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Wednesday, June 27, 2012

God of War: Origins Collection (9.3/10)

We live in a time ripe with sequels. Once an intellectual property "hits," sequels inevitably follow. This can either be a good or a bad thing depending on your point of view. It's difficult for Star Wars fans to mention some sequels while feigning ignorance about the others. But the point is that we all have games/movies/books that we love and follow. No matter how many titles get pumped out under the same banner we will flock to them! God of War is such a series for me. So when God of War: Origins Collection was announced I did a happy dance! Finally, I could play the PSP games I never could simply because I didn't own Sony's handheld. Having both Ghost of Sparta and Chains of Olympus on one disc, remastered in HD no less, was a real treat. Fans of Kratos should, without a doubt, take advantage... especially if you missed them the first time around.

One could call the Origins games the missing chapters of Kratos' saga. Of course, you'll notice that they are reaching far back into the pantheon of Greek gods to give him someone to maim and murder. A few of them I'd never heard of (thank heavens for the interwebs!). Both stories provide interesting motivation for the character of Kratos himself. It's nice to see him become a bit more well rounded; less a sociopathic monster, more a fiercely loyal, yet ultimately flawed, man. I love how it's implied he is the cause of the destruction of Atlantis, but the fact that finding his missing brother (he had a brother? How convenient....) as a primary motivation is a bit groan inducing.

I don't feel like the stories are nearly as good, nor as significant to the overarching narrative, as previous entries. For my money, Chains of Olympus is the worst one so far. Personally, I feel like these games are really add-ons, mere side quests in Kratos' long journey than full fledged releases. However, I'm not surprised by this conclusion in the slightest: these games were designed for the PSP, and the developers knew how many fewer fans owned that handheld.

The action is par for the course, exactly as you'd expect... fast paced and chaotic. For my money, this series has some of the tightest controls and most fun gameplay of any action franchise. Just like the other games of the series, there are few other titles out there that leave you with such an overwhelming sense of being an utter bad-ass! Mixing light and heavy attacks along with grapple moves, magic, and a cool variety of toys at your disposal, keeps things from getting boring as you slice and smash your way through the hordes sent to stop you.

However, at times there seemed to be a slight delay in response to input during combat. Hit detection seemed less accurate overall. I also experienced some cheap deaths from multiple enemies hitting me repeatedly while I was down, their stacked attacks not allowing me up. Overall, combat doesn't feel nearly as smooth as the other console releases. However, it's still a blast of brutal entertainment so it's okay!

I won't lie... you'll know you are playing a PSP port. Even with the HD upgrade, both games look dated. But considering the source, they play fine on a big screen with few issues of texture pop-in or lag. The same goes with the sound work and voice acting. Both games are fine as they are, but it's difficult not to think about the majesty that was God of War III's production values.

Sometimes the camera can still give you headaches. I consider wonky camera issues an ingrained problem with third person action titles. But considering God of War mixes free camera control with fixed angles, getting turned around can be commonplace as some of them aren't the best. It can be hard to move when you're backed up to a wall you can't see while getting pummeled by enemies you also can't see. This has, to a lesser extent, been a problem before for this series. I wouldn't say it's prevalent, but certainly never this bad.

It's difficult in situations like this not to directly compare these games to their bigger brothers. But there are a few minor complaints that I feel are worth mentioning in comparison. First, there are lots of invisible walls, more so than previous titles. Finding the correct path isn't always obvious and the platforming sections are quite literally hit and miss. Sadly, Kratos' magic attacks don't feel nearly as potent as before either. The same complaint goes for alternate weapons (apart from the Spartan spear and shield combo... that was fierce!). Some of them are fun, but I feel like they may have used all the good ideas up in the earlier games. I also think the dodge/roll mechanic (while apparently better than it was on the PSP because of the ability to map it to the right analog stick) doesn't work nearly as well, nor as quickly. Considering how much you rely on it, having a slight delay in response time can be infuriating. But these complaints are minor, and really should only be considered when compared to the rest of the series.

Ultimately, the God of War: Origins Collection rounds out the saga of Kratos for those who never played the PSP variants of the series. Personally, I think that of the five God of War games, these two are easily the worst of the bunch. However, they are still God of War and therefore still awesome! I don't think the plots are terribly well developed, but I do appreciate how they add to the overall canon. The fact that these games feel more like stretched out DLC is immaterial. The truth is, it's frickin' God of War, it's frickin' Kratos, so I'm frickin' happy. If you're like me, this one belongs on your shelf alongside the rest of the series.


Score = 9.3 / 10

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