GAME NAME: God of War Collection
DEVELOPER(S): Sanzaru Games
PUBLISHER(S): Sony Computer Entertainment
PLATFORM(S): PS Vita
GENRE(S): Action, Adventure
RELEASE DATE(S): May 6th, 2014
When God of War released on the PS2 in 2005, it was a smashing success (pun intended). It won numerous game of the year awards, was named “Best Action Game” and was IGN’s seventh-best PlayStation 2 game of all time. Tom Lane of CNN wrote, “God of War is the type of game that makes you remember why you play games in the first place“. God of War II followed in the footsteps of its younger sibling and was rated the “Best PS2 game of all time” and is considered the “Swan Song” of the PlayStation 2 era.
The success of these two titles could only mean one thing, an HD remake for the PS3 in the form of God of War Collection is on its way. Sony announced that further titles would receive similar treatment, including the two PSP games, Chains of Olympus and Ghost of Sparta. And now, nearly a decade after the first game’s release, God of War Collection is back. This time it’s on the PS Vita. But how does it compare to the original?
In short, God of War Collection for PS Vita is a weak port of 2009’s HD Collection for PS3. Bluepoint did an excellent job on porting God of War I and II to the PS3. Both games run in fluent 1080p /60fps and are generally considered the definitive versions of both games. Unfortunately, Bluepoint was preoccupied porting Titanfall and the task of porting the games to the Vita fell on Sanzaru Games. The biggest problem with their take on the classics is not the faded graphics, audio issues of less than fluid gameplay, but the way Sanzaru handled the pre-rendered cut-scenes. While the rest of the game is rendered at 720×408, before being upscaled to 960×544 for the Vita’s display, the cut-scenes are heavily compressed (the digital version of both games weigh in at a mere a 3.3GB) and run in an unstretched 796×506. The result is a low quality video with muffled dialogue and thick black borders. Transitions to and from gameplay are very jarring, and combined with the quality of the cut-scenes, completely breaks gameplay immersion. Bluepoint had similar issues with the PS3 Collections, but on the smaller more forgiving screen of the Vita, Sanzaru had the advantage and completely dropped the ball.
Looking past the poor quality of the cut-scenes, the rest of the game looks on par with its PS2 and PS3 counterparts, as shown in the fantastic comparison video done by DigitalFoundry. As can be seen, the environments of the Vita version appear slightly less detailed and some objects are out of focus.
Gameplay-wise, the game is solid, violent and brutal. Pretty much what you can expect from a God of War title. One thing that was missing, however, is the fluidness of previous titles. The 60fps of the PS3 remake-version is replaced by a variable frame-rate, averaging between 20-30 fps. The result is a somewhat sluggish response to a button press, that could make those notorious QTE’s difficult to pull off. In this respect, God of War II is by far superior to the original. The frame rate is more consistent (unfortunately still far from 60fps), resulting in smoother gameplay. Contributing to the experience is better rendered graphics (excluding cut-scenes) and the best story of any God of War.
All of this is a shame, considering how good a portable God of War could be. Chains of Olympus and Ghost of Sparta were brilliant games, specifically designed for the PSP. While the additional analogue stick is an obvious advantage for dodging attacks, the lack of shoulder buttons is still an issue, especially for a game originally designed to have four. The effective workaround was to map the functionality of the missing shoulder buttons to the touch interfaces. The rear touch pad grabs and opens objects and the touch screen is used for activating “Rage of the Gods/Titans”, Kratos’ dash and limited weapon switching. While it is relatively easy to get used to this control scheme, interacting with the environment is a bit more arduous and sometimes causing issues during puzzles.
Overall, I enjoyed God of War Collections on the PS Vita. Looking past its issues, it is a decent port of the PS2 versions, even though it should’ve been on par with the PS3 remastered HD version. It is still a blast ripping enemies to shreds and being rewarded for it with trophies. The biggest gripe against Collection on PS Vita is the lack of effort put into porting (and remastering) the originals. As a huge God of War fan, I really wish I could recommend this latest reincarnation, but chances are you’ve played God of War I and II numerous times before and you are only reading this review out of curiosity. If for some reason you missed God of War in all of its previous incarnations, and only have a Vita to get into the action, then go out and buy God of War Collection now. With the limited amount of Vita games out there, you won’t be any worse off picking it up. If you are a die-hard fan of the series and in dire need for a portable God of War for your Vita, here’s what you do. Go to the PlayStation Store, buy a digital copy of God of War Collection for PS3 and claim your free cross buy copy on the PS Vita (or vice versa). If you would much rather have a physical copy, rather wait for a price drop or invest in a secondhand copy.