God of War: Origins Collection (PS3)
Developer: Ready at Dawn Studios
Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment
Release: September 13, 2011
Sony's strategically timed two-four punch of HD remasters this September not only includes The ICO and Shadow of the Colossus Collection but also ultra-enhanced ports of the two God of War titles that originally appeared on the PSP. If you never came around to playing Chains of Olympus or Ghost of Sparta the first time around, God of War: Origins Collection makes quite a compelling case, especially considering when the combined PlayStation Store price of both PSP versions currently costs more than this slick remaster.
IT’S ALL GREEK TO US
When looking at this series' five-game story arc (not counting God of War: Betrayal on mobile), you can't help but admire how deftly both Ready at Dawn and Santa Monica Studio milked Greek Mythology for all it was worth, from gods to titans to Atlantis. Both Chains of Olympus and Ghost of Sparta get extra milage by focusing more on Kratos himself and his past. There's no easier way to unleash the God of War’s fury than by involving those he loved. In the case of this collection, you have his mother, daughter and brother.
To many, Chains of Olympus was the PSP title gamers would use to show off what the handheld was capable of. With its majestic backdrops and large character models of bosses and titans, the game conveyed the message, "If it can be done on the PlayStation 2, it can be done on the PSP." For its conversion to the PS3, the smoothed-out textures almost look too smooth, especially when viewing on a 47" HDTV. Not that it is a criticism; it probably wouldn't have been financially sound for Sony to produce a full-on remake with detailed textures. Regardless, there certainly a "that's more I like it" appeal to playing a PSP adventure with the comfort of a Dual Shock and analog sticks.
GHOST OF SPARTA
Unsurprisingly, the Ghost of Sparta half of the collection is the more technically impressive of the two. Originally released just a year ago on the PlayStation Portable, Ghost was one of the last great titles of the handheld. As with any talented studio that has gotten added years of familiarity with any tool set, Ready at Dawn used their experience with Chains of Olympus to make every aspect of the game better. You get a better appreciation of the detail that went into the game that many of us might not have noticed in the PSP version, like particle effects when wind gets cut as it flows past ropes that Kratos traverses. There's just a lot more to admire with the environments, especially when it comes to lava, blue-tinted lightning and even gold. At its best moments, this chapter holds up exceptionally well against even the original God of War.
Save for a few inconsequential in-game loading pauses, the animation in both games are exceptionally fluid, making it an obvious marked improvement over their original PSP counterparts, especially when battles are concerned. Speaking of battles, both games' respective quick time events have been preserved in their original formats. Chain's QTE inputs appear at the upper middle part of the screen whereas the QTE inputs in Ghost appear on sides of the screen corresponding to the placement of the shape buttons on the PlayStation controller. I found the latter to be slightly easier, which is actually indicative of the overall playability of Ghost of Sparta. Kratos simply has a larger arsenal of moves and attacks when compared toChains of Olympus.
Moreover, there are only a couple puzzles that live up to the brain-teasing demands of the other three God of Wars, making this combo package a more consistently action-packed experience. Any experienced fan should breeze through both games in 10 hours total, with Ghost of Spartabeing the slightly longer playthrough. Ghost also feature a couple more modes beyond the story to test the most skilled players, while Chains has its singular list of challenges.
It's hard to think of the last time five installments of a series has been available on a single console, let alone at this level of quality throughout, but fans of God of War now have bragging rights in having that kind of collection. Whereas many remasters are often handled by studios that weren't involved in the original versions, Ready at Dawn was clearly up to the challenge in revisiting these two games without pulling off full blown remakes. Their passion shows, eliminating any doubts that these installments deserve to be held in the same regard as the three console titles. The fact that Ready at Dawn had a great foundation to work off also speaks to the quality of PSP, a once promising handheld that is now in its twilight days.