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In a change to regular updates, here's a guest review from an old friend of mine, the one and only Seb (who's own blog you can visit here: Seb's blog. Anyway, the lad has been kind enough to do a review of the God of War Collection that was released in the USA not too long ago and here it is for your reading pleasure. Check it out!

In order to whet appetites for the forthcoming release of God of War 3 on PS3, a brand-spanking-new high definition update of the first two God of War games on one disc dubbed the 'God of War Collection' has been released in the US and Asia.

Unless you've been living under a gaming rock for the past couple of years you should be familiar with the chain-blade wielding, Gorgon neck-snapping, Cyclops eye-gouging exploits of Kratos that blood-splattered across our screens in God of War and God of War 2, released on the PS2 back in 2005 and 2007 respectively.
For those of you who don't know what its all about, the main character Kratos, in a nutshell, is a dude who is angry - so angry that he'll bust out of said nutshell, beat you on the head with it until you are just a bloody stump and then proceed to do the same with pretty much the whole of Greek mythology.

Praised for their fluid combat system, brutal violence, top notch story, music and vocal performances, the God of War games are remembered for being groundbreaking titles that pushed the limits on what you could achieve on the PS2 even as it neared the end of its life cycle.

Obviously, this release serves as a reminder of these games, their combat and puzzle mechanics and the continuing story arc in the lead up to the March release of God of War 3, but is the HD update necessary? Couldn't we have just dug out and dusted off our original PS2 copies to revisit this franchise?

Well, speaking for myself, I think that the God of War Collection is plum necessary. A big juicy plum at that.

Let me count the ways:

Firstly, let us address the HD. GOW and especially GOW2 always looked good by PS2 standards. For the most part, the character models, environments and frame-rate were decent on PS2, but here they are simply stunning. Whilst playing, you have a feeling that this is how the game was originally conceived and that Santa Monica Studios had to compromise with the original release in order to fit everything onto a PS2 disc.

In the GOWC, horizons stretch off onto the distance, corners of architecture are sharp and defined and textures are no longer occasionally blurred and muddied. I would even go as far to say that puzzles are made easier to work out and levels simpler to navigate as you can clearly see everything that you can interact with and where the possible passageways and climbable walls exist in order to progress on your quest. No more annoying "Oh, I didn't know you could pull THAT block..." type outbursts.

So the graphics are sweet - perhaps not quite PS3, more like PS2.5. Its just a shame that the in-game cut scenes have not been rendered in HD as these can cause jarring transitions in between action sequences. Although they do remind the player of how much the graphics have been improved, they can pull you out of the experience somewhat as the difference is so huge, especially during the first GOW game.

The CG cinematics however, do still stand up today and look suitably epic and impressive, especially on the nice big shiny tellys you've no doubt bought to play your PS3s on. It’s just a shame that the in-game cut scenes are the only weak link here in this otherwise flawless presentation.

A constant 60fps means that Kratos moves more fluidly than ever, enemies look more impressive, and the brutality and bloodletting are all the more visceral due to the HD overhaul. The gameplay is left unchanged so it plays just like you remembered it, however in hindsight you do notice some flaws in the original game design such as the occasional spot of backtracking, annoying timed instant kill puzzles and certain stretches of level that seem to go on just to lengthen the game (yes GOW2, I'm talking to you!).

Extra costumes and rock hard challenge modes add re-playability and truth be told, I would rather replay these over in HD just to soak in the sumptuous visuals once again.

In fact, everything that makes GOW what it is, benefits from its scale and sense of grandeur. With massive vistas, huge bosses, the bombastic orchestral soundtrack and T.C Carson bellowing out "Athena! You conspire against me?", the GOWC takes the two games to the next level and are totally worth playing again in their updated version if  you have played the originals.

And, let’s face it, initiating the sex minigame with two Greek maidens in a bath with Kratos dressed in a giant cod suit just to get a few red orbs (in HD) is still pretty fricken’ hilarious.

Having the two GOW games on one PS3 blu-ray disc is also a definite bonus as most PS3s lack backwards compatibility to play the originals anyway. Blu-ray also allows for a ton of bonus videos (albeit for GOW2 only) that can be accessed through the video section of the XMB.

Finally, trophy support is also made available (for those of you that care about this sort of thing) although the majority of them seem to be for simply passing checkpoints in the story such as defeating bosses or acquiring a new weapon.

A must buy release then - but here's the rub. It hasn't been released over here. So you have two choices: get it on import (a certain Canadian website has it cheap right now - wink wink), or wait until God of War 3: Ultimate Trilogy Edition is released over here in March - a limited edition set that will contain all three games.

Personally, I think you should buy it now (praise to the gods on Olympus for PS3 discs being region-free!) to be played so that you can be prepared and fully refreshed with the story for its continuation and eventual climax in GOW3. And following GOW2's shock Empire Strikes Back ending we should be extra pumped to find out how it all pans out for Kratos in the third installment.
Let's just hope it doesn't contain Ewoks...

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