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I love God of War. I’ve suffered endless shtick for awarding God of War 3 a 10/10, yet I firmly believe that judged against other ‘spectacle’ games, the PS3-exclusive brawler has no peers. I generally don’t replay games, yet I’ve finished God of War 2 and 3 twice and revisited the opening section of the third game too many times to count. Having said all that, I wasn’t particularly excited by the prospect of PSP games Chains of Olympus and Ghost of Sparta in HD on the PS3. I enjoyed them on the PSP, but let’s be honest – they couldn’t compete with the proper home consoles games, could they?
Well, the answer is fairly boring. While the pair do lack the sheer awesomeness of the second game and come nowhere close to the visual splendour of the series’ debut on PS3, they still offer excellent hack ‘n’ slash thrills and – especially in the case of Ghost of Sparta – look pretty great in HD. If you’ve never experienced the games on the PSP, then don’t let their handheld origins put you off.
Chains of Olympus was an incredible achievement on its release, managing to cram the brutal God of War experience onto the handheld without too many sacrifices. It used a slightly awkward roll mechanic (you had to hold down both shoulder buttons to turn the analogue nub into a make-shift second stick) but other than that it was business as usual. Kratos could hack up enemies using the titular Chains of Olympus, upgrade his attacks by spending collected red orbs, gain access to magic attacks, and use QTEs to violently kill bigger foes.
On PlayStation 3 Chains of Olympus feels a little basic these days, both in terms of combat and visuals. While a fun jaunt for a fairly brief five hours, there’s a definite sense that this isn’t a console game. Developer Ready at Dawn did its best to create spectacular moments, but the gameplay that lies between boss encounters isn’t as complex or as challenging as what PS2 and PS3 players will be accustomed to.
Ghost of Sparta is a different beast. No doubt helped by the learning experience of developing Chains of Olympus, Ready at Dawn managed to up the scale significantly for its PSP sequel. When it arrived on the PSP in 2010 there was a sense of God of War fatigue, but having played through the game again on Sony’s home console, there’s no doubt that this is an expertly-made entry in the series.
Combat is more diverse thanks to a range of new abilities and magic attacks, while the game’s graphics are up there with the best the PS2 ever managed. In fact, there’s an argument that Ghost of Sparta betters the exquisite God of War 2 at certain points – although certainly not overall. Ghost of Sparta is a bigger game than its PSP predecessor too, offering about three hours more play time and larger, more epic locations. Overall Ghost of Sparta is by far the better of the two PSP titles.
Compared to most PS3 titles the two games look a little lacking in terms of gloss and effects, but it’s testament to the art design that both still manage to be visually appealing. Modern titles on the PS3 certainly offer more complex environments and higher polygon characters, but the clean lines of the architecture on offer here and the excellent use of Greek mythology combine to make something that’s far more impressive than it really has any right to be. Even the game’s cinematics have been re-rendered in HD, showing how much effort the team has put into the remastering.
Equally as important as the updated HD visuals is the introduction of rolling on the second analogue stick. In the PSP originals, rolling using the aforementioned button combination worked but was a bit awkward, so being able to quickly flick the right stick makes a big difference. If you really want the authentic PSP experience you can play with the old control scheme, but if you’ve played any of the three home console God of War games you’ll want to use the new setup.
The only real downside of this package is the relevance of the two games within the God of War universe. To put it bluntly, neither is essential. They add some details that fans will appreciate, but they could be missed entirely – sort of like how Channel 4 makes late-night episodes of Hollyoaks, ones that add new storylines without alienating the younger viewers that only watch the early evening show.
God of War Collection Volume 2 isn’t as impressive as the original HD pack due to not including the modern classic that is God of War 2, but these two PSP games still stand up well on the PS3. The HD remastering has been handled extremely well, and thanks to the improved controls these are the definitive versions of Kratos’ smaller outings.