HD collections are quickly becoming something the PS3 is becoming known for. I'm a big fan of these re-releases, which include storied franchises such as Tomb Raider, Sly Cooper, Prince of Persia, and several others either out now or soon to be released. No HD collection had me quite as excited as God of War: Origins Collection when it was announced at E3, though. Featuring HD-ified versions of the two previously PSP-only God of War adventures, the Origins Collection is an absolute must have for any PS3 library.
The Collection Detailed
I remember diving into God of War: Chains of Olympus with eager anticipation way back in April of 2008, having long since played through God of War and God of War II multiple times. I remember thinking "I can't believe this is on a portable." Chains of Olympus had all of the trimmings and robustness of a top tier PS2 title, deserving a spot up there with the likes of its console predecessors. Ghost of Sparta, released about two and half years later, felt exactly the same way.
Like most reviewers, I was wowed by Chains of Olympus. To this day it remains the highest overall rated PSP game, according to Metacritic and for good reason, with Ghost of Sparta rated very closely behind it. Personally, I'm not sure which one I like better, which is a 'problem' I face when thinking about the three "main" God of War games, too. Amazingly, they are not only all superb games from start to finish, but they all had a different Creative Director at the helm. Five different games, five different directors, and all outstanding; it's really a tremendous, unique accomplishment.
As far as this Origins Collection goes, what exactly do you get for $40? Quite a lot actually; a complete list would look something like this:
-God of War: Chains of Olympus
-God of War: Ghost of Sparta
-Both titles have been re-mastered in 1080p HD (at 60 fps if I'm not mistaken)
-Stereoscopic 3D support
-Dolby 5.1 Surround and DualShock 3 rumble support
-The Bonus Content from Ghost of Sparta: This includes the Game Directors Live roundtable discussion video (in HD) in which the five directors from God of War games talk about their experiences making the games. This runs about an hour and a half, and it's really interesting for anyone with an interest in the series or in game development in general really. Additionally, the Legionnaire skin for Kratos is available and the Forest of the Forgotten combat arena.
Combined, the two games themselves will yield around sixteen hours of more of gameplay on your first time through, but like the other God of War games, expect to enjoy these multiple times. Oh, and that's not including the additional Challenge modes for completionists and Trophy hunters. For those of us who fondly remember playing these titles on our PSPs, hoping SCEA would release these on console, this is a very welcomed release and at a price you can't beat.
Two Games That Always Felt Bigger Than the Platform They Were On
Chains of Olympus and Ghost of Sparta always felt like they deserved to be on a console; their production value far exceeded most every portable title on any platform on the market, so in terms of how they play on the PS3, let me just say they feel right at home. From the control scheme, which is practically identical to the other God of War games, to the slick, fast paced, high frame rate visuals, nothing about the Origins Collection seems off or out of place.
When you first fire up the game from the XMB, a selection screen appears for each title, which then launches inside of a transparent 'container.' To switch games, you have to quit out to the XMB and relaunch the disc, but I don't see most folks switching between games very often at all. Both adventures are engaging enough that you will want to play through one at a time, in other words. That said, each title, upon first launch, will ask you to use the left thumbstick to adjust the screen size so that four corner marks appear properly aligned with your screen. This takes two seconds and then you're off to play or adjust a few options including sound volume, 3D intensity if a 3DTV is detected, and so forth. There are no other visual or graphical options besides adjusting the screen size, but I found the lone option sufficient.
Playing each game has been like a welcomed trip down memory lane, as I have not played either of these adventures in some time. For Chains, it's been over two years now, but it didn't take any time at all to get pulled right back in. Chains of Olympus takes place in between God of War and II, with Kratos still trying to rid himself of the dreadful nightmares of killing his wife and child. Chains features the God of dreams, Morpheus, whose presence at different points in the game made the environment take on interesting features. Other than the final boss fight, which I didn't find as much of a pain this time around as I did in 2008 -- Chains of Olympus is amazing and really as fun this time around as it was three years ago.
Ghost of Sparta also takes place between I and II, but is a more introspective and personal journey for Kratos as he again faces demons of his past. The Hyperion Charge, a new tackling ability available from the start of the game, is still a lot of fun and something that I wish the other games in the series had. Ghost of Sparta has Kratos passing through the Domain of Death, Thanatos' territory, with a variety of brooding minions and the God of Death himself awaiting. Par for the series, Ghost of Sparta has all of the massive boss fights, unique magic powers, and superb action adventure we have come to know and love. As I mentioned during my original review though, I had hoped by the series' fifth iteration that the overuse of levers and cranks to activate doors and other objects would have been toned down, but alas that was not the case.
To the summary...