There's something that I have to admit as an avid fan of action games. It's not easy but I really need to come clean about it. I think the God of War series is fairly overrated. Wait, wait! Put down those tomatoes and give me a chance to explain myself before I'm hung out to dry. The God of War series is an incredibly visceral gaming experience that balances wonderfully between accessible gameplay and being challenging as heck. But before it came along there were plenty of other action games that had already declared themselves my master, namely Devil May Cry, so I never grew to be as enthusiastic about the titles as I might have otherwise been.
However that doesn't mean that I haven't grown to become a fan of the series. To a degree. The first God of War was a seminal action-adventure title, crafting plenty of knock-offs that did their best to water down the work that this title did. As a gamer who is not fond of the Quick-Time Events, also known as those damnable button press mini-games, the way that they are implemented in this series makes it hard not to enjoy them. They're forgiving enough that you can learn to master them while also being challenging enough that you don't just feel like it's a cakewalk.
But while the QTE's are one of the more recognizable parts of the series, it's not the most important part. That belongs to the combo based combat system, namely when you're using Kratos' famed chained blades. Watching him turn into a whirling dervish of death that tears through enemies wholesale is just an intensely satisfying, and highly visceral, experience. Smacking enemies around like toys and then grabbing a harpy, tearing her wings off, and then turning to beat on her allies is just pure awesome.
God of War II upped the ante by introducing even more awesomeness to the mix. Giving Kratos the Golden Fleece, a plate on his arm that can be used to reflect projectile attacks back at the users, as well as the Wings of Icarus, which allow you to float for short distances, allowed the games to really grow from just the somewhat simplistic combat to a much more tactical experience.
The games have been lifted over entirely into this compilation. All of the bonus materials from the games have survived intact, from the extras on the disc to the second disc with bonus goodies in GoW II. Although there is some graphical slowdown in parts that seems to be from a not quite 100% port of the titles it still runs much smoother thanks to being locked in at 60 frames per second. With that exception the gameplay itself is still the same great game that it was on the PS2 with the addition of trophies. During the first God of War using the pressure sensitive R2 button to open chests and doors is a real pain in the behind since the button is so mushy but that quickly changes in GoW II so it's not a big issue.
What causes issues for this collection is the graphical issues that pop up constantly throughout the experience. The first, and main, problem is that of the widescreen approach that has taken for this upgrade.
To those who have the original God of War games you are likely familiar with the Progressive Scan option. With this enabled the graphics are boosted a bit, making things less pixilated (a problem for almost all PS2 games being played in HD). However turning on the widescreen option pulled the game across the screen, stretching it out to such an uncomfortable degree that the circular button prompts became ovals. This made things look kind of yicky so whenever the game was played at my house we always turned on Progressive Scan and used our HDTV options to stretch the picture without dealing with the ovals.
Obviously this wasn't something to complain about back then since HD wasn't the standard but we can reasonably expect more with HD being the new standard. Prepare to be surprised!
As you start playing the game you will rapidly notice that you don't appear to have as much screen to work with. Much like when you used the in-game widescreen option the game screen is squished. What makes this doubly infuriating is that not too long ago us console gamers dealt with this silliness with Bioshock on the Xbox 360. With the huge backlash against that title for this decision one would think that games released after it wouldn't take this path. Well they did and it looks terrible. This makes any of the vertical climbing sections really frustrating since enemies appear almost out of nowhere to cheap shot you. It also makes certain boss fights annoying since their health bars can cover where Kratos is standing, leaving you unable to find yourself.
The other main issue with this remastering is that the cutscenes look absolutely terrible. While the first and last cutscenes of the game look great as they did in the PS2 games the other cinematics look incredibly dated. They are really dark and the models look fairly bad, with sausage fingers all around. When actually playing this is nowhere near as bad but since the cutscenes focus on this it's hard to ignore. Luckily the backgrounds have all been made a lot better, being far more detailed and brighter than they were previously. Thanks to the wonders of anti-aliasing almost all of the jaggies are gone from the character models with most of the graininess removed. This makes it a whole lot easier to play these games on an HDTV where all of the graphical flaws can be a bit magnified.
Considering the price tag slapped on this bad boy it's hard to get too miffed over these details. If you already own God of War and don't mind how it looks then there's no reason to own this except for possibly the trophies. It's a shame that they didn't include either the PSP or mobile entries in the series since those are the more rarely played games but overall it's a decent enough package. So long as you don't come into this expecting a full PS3 game experience from it then you will likely enjoy yourself a good bit with these modern classical games.