God Of War 3 looks like a 'first generation PlayStation 4 title', according to one enthusiastic US journalist. Curious, then, that God of War Collection - comprising the orginal PS2 games, repackaged on one handy blu-ray disc and remastered in HD - looks like a PlayStation 2.5 game. It may be a purely cosmetic overhaul - astutely handled by Bluepoint Games, the developer behind PSN's Blast Factor - but Kratos' PS2 adventures have lost little of their brutal substance.
Twice as nice
The disc comes with the brilliant God Of War and the even better God Of War II, except the visuals are delivered in 720P. Nothing has been lost in translation from the PS2 version to PS3, so it plays exactly the same. For the uninitiated, GOW set the benchmark for hack and slash ultra-violence, twinned to epic screen-size boss battles. Oh, and anti-hero Kratos is a mad man.
Armed with the Blades of Chaos (read: massive slicey blades) and coated with - in a plot twist that goes to some way to explaining why he's so furious - the ashes of his scorched family, he wades through harpies, minotaurs, screaming sirens and most other mythical beasts you care to mention.
He's also packing magic spells including Poseidon's Rage (GOW) - an electric blast radius that fries all within it or Typhon's Bane - basically a glorified bow and arrow. In GOW he's a mortal working with the Gods to knock Ares - the original God Of War - down a peg or two. Problem is, Ares stands taller than Peter Crouch at the top of the Empire State building, which is pretty tall. Thus begins an adventure through Athens and down to Hades in search of the tools to eff him up.
In GOW II, Kratos is tricked into relinquishing all his powers by the vengeful Gods so he teams up with the Titans to teach his old holy chums a lesson in revenge. Across both games you'll kill thousands of enemies without batting an eye-lid. OK, maybe you'll wince a little when he pulls an archer apart with his bare hands.
Apart from the glossy visuals, both games being on one disc and the obligatory Trophies, God Of War Collection doesn't contain anything else you could call new. But it's not like we expected new levels, weapons and a custom soundtrack. Hell no. What we want, and what we're pretty sure you'll agree with when you play it, is a stunning reminder of why God Of War made such an impact on PS2 in the first place.
From the opening moments of both games, you can't help but marvel at the beauty - and scale - of the environments; revelling in glee at the undimmed, visceral, brutality of Kratos' attacks. Countless games have tried and failed to match the epic scale and stylish kills of God Of War since it first appeared in 2005 and they've all been left bloody-nosed.
There's a clutch of games on PS3 in 2010 that are still aiming for that magic formula with Sega's Bayonetta and EA's Dante's Inferno the front-runners. But while God Of War Collection highlights how some of the visuals haven't aged well (especially the untouched cut-scenes) these HD remakes still play great and don't feel out of place on PS3. For us, the opening to God Of War II, where you methodically take down a giant angry statue, stills ranks as one of the greatest openers in any game we've played. And with this collector's edition's spit and polish, it looks even better than before.
What we didn't remember about either game, is how hard they are. It seems unlikely that Sony would've advised Bluepoint Games to up the ante in terms of difficulty, but there's a Trophy specifically called Getting My Ass Kicked, which is a bronze award for dying so many times that you're offered Easy mode. We don't remember the beasts being so tricky to dispatch of first time around, especially the super-strength minotaurs. But we see this extra difficulty as a new challenge for us to enjoy, and absolutely not a steady decrease in our gaming skills.