In November 2009, Sony released the first HD remastering of sub-HD games with the God of War Collection. Since then, there have been quite a few HD collections meant to polish up old favorites, allowing everyone to experience them in a whole new way.
With the release of the God of War Origins Collection, Sony took two sub-sub-HD PSP games (so to speak) and unleashed them for consumption on your PS3. The PS2 games — especially GoW2, which squeezed as much as it could out of the aging PS2 in 2007 — made the jump over quite nicely.
The two PSP games, however, fall just a bit short of the previous collection.
It’s worth noting that both games are still very good, and amongst the very best available on Sony’s handheld. When released on the PS3, and put alongside the likes of God of War III and Bayonetta, they feel a little less special.
First up to bat is Chains of Olympus, which is not only the weaker of the two in the collection, but arguably the weakest in the entire God of War series. I don’t have a problem with it’s length (quite short, though forgivable given its start as a portable game), but rather its story.
It starts with Kratos defending the shores of Attica against an army of Persian invaders and their pet basilisk. This sequence, along with the rest of the game, is a great demonstration of what the PSP is actually capable of. Even with just one analog nub and two shoulder buttons, combat was just as smooth, and the graphics were nothing to sneeze at. Unfortunately, the story never gets much more interesting than that.
Following the battle against the Persians, you see the sun take a plunge. This is a result of the abduction of the sun god Helios, and is compounded by an Olympian named Morpheus spreading a thick black fog everywhere. It all turns out to be a giant ploy by Persephone in an act of hatred against Olympus, who allowed Hades to whisk her away as his bride in the underworld. As an endboss, she’s far less impressive than Ares, god of war, and Zeus, king of Olympus, to say the very least.
Fortunately, the game plays a bit better than it does on the PSP, for which we have a full controller to thank. A simple flick of the right stick will have Kratos dodge and roll, though the old PSP method of holding L1 and R1 while flicking the left stick will also do it, if that’s what you prefer for some reason. Strangely, though, that’s the only change to the controls. Rather than mapping Kratos’ different magic abilities to the d-pad, as has been done in the console games, you still have to hold R1 and then the appropriate face button to use a specific power. It can become awkward in hectic battles on harder difficulties, as sometimes your magic won’t activate as it should.
Aside from the story and strange control decisions, the game plays superbly. Combos flow beautifully, and the weapons are a joy to use. The Gauntlet of Zeus, while slow, is especially satisfying once it’s fully upgraded, taking just a few punches to lay waste to some of the more powerful enemies. When you can get them to work correctly, your spells are an invaluable tool when surrounded by droves of enemies. You’ll find God of War‘s tried-and-true hack-and-slashery just as satisfying in Chains of Olympus as in its made-for-console counterparts.
Next up is Ghost of Sparta, a game that I reviewed on PSP last year. It takes place between God of War 1 and 2, and is actually one of the better games in the series. Aside from the HD upgrade (featuring the same control quirks), the game remains unchanged; the story is still very good, and the combat takes some cues from God of War III. Feel free to check out the review here for more details.
As for the actual remastering of the two PSP titles, the games look quite good on the big screen, especially considering the source material. It obviously pales in comparison to God of War III, but the original God of War Collection still has it beat. Ghost of Sparta looks handles the jump to HD a little more gracefully, looking closer to God of War II than Chains of Olympus manages to, but it’s nothing overwhelmingly impressive. There are still plenty of blurry textures and pointy edges, and some of the loading problems from the PSP versions (especially in Chains of Olympus) are still present here.
It goes without saying that these are the definitive versions of the “Origins” games. Not having to hunch over a small handheld wearing headphones, along with the addition of Trophies and streamlined controls, make these two great games even better. Still, they lose a bit of their luster when put in the company of some of the finest hack-and-slash games that the PS3 has to offer. If you’ve never played either game, the God of War Origins Collections is well worth picking up. Otherwise, you’re not missing anything new.
Final Score: B+