Thank god for Wikipedia, eh? In preparation for writing this article, I thought I’d brush up on my knowledge of Greek mythology. After reading just the storyline for the first game, I realised trying to tie the game to any actual documented Grecian mythos could possibly a. fill all of my 800 required words and b. liquefy my brain, causing it to dribble out of my ears. The Sony exclusive God of War franchise (five non-numerical releases to date) has always had a somewhat fortuitous relationship with its source material. But we’re not here for a history lesson dear reader, we’re here to stab grungy Cyclops in their only functioning eye and tear squiggly Persian sprites from coccyx to cortex.
Kratos is one exceptionally angry man. He seems exist on a diet of hatred and self-loathing (no wonder he’s gone bald, all the stress). But I guess, if you’ve been dicked over by Greek gods as many times as he has, he’s reasonably entitled to be. The soldier who was once Ares' bitch, laying waste to swathes of imperial soldiers at the bequest of beardy chaps and chappesses in clouds. When he ends up getting tricked into butchering his own family mid red-mist brought forth by the titular God of War, the ‘Ghost of Sparta’ sets out to shake the foundations of Mount Olympus.
The God of War Collection 2 is a high-definition update of the franchise’s small-screen, portable outings, previously only available on the PSP – Chains of Olympus and the follow-up Ghost of Sparta – now double-packed for the PS3. Those unfamiliar with the earlier chapters of the story could well be forgiven for turning their noses up at some of the choppier elements, blocky NPCs and bitmapped cut scenes. But with producer David Jaffe soon returning to the fold with an update of his cult action-racer Twisted Metal, it’s a perfect time to revisit a huge Sony franchise title - one that has yet to checkmate cross platform. And the two portable variations with their segmented chunks of disembowelment and box shoving, set against some grand moments sit like two very happily peas in a pod as a retail product.
Mainly, they’re two very similar games, just with ever-so-slightly different settings. Story-wise, we’re not looking at much variation from a three-point soap opera story. Kratos, besieged by visions of his daughter seeks to save her from the wrath of the gods; Kratos, besieged by visions of his mother seeks to find his long-lost brother. Its storyline might not be particularly high-concept, but then again, neither is its source material. God of War was a great homage to the old school brawler. It was the Golden Axe of the PS2 generation, given a roving 3D revisualisation. It revelled in the classic scrolling beat ‘em up touch points that made Final Fight and Streets of Rage such enduring successes. Take a location full of bad guys and a bunch of simple intuitive button combinations, and leave it to a combination of reflex and input memory of the player, to tap them in accordance with the cadence of the action on screen. Its generous input window lent a real elasticity of moves, adding enthusiasm and conviction to every slice, dive or block of Kratos’ Blades of Athena. And it totally still does.
Ready At Dawn, originally producing for portable certainly took care to silo each section for portable play, and with very few meandering puzzles, both titles are equally proportioned for easily digestible 30 minute chunks.
As far as differentiation, Ghost of Sparta is certainly the more creative – with various weapons available as well as a charge and tackle attack – and Kratos’ parry defense knocking down all in sundry. Chains of Olympus concentrates more on the scale of the whole endeavour, as he seeks to free the Titans from their binds deep within the Earth.
Even in its portable manifestation, God of War has always done spectacle well. The franchise-long narration by Linda Hunt (she was in Dune and fucking Kindergarten Cop) returns, as do the long travelling shots of Kratos scurrying angrily to the top of burning city at the mercy of some horrible dragon thing. It might not have acres of unlockable elements or time trials, but in a proud old fashioned way, it’s accessible enough for another blast on a higher difficulty.
Like some HBO drama, the series just keeps churning out new ways to bastardise Greek mythology with an angry bald bollock at the centre. You won’t get anything wildly new if you own any of the previous games. But like the old saying goes, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. The God of War Collection 2 is a wallet friendly little pairing which might not blind you with its originality, but certainly demonstrates the flexibility of Kratos and his journey, and the power of a simple, well realised product. Stay angry Kratos – we wouldn’t want you any other way.