quality cut scenes. Jumping between the beauty of HD and into the muted colors and soft focus of SD tends to disrupt the flow of the story. It doesn’t detract from the game play, but when it happens, it is very noticeable.
The frame rate for the most part is pretty smooth in both games. There are times in God of War where the frame rate will take a big hit and things slow down to a crawl. It only lasts a few seconds, and I found it would typically occur when a Cyclops character would appear. The strange thing is that as the game progressed, the frame rate became more even, and the slowdowns experienced earlier eventually vanished. While the appearance of one Cyclops would slow things down near the beginning of the game, later on multiple Cyclops could be on the screen with a number of other enemies and there were no problems at all.
God of War II, which is visually more impressive than the first game, also would take a hit in frame rate from time to time. When it would happen, it would not be as severe as the drops seen in God of War, but they would happen more frequently. Strangely, the one area of the game that suffered the most was in the menu system. From the pause menu to the launch screen, switching between options happens at a snail’s pace. To be honest, none of the frame rate issues, whether in game or in the menus, ever affected my ability to play the game. I was still able to hit and dodge at just the right times, but it is nowhere near as smooth as if you play it on the PS3.
Perhaps the biggest technical glitch I noticed while playing God of War II was that only one of the trophies I earned was ever awarded to me. I did not even notice it until I was nearly finished with the game and saw in my Trophies guide that I was still at 2%. I had no similar issue with God of War, so hopefully this is an isolated issue or something that can be corrected with an update.
I am a big fan of the God of War games and have played them on every system they’ve been available on. I was excited (and hesitant) when I heard they were coming to the Vita in the form of the God of War Collection, but I have been pleasantly surprised. I think I went in fearing the worse and trying to find any imperfection that I could. Well, I found some. But the longer I played, and re-discovered just how massive both these games are, the more I discovered that this collection is just another God of War. It may not run as smooth as the PS3 or look quite as good, but everything else about it captures the feelings of those games really well. Everything that made me fall in love with this series in the first place is still there. As I finished up the games, any of the flaws I had been desperately searching for earlier just melted away.
God of War Collection is a bundle of two of the most epic games every created. God of War is a fantastic game that sets the series in the right direction, and then God of War II takes everything to a new level and does it better. The collection on the Vita is a true masterpiece, but a few technical issues with the port keep it from its true potential. Despite the few issues I experienced, God of War Collection is a must play.