Wednesday, May 21, 2014

God of War Collection (PS VITA)

For those of you who have either been living under a rock, or are new to the gaming scene you can now enjoy the brutal goodness of Sony's first two "God of War" games on the "PS Vita" for a fraction of the cost of what the original games initially sold for. The two part collection which is basically a collectively emulated port of the first two PS2 releases comes complete with all the hidden secrets, cutscenes, and God of War action that one could desire. Kratos' story, including that of his origin, and his fight against/for the Gods of Olympus can now be experienced in a scaled down version that is complimented with remapped controls that are designed to make the playthrough on the Vita an easier, and more viable experience.

When you start up your $30 "God of War Collection", supposing you have opted to buy, or rent it you will be welcomed by a start screen similar to what you'd find in a video game emulator. Front, and center in the blazing inferno that is the start menu there are two title icons related to each of the first two "God of War" releases. By clicking on either title you will begin your playthrough of that selected game. Both games are exactly the same as their PS2 counterparts with the exceptions of the remapped controls, and low resolution cutscenes which are included alongside the action oriented adventure.

In the first "God of War" game you will follow Kratos as he comes to terms with his haunting past, and with his past dealings with the Gods of Olympus. Having been recruited by the Gods themselves Kratos ultimately begins his trek across various Greek, and Athenian locales to secure a weapon fit to kill a god. The first God in his sights just so happens to be the God of War himself, Ares. After finally securing the required weapon through many perilous battles, and defeating Ares with it Kratos comes to realize his role in the grand scheme of things, and ends up changing his focus at the end of his ordeal upon Mt.Olympus itself.

As you play through the first game as Kratos you will murder your way through hordes of mythological creatures, and larger than life bosses/gods as you try to fulfill the manipulative requests set before you. There's plenty of weapons at your disposal including the infamous chain blades, and elemental attacks bestowed upon Kratos by the Gods themselves. Your attacks, which are all brutal in nature deal combo oriented damage, and allow for bloody/gory finishing moves on some of the creatures that you'll encounter. For those wondering about the notorious sex mini-games, and nudity those features are still very much intact, and are one of many reasons why the "God of War Collection" is rated "M" for "Mature".

In the follow-up sequel to the first blockbuster "God of War" hit you will find that the second game remains as intact as the first handheld port did. In fact the story of "God of War II" is exactly the same as it was initially. All of the in-game features remain the same including the basic controls (only remapped), puzzles based interactions, and sex-mini-games. The only real differences come with the scaled down/low-res cutscenes, the remapped button layout/functionality, and the new selection of upgradeable weaponry made available to the newly crowned "God of War". In a nutshell "God of War II" features basically the same changes, and adjustments that were made known in the first "God of War" port.

In the second part of Kratos' epic story of revenge we find him on a quest to take down Mt. Olympus, and all of the God's that lie therein. After being crowned as the new "God of War" in the last game Kratos decides to put his new godly powers to proper use. His aim is to kill all of the gods for their betrayal at the end of the first "God of War" story arch. Of course the Gods of Olympus, being the all knowing gods that they are know what is going on, and send out a variety of powerful creatures to stop him in his footsteps. The creatures this time range from Titans, and mechanical giants to denizens of the damned. Regardless of their efforts though the Gods themselves end up falling one by one as Kratos hikes his way up towards the home of the Gods with the aid of a Titan. No one is safe in this bloody revenge plot. Not even Zeus himself. When it's all said, and done Kratos' trail of bloody revenge ends in an open ended conclusion leading up to the other "God of War" games that unfortunately are not included in this collection.

When it comes to controls, and overall gameplay functionality in the "God of War Collection" it is slightly different from what veteran "God of War" players will be used to. While (SQUARE, TRIANGLE, CIRCLE & X), and DPad (Assigned God Powers) button functions remain the same the method of opening crates, and interacting with objects significantly differs as does certain special boosts. In order to open things such as gates, and crates you will have to touch/hold the PS Vita's back touch pad to activate the control function. The same goes for moveable objects that are put into place for the various platforming puzzles. Aside from the back touch pad functions also comes some touchscreen controls/functions that mainly deal with the "Rage of the Gods" power boost, and other god bestowed powers.

While this control setup works for the most part veteran GoW players will more than likely find themselves confused in certain situations where they are trying to solve a puzzle amidst creature attacks. The back touch pad on the Vita is such an odd, and underused part of the handheld console that most people disregard it, and completely forget about it. As such it doesn't exactly feel right on such a traditional controller based gameplay experience. The touchscreen functions on the other hand don't pose much of a problem though as they are visible, and are made easily accessible to the player.

Now for the verdict ...

The "God of War Collection" definitely has it's pros, and cons regardless of it's well known, and well respected roots. On the pro side of things the actual gameplay is beautifully rendered (HD Remasterd with the exception of the low-res cutscenes), and is easily played on the Vita if you can adapt to the rear touch pad being a vital part of the controls. Aside from visual pros the sound is also actually rather impressive on the Vita, and carries with it a haunting, and ambient soundtrack that fully brings to life the onscreen action. On the downside you'll often times find instances where the rear touch pad does not work in your favor. Either the touch pad won't realize you're pressing it when you are actually trying to, or it will activate when you barely touch it accidentally.

Another downside, or con comes with the slowed down, and stuttering frame rate that occurs in instances of intense action. Having frame rate issues in such intense circumstances really limits the success rate at overcoming the insurmountable odds set before you in the action heavy gameplay. It should also be noted that the evade roll, which is assigned to the (Right Thumbstick) is not always accurate in direction, and will cause for some frustrating times within the game, especially when you are trying to evade attacking enemies. The added fact that the evade roll feels as if it's out of functional, and applicable reach really does a disservice to the control layout, and it's intended purpose.

For the $30 asking price you are ultimately getting an emulated port with decent gameplay spanning across two highly impressive games. Also included is an excellent soundtrack, and slightly dulled visuals (in the way of cutscenes). If you can get past the games' flaws then you might just be able to enjoy this game on your Vita handheld. If you think controls might be an issue for you though, and if the thought of low-res cutscenes bother you you might choose to get a discounted copy when it goes on sale (supposing it does), or when a used copy is made available for a lesser price at your local Gamestop, or video game retailer. Renting it might also be a good option since this is likely a set of games you'll only playthrough once for nostalgia purposes, and rarely return to due to it's lack of replay value.

As for me I personally think the gameplay is manageable, and that the game is actually fun on the Vita. It offers you a way to play the first two "God of War" games on the go. I'm a long time fan of the "God of War" series, and having the option to play them on my Vita was a huge plus in itself. Would I have paid $30 for the collection? Probably not. I feel as if this game warranted at least a five dollar price drop ($25), because of it's less than professional design. That is my opinion though. You can take it as you see fit.

*NOTE*: Each game comes complete with it's own PSN trophies. It's a welcome extra for all those trophy hounds out there!

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