It's nice to have everything in one place, and Sony clearly agrees. After the first God of War HD Collection compiled the first two PS2 Kratos adventures on one shimmering Blu-ray - all the better to sit snugly alongside God of War III on your shelf - here comes another volume of tarted-up Greek slaughter - the God of War Collection Volume II. This time it's the two PSP spin-off titles, Chains of Olympus and Ghost of Sparta, getting the HD makeover. Do they look the business, or is it just too much of a leap?
Thankfully, they do look the business. Or at least as business-like as a game designed for a palm-size screen and then blown up to full telly size can be. High definition smooths out the edges, but can't do anything about the graphics themselves, and Chains of Olympus in particular looks rather chunky. Ghost of Sparta looks a lot better, which is hardly surprising given that it's more recent, and was already looking like a really good PS2 game.
The PSP limitations also make themselves known in the scale of the games. You'll be fighting fewer enemies at a time, and the environments lack the "ooh" factor that made God of War III such a visual feast. At least the boss monsters, those gigantic creatures that must be torn to pieces through smart attacking and frantic button-matching, look suitably imposing.
Duck and Roll
So PSP games ported to the PS3 don't always look fantastic. Big surprise. Where the translation does pay off is in the control. The PSP, of course, only has one control stick – and a little stubby one at that. Freed up to stretch all over the DualShock joypad, the game feels more at home. Most notably, the right analogue stick now makes Kratos dodge and roll much more easily than the shoulder-button assisted feints he had on the handheld.
Other benefits of the jump from platform to platform are a lush 7.1 surround remaster for the excellent soundtrack, and the option to play in 3D - if your telly supports such fancy-pants technology. So while the stiff lines of the characters reveal the game's true origins, there's more than enough reason to trade up.
And what of the actual gameplay? God of War was never a series that relied on subtlety, so there's not much to lose here. Kratos scowls and stamps and slices enemies up with his whirling blades. Combat is simple but effective, and a steady stream of upgrades keeps things interesting. Magic attacks are the most satisfying, offering a sense of wild destruction that your flailing knives can't always match. Occasional object puzzles trick you into thinking you're using your brain, but this is very much an experience that's all about blood and mayhem. PSP or PS3, when the slaughter comes this thick and fast, it doesn't really matter how many polygons are involved.
There's not much to call between the two games, though as the more recent title it's easy to see that Ghost of Sparta has a little more ambition and was put together by a development team more confident in what they could squeeze out of the PSP. Chains of Olympus feels a little small in comparison, but is far from a disappointment.
Hit or Myth?
Judged purely as two games for the price of one, there's little to complain about here. God of War HD Collection II brings together two strong entries in an already fine series, and polishes them up so they can sit next to their big boy console cousins. It would be nice to see a bit more attention lavished on the presentation – the games launch from a boring static front screen and the only bonus is a downloadable interview. It's not a place for newcomers to jump aboard, but for fans who want to experience the complete Kratos saga without leaving the couch, this gets the job done in ruthlessly efficient style.
- Great setpiece battles
- Weird and varied weapons
- Excellent multiplayer maps
- Online play is tough for beginners
- Finite health can leave you stuck
- Not much solo replay value