It's almost been five years since we were first introduced to Kratos and turned him from a bloodthirsty servant of Ares into the God of War himself; and it was only a couple of years after that when we witnessed the Ghost of Sparta take up arms against the ruler of the Olympians with the aid of the mythical Titans. Well-received both critically and commercially, the God of War title has become a revered name on Sony's format. Bite-sized spin-offs took Kratos mobile on the PSP and cell phones, but it's his return to the home console with the PS3 sequel which is scheduled to continue his legend—and what better way to prepare for it than with re-mastered versions of the games that built the series.
While it's neither difficult nor expensive to find new or used copies of either Playstation 2 God of War game, Sony Computer Entertainment and their Santa Monica Studio have taken a page from George Lucas' playbook by updating two of their classics with cleaner, clearer visuals for a more powerful system. Unlike the travesty of Greedo shooting first, however, the acclaimed core gameplay in both God of War and God of War II has been untouched: a single Blu-ray Disc houses all of the original content of each game, with Trophy support being the only added element.
For the most part, the graphical enhancements make for noticeably better looking games, but they also provide striking evidence of how well acquainted the teams were with the PS2 hardware during each game's production. With updated 1280 x 720 HD resolutions, new texture filters in-game and in cutscenes, and two times anti-aliasing, the games look better than they ever have, but both haven't necessarily aged well.
God of War was a trend-setter for visceral action-adventure games. With an incredible amount of violent combat, intense imagery and just the right amount never-too-straining puzzle elements, Kratos' warpath of revenge mixed age-old mythos with entertaining gameplay. At the time, the game was a technical marvel, but when compared to many PSN or XBLA titles of today with deep textures and detail, God of War looks more like a beefed up PS One release due to blocky character anatomy.
Similarly, some controls don't translate too well on the DualShock 3 as trying to open doors and grappling objects with a flimsy R2 trigger can be fatal and frustrating.
That being said, even though you can see some of the anti-aliasing filters on objects from time to time, the game runs beautifully, loads quickly, and looks crisp in this version, save for a few cutscenes using the game's original code. The glaring difference between original assets and re-mastered updates make evident the work done here. It may not stand up to many of today's games graphically, but playing God of War in this Blu-ray bundle is certainly the definitive way of becoming re-acquainted with Kratos' journey.
The shortcomings of the first game are made even more evident once you boot up its sequel. Playing God of War II on the PS3 makes it feel more like newer download exclusive than a PS2 game. Improvements on shine and lighting effects, greater and more detailed draw distances, and added gameplay mechanics all work well and look impressive when done in high-definition. Despite being a game made for last-generation's hardware, you're jaw is still bound to drop when you run along the chain reins of the Horses of Time with the camera panning around a surreal island.
Similarly, for this re-mastered edition, changes in controls make combat and overall movement more accessible even when played on PS3 controllers. Also, the game's extra content is optimized for the new hardware. Behind-the-scenes features originally included on a separate disc for God of War II are now accessed from the video section of the console's XrossMediaBar.
As a compilation of graphical updates to some of the industry's most well-received games, God of War Collection is a must-have for any who want to re-visit Kratos' storyline before the next sequel is released—though you get a taste of what's to come with the added download code for the E3 demo. It may be the gaming equivalent of upgrading from DVD to Blu-ray Discs since the core gameplay remains untouched, but whether you've played either of the God of War games or not, this two-for is the way to experience the classics.