"God of War: Origins Collection"
For: Playstation 3
From: Ready at Dawn/Sony
ESRB Rating: Mature (blood and
gore, intense violence, nudity)
By Billy O'Keefe
After Sony rounded the Playstation 2 "God of War" games into a terrific Playstation 3 compilation two years ago, it was all but written that this two-pack, which brings the series' two Playstation Portable entrants to the bigger screen, would someday follow.
But if you never played those games the first time around, "God of War: Origins Collection" represents more than simply a nice effort on Sony's part to make the entirety of the franchise available on one system. It also — thanks to the efforts of a developer that wasn't afraid to leave its mark on a series it didn't create — allows those who don't own a PSP to see the series in a slightly but noticeably different light.
Lest we get carried away, neither half of "Origins" — 2008's "Chains of Olympus" and last year's "Ghost of Sparta" — marks anything close to a radical departure. Both games star you as the same old Kratos, who, at least initially, uses his same old Blades of Chaos to wreak the same old havoc on a familiar cast of human, inhuman and mythical enemies.
Gameplay remains a mix of 80 percent combat and 20 percent platforming and environmental puzzle solving, and if you've played any "God of War" game enough to remember the basics, the brief tutorials that open both games will be completely unnecessary.
With that said, though, the distinctions are there, and not simply in the form of new environments, boss enemies and magic spells. The pace at which "Sparta" shifts players between combat and platforming is a series best, and while "God of War III" operated on a scale these games couldn't possibly match, the platforming controls and level designs in these games are significantly fundamentally superior to "GOW3's" effort. A weapon introduced near the end of "Olympus" (no spoilers) may be the best thing Kratos had ever wielded, and a new chase mechanic in "Sparta" is — while sorely underutilized — responsible for some of that game's highlights.
Perhaps most interesting are the bold steps both games take to add some overdue definition to Kratos' beginnings ("Olympus," which is a prequel to the original game) and family life (both games but particularly "Sparta," which takes place between the first two games and introduces us to Kratos' brother). The console games have painted Kratos into a corner as an unlikable brute with cloudy intentions, but these games do a terrific job of giving us some sorely needed color without feeling completely out of character.
Because the same developer responsible for making these games also handled porting them to the PS3, it isn't terribly surprising that "Origins'" migration is a smooth one.
Lest you have unrealistic expectations, this isn't a case of a game's graphics getting a ground-up overhaul, but instead an attempt to transfer assets designed for a tiny screen to something much bigger. A predictable downgrade in detail in certain respects (characters' faces in particular) reflects that.
But because most of "Origins'" action takes place from a distance and at a frantic pace, details like these aren't worth much concern. In action at full speed, both games look like legitimate big-screen games, and the compensation for that loss of detail — a framerate locked in at 60 frames per second and ground-up support for 3D hardware if you have it — more than makes up for the occasional slightly blurry texture. In terms of presentation and control refinement, "Origins" is a first-class translation.
(c) 2011, McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.
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