'God of War Collection' review: A divine release or a false idol?

The “God of War” franchise is one of the most violent and explicit game series in existence, but also one of the most popular thanks to its use of mythology, tight gameplay and huge bosses. Now, Sony has released the “God of War Collection” (Sony Computer Entertainment) for the PlayStation Vita – but is it a divine release or a false idol?

The first “God of War” was released for the PlayStation 2 way back in 2005, followed up by a host of other games, including “God of War II” for the same console, “God of War III” on the PlayStation 3 and a series of other side games for handhelds and mobile.

In terms of collections, Sony released “God of War Collection” in 2009 that contained GoW I and II, then “God of War: Saga” in 2012 which included five of the games plus exclusive bonus content.

It’s therefore somewhat disappointing that when planning a release for the PlayStation Vita, Sony decided to release the skinny “God of War Collection,” containing just the first two games. While only just squeezing into the definition of “collection” back in 2009, now there are more games out and it is five years on; this “collection” looks emaciated.

I can understand why Sony couldn’t release “God of War III” as part of the collection due to space constraints. But it seems bizarre that they haven’t thrown in download codes for the prequel games for the PlayStation Portable games. With the PSP now a defunct console, it would seem a no-brainer to bring them forward to the Vita with this collection.

Instead, it’s just “God of War” and “God of War II” with no special features. The graphics are high definition, but it’s not a major overhaul. These are two games that feel very much like PS2 games. They haven’t aged badly, but they are beginning to creak a little on the graphical front.

That doesn’t stop them from being good games, however. In fact, an optimist may argue that Sony’s decision to release the “God of War Collection” shows the trust they put behind the quality of one of their signature franchises.

For although the graphics are a little rough around the edges, and the sound is extremely groggy in parts, the actual games still hold up extremely well.

Set in ancient Greece and loosely based on Greek mythology, you play Kratos, a Spartan warrior who is at the service of the ancient gods. Along the way you slaughter baddies in their thousands, solve puzzles, do some platforming, and fight some of the biggest bosses you will ever encounter in a video game.

Although the combat can grate and become a little repetitive, the games pace themselves well by splitting the combat up with puzzle-solving, cut scenes, and also keep changing environments to keep things fresh.

Unfortunately, some of the aspects of the gameplay that seemed forgivable then are now tough to overlook. The dreaded quick-time events (where a button-prompt flashes on the screen during a combat set-piece) were annoying at the time, but now they are exceedingly so. Also some occasional difficulty spikes may have gamers yelping in annoyance on the bus.

Yet, what games are all about is fun -- and while it’s very disappointing that Sony didn’t make more of an effort with this collection, as it feels cobbled together and a little bit creaky, I still had a riot with “God of War” and “God of War II.”

There good reasons the two games cleaned up awards and sold a ridiculous amount of copies, and it wasn’t just because of the sex and violence. Each game is about 10 to 12 hours long, and both stay solid right until the end. There’s a good 20 to 30 hours of gameplay here, which is by no means a bad deal.

If Sony could have put a bit more effort into jazzing up this collection, this could really be an outstanding set. As it stands, the games themselves manage to withstand the sands of time to make this a worthy purchase. What a shame it couldn’t have been as exceptional as other examples of collections on the market


“God of War Collection” is available now for the PlayStation Vita. The Entertainment Software Rating Board rating is M -- Mature.