The two games in the collection are Chains of Olympus and Ghost of Sparta. Chains of Olympus begins with Kratos doing the dirty work the Greek gods, who have promised to take away the memories which torment Kratos the most in return. A seemingly simple mission gets infinitely more difficult when the Helios, the sun god, is captured and a black fog which kills everyone it touches starts to cover all of Greece. Of course itís up to Kratos to stop the spread of the fog and along the way confront some demons of his past.
Ghost of Sparta takes place many years later but Kratos is still being haunted by bad memories. These memories relate to his family and the abduction of his brother when they were both children. After a quick visit to his mother Kratos discovers that his brother may still be alive and sets off to find him. Along the way heís going to pay a (brief and destructive) visit to Atlantis and, of course, infuriate a few gods, titans and even death himself.
In Chains of Olympus your arsenal of weapons consists of Kratosís trademark blades, called the Blades of Chaos here, as well as a (rarely used) sun shield and the Gauntlet of Zeus. The latter packs all the punch of a battering ram and will dispatch all but the staunchest enemies in short order.
In Ghost of Sparta the Blades of Chaos are renamed the Blades of Athena. Before long you gain access to Theraís Bane which sets the blades on fire and plants an explosive charge on any enemy unlucky enough to be hit with a strong combo attack. You also have access to traditional Spartan weapons in the form of a spear and shield. Theraís Bane and your Spartan weapons are also required to destroy certain environmental objects during your quest.
Any time you kill an enemy or smash breakable objects, like barrels and pottery, orbs come flying out ready to be collected. Green orbs restore your health, blue orbs restore magic and red orbs are the currency of the game. Red orbs are used to upgrade your weapons and magic, granting you new and more powerful attacks. All of the new combos you unlock are handy, but the reality is that few strong enemies will be hit for the duration of the combo and will attack you mid-combo. Given you canít interrupt your own combos with a block or evasive roll, performing these combos can actually hurt you in battle.
When you bludgeon or magically attack an enemy to the point where they start reeling, a button icon will appear over their head. Pressing the corresponding button will start a quick-time event where you have to press the correct button as it flashes up on screen in order to savagely kill the enemy in question. Killing enemies this way earns big health or magic orb payouts making them well worth the effort. Stringing together large hit combos earns you bonus red orbs; the bigger the combo the bigger the bonus. Both of these elements add variety to your approach in fights, which spices up the action somewhat.
When you save your progress both games lock in how much health you have and youíll restart with it after loading. This could potentially lead to trouble if you save the game with next to no health just before a big fight, but in one of the gameís smarter features youíre given slightly more health if you keep dying in a particular section. Youíll both notice and appreciate this feature on the harder difficulty settings.
Playing this God of War Collection isnít always a barrel of laughs Ė there were some frustrations too. Anyone who reads my reviews knows I am not the most patient person, and one thing I canít stand in a game is unskipable cut-scenes. Unfortunately both of these games have them. Itís not just cut-scenes that you canít skip Ė you also canít skip the narratorís voice-over. This wouldnít be such a big deal but, Chains of Olympus in particular, accentuates the problem by putting restart points just before an unskipable cut-scene or voice-over.
This collection also suffers from a couple of issues present in the whole God of War series. The immovable camera feels thoroughly outdated and it becomes a major obstacle at times when enemies, particularly the Minotaur with its charge attack, hit you from off the screen. It feels cheap and is definitely frustrating on the harder difficulty settings where you lose major health with every hit. The quick-time events feel dated as well and the novelty of them will wear off well before the end of the game. Some boss fights are mundane, requiring you to re-do the same attacks over and over again to the point of boredom. This is not the way boss fights should be. And finally, there arenít enough puzzles in either game for my liking.
The HD graphics really improve the look of both games, though the lack of texturing and detail in the backgrounds provide an ever-present reminder that these were originally PSP games. Kratos and the many enemies in the game all move fluidly and are well animated. Up close they too lack detail, but in the mid-range where most of the game takes place they look just fine.
The score is one area where this collection hasnít been compromised in any way. The dramatic score could have been lifted directly from any other game in the series. The sound effects are as nasty as the punishment Kratos loves to dish out, with the oomph accompanying a hit with the Gauntlet of Zeus a favourite of mine. The voice acting is much like it has been in every other game in the series and fits the action well. For the first time ever I found myself getting tired of Kratosís perpetual rage, but whether the blame for that can be placed at the voice-actors feet is something I canít answer (more likely it has to do with me getting old).
The God of War Collection Volume 2 provides more of the same action that has made Kratos such a star. The story in each game gives us meaningful insight into Kratosís life and provides further justification for his loathing of the gods. If youíve enjoyed previous games in the God of War series and havenít played these on the PSP then this collection is definitely worth your time despite the few flaws.
Review By: Mike Allison