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God of War 3 (PS3)
God of War 3 (PS3)
Offered by Game Trade Online
Price: 14.49

4.0 out of 5 stars A Slightly Flawed Gem, 13 Jan 2012
= Fun:4.0 out of 5 stars 
This review is from: God of War 3 (PS3) (Video Game)
I began God of War 3 having recently played through God of War Collections' 1 & 2 in the past month, based on a friend's recommendation (for which you can read my reviews here on Amazon). Aside from the decidedly sub-par Chains of Olympus, God of War 1, God of War 2 and Ghost of Sparta were all excellent games that were just a joy to play. There was therefore no hesitation on my part when putting the God of War 3 disc into my console.

As the opening credits roll, we are treated to a somewhat artistic recap of the series so far which I feel, if you haven't played the other games, does not provide enough information on the previous games for new players to perhaps understand where the story begins at the outset of the game. I guess that's why Sony re-released the previous games in HD Classics packs (and I was thankful I chose to play the others first). Once the opening credits finish, we are left looking into the face of the series' protagonist, the eternally furious Spartan, Kratos. I was immediately stunned by the level of detail as he glared at me from my television and this was simply the main menu - I hastily selected new game.

The game opens immediately after the conclusion of the second game and what occurs over the course of this first chapter was simply stunning. As you would expect, visuals are crystal clear and draw distance is simply unbelievable, with events taking place close to Kratos and in the greater distance that look as though a cutscene is playing. If I thought the locales from God of War 1 and 2 were distracting, then this takes it to a whole new level. I almost did not realise that I had been handed control of Kratos until the camera started to zoom back into a more comfortable level. The entirety of this first chapter and its end boss are constructed well by the producers and I can only imagine the hard work and dedication it took to create such a jaw-dropping introduction to this game.

Once you get beyond that initial level, I found that I "got used" to the chapters that followed and that I no longer was stunned by the execution of the game and it was only when I reached the midway point did those well-constructed, stunning set-pieces re-appear. By all means, the chapters after the initial one are entertaining and look great, but, unfortunately the design can appear a little uninspired and, certainly when compared with that amazing opening chapter, may get a little dull for some players. However, the plethora of vicious enemies, new and old, waiting to tear you to little pieces kept me thoroughly entertained. You will find the usual Undead soldiers, Cyclops, wraiths, harpies, minotaurs, gorgons but there are several new enemies thrown into the mix and, whilst they don't do anything particularly new, they are nicely (or perhaps that should be disgustingly) designed.

The controls remain largely the same as previous instalments with the Square button controlling quick, "light" attacks, the Triangle button making Kratos do heavier, albeit slower, attacks, with the X button controlling jumping, gliding and climbing and the Circle button being used to interact with events on screen (opening health or magic chests, oversized doors and saving your progression in the game). L1 blocks and can parry away attacks if timed right, L2 (in conjunction with any of the face buttons) produces special moves that are generally very useful as you will come to see. As the game produces, you are able to spend collected red-orbs on upgrading and unlocking extra moves which, whilst remaining as effective in previous games, I felt more depth was required this time around and I could only wish the producers would have taken a little bit more time in this area.

R1 is used to grapple around environments when prompted and R2 is used to perform magic moves which are generally best saved for tough or boss-like characters. The D-Pad selects additional weapons whilst Left Stick moves Kratos and Right Stick causes him to dodge and roll out of the way of any incoming attacks. The controls work fine, as always, but I couldn't help but think that the Dodge control would be better suited elsewhere, with the ability to control the camera replacing it - the game, on occasion, became frustrating given the strange camera angles offered (sometimes preventing the player from seeing where to progress). It also became somewhat irritating when fighting one of the bosses who I won't name (but let's just say he's light on his feet) and, as he zipped around Kratos (especially toward the camera), it became difficult to find him (as the camera refused to move).

Lack of camera controls aside, it is testament to the game's developers when gameplay that should surely be dated by today's standards is still as entertaining and well handled as it was in God of War 1. The gameplay, beyond the foundation of Greek mythology, has been the staple of the series - a simplistic action platformer / "hack-and-slash" that may appear to be a repetitive "button basher" to some but, given the wealth of strategy offered to you in attack (and, somewhat, in defence) and the multitude of enemies, it becomes much more than this. The game presents you with a large amount of attacking combinations to dissect your foes with and, as with previous games in this series, it is fantastic working out the best moves for each enemy and how to quickly dispatch them.

Unfortunately, I found puzzles in this instalment to be rather disappointing (in comparison with God of War 2) and they were far too simplistic, requiring little to no challenge (reminiscent of those found in Chains of Olympus and Ghost of Sparta). I felt there was wasted opportunity to create some particularly interesting puzzles and, the only one I remember that stood out, was over in several minutes and was not difficult. It did however look fantastic and was interesting to play (imagine a lesser version of the game series Portal, except with static portals and you get the picture).

Finally, as the game's conclusion fades from your screen which I found to neatly conclude the series, the game run time however was not. Even on harder difficulties, this game can be completed in approximately 6 to 8 hours and offers little in the way of replayability (beyond the use of additional items found in-game that can only be used once the game is complete). I did truly expect the producers add more depth in terms of story and level structure (for example, similar scenes as to the "Return to Sparta" level in Ghost of Sparta would have been particularly interesting). This is all the more surprising given the storage that a Blu-Ray disc is able to hold.

All in all, I did thoroughly enjoy God of War 3, with the positives more or less outshining the negatives - I do feel the producers should have taken more time with it (in terms of additional puzzles and story/level expansion). For its current price, however, God of War 3 is great, simple fun and should be a must have in any PS3 owner's collection (especially those with an already established love of the series and / or games of this genre).

In Short

Positives

+ Simply stunning set pieces that are, at times, breath taking.
+ Beautiful visuals that compliment Kratos and God of Way in every way.
+ Entertaining gameplay.
+ As always, interesting mythology and background.
+ Artistic direction purely sublime that betters other God of War games in most instances.
+ Fantastic boss bottles that make good use of the word "epic".
+ Satisfactory conclusion to the saga.
+ Great supporting characters.

Negatives

- Short run time (even on higher difficulty levels).
- Weapons levelling system whilst still effective needed more depth this time around.
- Lack of camera control should perhaps have been addresses by now.
- Some chapters contain uninspired level designs and interiors that, when compared with the opening chapter, may appear somewhat dull.
- Puzzles are far too simple, forgoing some of the added complexity that God of War 2 brought us.

4 / 5


Factotum [DVD]
Factotum [DVD]
Dvd ~ Matt Dillon
Price: 3.79

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Bukowski-lite, 10 Jan 2012
This review is from: Factotum [DVD] (DVD)
Having been introduced to the excellent Charles Bukowski and his simple yet masterful works of semi-autobiographical novels (the brilliant Post Office, Factotum and Ham on Rye to name a few) through a friend of mine, I decided that this film, the screen version of his second novel (together with a selection of events from short stories added in to the mix), was at least worthy of a viewing.

To its credit, the film (following the down-and-out Henry Chinaski as he drinks and gambles his way from one job to the next) was interesting enough to warrant sitting through to the end and this is largely due to the source material. I must say, in places, the humour was portrayed correctly thanks to a believable performance from Matt Dillon, who captured the essence of Chinaski pretty well but the rest of the supporting characters (Chinaski's bosses aside) did not fare too well. A film company from Norway produced the film and the extras are all unfamiliar to me, and the lack in experience shows through in many of the scenes which ruins my perception of Bukowski's classic.

I was also somewhat disappointed that the film was set in modern day and thought it would have fared better had it been depicted in the actual time period Bukowski wrote the novel. Ultimately, this changes a lot of the perspectives in the film given the difference in values throughout the generations. My friend rightly points out that had the setting been post-war America, as in the book, the authenticity would have been there, and perhaps it would have retained the zeitgeist feel of the era in which it was based.

Another disappointment arrives in the form of the material presented on screen or rather, lack thereof. Essentially, a lot of great scenes from Factotum were either relegated to the "deleted scenes" bin or didn't even make the original script. This is unfortunate as some of Bukowski's most hilarious scenes have been wasted - a fight with an older, crazy janitor at the Times, Chinaski's time in New York and the taxi cab boss who has Chinaski and co racing down LA River to name a few. The producers also felt that some scenes deserved to be shorter; Chinaski's time at the art supply shop was rushed and poorly done, the dream of Chinaski pushing the rich guy through the gaps at the race course was turned into a non-dream where Chinaski just punches the arrogant fellow and the film's conclusion was edited unnecessarily in comparison with the novel's ending.

Finally, Bukowski's novels (Pulp aside) all have little to no semblance of a plot. In written narrative, this works surprisingly well but, expectedly, it doesn't have the same affect on screen and comes across as an art film to some degree, which some may find boring given the lack of any real conclusion.

Whilst the film was ultimately disappointing and was somewhat wasted, it was interesting to watch the film for Dillon's performance and, if you consider yourself a Bukowski fan, its worthy of viewing, if only once.

2 / 5


God of War Collection (PS3)
God of War Collection (PS3)
Offered by Digitalville UK
Price: 13.73

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An exceptional aide memoire, 9 Jan 2012
= Fun:5.0 out of 5 stars 
**Warning: this review contains spoilers**

God of War Collection contains the two titles in the series previously released for Sony's home console system, the PS2. Essentially, Sony has re-released both God of War 1 and God of War 2 remastered in HD on one Blu-Ray disc for your entertainment.

I was referred to the series by a friend who had also recently purchased and played the series himself, with his only passing comment that it was really good. Having researched the games prior to playing, I found that God of War 1 (the first game in this collection) was preceded by Chains of Olympus (being the first half of God of War Collection Volume 2). I therefore felt it appropriate to play the games in chronological order in the hopes that the plot would feel fully fleshed out (where I feared it wouldn't if played out of sequence).

So, I had only played one half of Volume 2 at the point of starting God of War 1 (having not yet played Ghost of Sparta, which I would later find to be excellent), I was concerned I must admit. I felt sorely disappointed with Chains of Olympus - to read my comments on this, please see my review on God of War Collection Volume 2 (entitled "A Tale of Two Halves"). I had also just purchased the entire God of War series for the PS3 on a whim and I was worried that I may end up regretting departing with my money.

I am happy to confirm that my disappointment was soon dismissed after playing God of War 1 [and, thereafter, Ghost of Sparta and God of War 2] where I was served with an exceptional aide memoire as to why I began to play video games in the first place. Pure escapist fun.

- God of War 1

We are, once again, introduced to the everlastingly-infuriated antihero, Kratos - a Spartan no less. It is not long after the game's opening cinematic set pieces we are told, through a series of neatly-placed flashbacks, that Kratos is driven only by the stench of gore, adrenaline of battle and a blinding desire for victory, three things which ultimately cause his downfall. At a siege that had long ago stretched out of his control, the battle-weary Spartan is on the verge of death and calls out to the titular God of War, Ares, agreeing to serve with him in exchange for his soul, should he cast away his enemies.

After the decidedly subpar offering that Chains of Olympus served up, I found that the plot was immediately engrossing and, as Kratos discovered the truth behind the death of his family and the lies told by Ares (who becomes hell bent on destroying Athens) as a result of his persistence in battle, it was hard to turn this game off. I found quite often I would reach a save point (distinguished by beams of white/yellow light) and I would tell myself to switch off, but something inside kept saying "5 more minutes won't kill you..." but it certainly did for the rest of God of War 1's foes, of which there are a plethora of disgusting, deadly and down-right mean variants of all things Greek mythology, of which serves as the series' foundation and basis for progression.

For anyone who has played other games in the series (and, for some reason, not this), then you will encounter the same, entertaining and addictive gameplay that has become a staple of the God of War franchise. An excess of attacking combinations are available for you to maim your way through your opponents, with more unlocked as you level your skills and weapons (using a red-orbs in a point-based gathering system). I was quite excited upon levelling the weapons and specials moves to see exactly what else I could make Kratos to do, how else I could butcher those poor idiotic fools who dared to engage me.

These attacking combinations and special moves are used to fight your way through well-structured and nicely diverse levels that are sometimes more distracting than they should be. Having experienced the somewhat linear Chains of Olympus, I was pleasantly surprised to find that God of War contains large, free flowing levels that, on occasion, take a little consideration and more thought in approach in order to progress. Ultimately, this applies to the puzzles as well which were rather simple in Chains of Olympus but here they are slightly more testing. Again, I found the insertion of these puzzles to be a welcomed distraction from the slaughter of the primary gameplay rather than a hindrance.

In terms of graphics, the game holds up well given its age with sharp, clear and sometimes stunning in-game textures and models which were, at times, impressive. This impression was unfortunately constantly interrupted by cutscenes that were blurred, showing characters with rough edges and pixels. It was at these moments I was reminded of the game's roots. I have found that this appears to be a common issue with HD Classics, having also played the Splinter Cell Trilogy collection where the cutscenes suffer similarly. It isn't too much of an issue as long as you remember these games were made some time ago and it also made me look forward to when the cutscene would finish, allowing me to gaze upon the sharp and crystal clear in-game graphics once more.

As the plot drew to a timely and, quite frankly, astonishing close (not to give too much away, but let's just say its colossal), I was reminded of the length of the game also - a marked improvement on the short run time I encountered in Chains of Olympus (which I appreciate was always going to be the case given its handheld origins). I found the credits rolling after approximately 7 hours and I would suggest, upon unlocking the greatest difficulty that time would be extended to close to 10 hours.

The fun I had was nigh on constant; aside from a lack of camera control (which caused frustration on occasion), the non-HD cutscenes and an element of cheapness to some areas of the game. Unfortunately, I find this last point hard to describe but, as you play through God of War 1, you will find that several traps and areas of action are somewhat awkwardly designed - pushing a wooden crate as cover against archers (the crate will shatter within three to four arrows, which I recall was annoying given the length of space you had to push it across) and very tall rotating spike-covered cylinders which you must climb (and if one spike should touch you, you are cast back down to the bottom).

However, despite these minor elements, God of War 1 alone is a worthwhile investment given the excellent pacing of the plot, the genius presentation of some astounding set piece and a fantastic artistic direction, coupled with gameplay that is pure and utter fun make this a recommendation to buy I would give to any God of War / hack-and-slash platformer fan.

In short:

Positives

+ Same, entertaining gameplay
+ Simple yet effective levelling system.
+ As always, interesting mythology and background.
+ Lots of attacking combinations to play around with.
+ Structured and nicely diverse levels.
+ Puzzles are interesting and take more thought.
+ Game run time is between 7 to 10 hours (depending on difficulty setting)
+ The plot is well constructed with perfectly-woven flashbacks.
+ Fantastic jaw-dropping set pieces and challenging, oversized boss battles.
+ Useful special moves.
+ Sharp graphics and crystal clear textures (in-game)
+ Good voice acting, Kratos aside.
+ Generous save game / checkpoint placing.

Negatives

- Cutscenes are blurred and don't appear to be in HD.
- Lack of camera controls is frustrating on occasion.
- Two or three "cheap trap" elements.

Score 5 / 5

- God of War 2

After completing God of War 1, I returned to God of War Collection Volume 2 and played through the amazing Ghost of Sparta. I would find that it lead perfectly into God of War 2, a game which would surely follow in the traditions of the first game in this collection. The conclusion of Ghost of Sparta has left our antihero very much a part of those beings he has come to hate - a God. I do not mean to ruin it too much for you, however, Kratos discovers he has just been a pawn in the immortal's game since his birth and, up until now, he had not believed in his fate being predetermined. He therefore vows revenge on the Gods.

God of War 2 opens with Kratos laying siege to the city of Rhodes with his new Godly powers, despite being warned by Athena against such courses of aggression. However, a certain event leaves Kratos' power dwindling and he soon finds his attack being strongly repelled and interrupted by a Colossus. A giant humanoid construction of metal and seemingly magic that serves as the first boss of the game, albeit split up into sections across the opening level. Shortly thereafter, Kratos is pointed in the direction of the legendary Sword of Olympus by Zeus himself in the hopes of repelling his foes. What Zeus fails to point out is that, in order to use this overly large sword, Kratos' Godly powers will be consumed by it, leaving him once again mortal. Due to his conceit, Kratos begins an adventure to track down and kill the legendary God himself.

Whilst I appreciate the game would present very little challenge if you continued under your current status for the remainder of the game and understandably the plot does a good job of removing said powers, it wouldn't have hurt proceedings to have allowed you at least the majority of the opening chapter to play around with such powers. Instead, for difficulty reasons, you are stripped of magicka, level upgrades and left with his signatory blades that we have come to know and love to once again begin the simplistic level-building progression. Despite the opening chapter which, I must admit, I felt was at its weakest, I was once again caught up on Kratos' merry little dance of vengeance and brutality across some stunning locales.

One of the first things you will come to notice about the second numbered game in the series is the considerable improvement in the number of set pieces. Whilst I would wish not to use such a phrase, there are several passages of gameplay in God of War 2 that, essentially, are interactive films (and, I appreciate some gamers dislike the quick timer events or QTEs that control how some cutscenes develop) but, by and large, these moments amazing and cinematically intense. Whilst the game has little in the way of new additions over its predecessor, it feels far more active and that more is actually occurring (which I didn't think would be possible). Whilst additions like the newly installed on-rail flying segments and limited slowing of time aren't original by any means, they certainly serve to increase the depth and entertainment the game offers to the player.

Another area which has had a positive affect in increasing the game's run time is puzzles, which you will notice are more numerous. These are of course far more diverse, interesting and, above all, challenging compared to previous entries in the series. I found that whilst, again, they are not overly complicated, more thought and consideration was required to solve them on my part. Even still, when I had figured out the solution, the game required more skill than anticipated to complete it. As I have pointed out above and in my review of God of War Collection Volume 2, these puzzles are welcome distraction to the main game and particularly more so in God of War 2's case given the added complexity. That said, whilst the puzzles are challenging, not once was I found to be frustrated by any of them and, unlike some games, they aren't a deterrent from playing.

The levelling system returns and again I cannot particularly fault its simplicity and design, only, this time around, I was longing for something more than the basic levelling up of weapons and special moves offered. However, it has certainly never been a feature that required fixing and again works wonders as you begin to see the moves develop and Kratos return to form, in terms of strength and ability when compared with the outset of the game.

Largely, the controls remain the same (aside from when opening doors, you are required to press R1 and then rapidly tap the Circle button, whereas it was simply rapidly tap R2 in God of War 1) with the necessary light and strong attacks via the Square button and the Triangle button respectively, the jumping and climbing features performed via the X button and the onscreen interactivity via the Circle button. L1 is used to block and L2 is used to perform the special moves which are acquired as the game progresses (accessed via pressing the corresponding direction on the D-Pad).

Kratos also gains new weaponry throughout and this is accessed via R2 (although only one secondary weapon can be assigned to R2, with the remainder having to be selected from the Start menu). The game also introduces a slowing of time feature (when in the presence of statues carrying green orbs) that is activated by pressing L1 then R1. Whilst certainly unoriginal, this adds an extra layer of depth to, primarily, puzzles and, after that, becomes useful when fighting a large number of enemies.

Talking of enemies, the majority of which remain the same or similar to God of War 1, I found that there is large increase in their ranks. Most of the battles you encounter will be against 10 at the minimum with quite a number of fights boasting much, much more which can certainly become challenging when you encounter a mixture of them - for example, two Cyclops (who attacks you cannot block) attack amongst winged beasts, together with at least 7 to 10 regularly Undead centurions together with a mage-of-sorts who continues to summon enemies until they are dispatched. In terms of bosses, these are a wonder to behold with a vast array of behemoths for you to defeat.

In terms of presentation, textures, rendering and models all look fantastic and, given that there are stunning set-pieces and locales, it looks simply amazing in places. The cutscenes, whilst a marked improvement over the first game in this collection, still unfortunately remain blurry and serve as a reminder of its roots. The only other issue I have with this game (and, that said, all games in the series so far- with God of War 3 being the only game in the franchise I haven't played at this stage) is the lack of camera control. There are quite a few moments where such control would be beneficial, especially in assistance with puzzles and, sometimes, the general direction of progression (which, for the most part, is obvious but, on occasion, several paths can be hidden from player view).

Ultimately, these are very, very minor blemishes on what is such a fantastic game that really is a joy to play.

In short

Positives

+ Same, entertaining gameplay
+ Simple yet effective levelling system.
+ As always, interesting mythology and background.
+ Lots of attacking combinations to play around with.
+ Structured and nicely diverse levels.
+ Puzzles are challenging and a pure joy to fathom.
+ Set pieces have multiplied, for the good.
+ New on-rail flying segments and time control add a whole new dimension of fun.
+ Whilst weak at the outset, the story quickly gathers momentum and easily matches its predecessor.
+ Crammed full of enemies, so there's never really a dully moment.
+ Sharp graphics and crystal clear textures (in-game)

Negatives

- Whilst cutscenes do seem generally better than the first game, they do remain blurred.
- Lack of camera controls is frustrating on occasion

Score 5 / 5

- Conclusion

And so, God of War Collection serves as an exceptional aide memoire as to why we began to play video games in the first play - pure escapism fun. For those of you out there who like hack-and-slash / action games and aren't adverse to Greek mythology, then this is a must-have for your PS3 games collection.

Overall 5 / 5


God of War Collection: Volume 2 (PS3)
God of War Collection: Volume 2 (PS3)
Offered by Gameseek
Price: 17.42

6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars "A Tale of Two Halves", 5 Jan 2012
= Fun:3.0 out of 5 stars 
**Warning: this review contains spoilers**

God of War Collection Volume 2 contains the two titles in the series only previously released for Sony's handheld system, the PSP. For fans of the series without the PSP, Sony has re-released both Chains of Olympus and Ghost of Sparta remastered in HD on one Blu-Ray disc for your entertainment. For those of you who are reading this review and/or have already purchased this, you have more than likely played the previous games in the series and know what Kratos and God of War is all about. I had not, so I thought I'd share my somewhat unique perspective of this collection with you.

I was referred to the series by a friend who had also recently purchased and played the series himself, with his only passing comment that it was really good. Having researched the games themselves prior to playing, I found that Chains of Olympus, the first game of this collection, took place prior to God of War 1 and that Ghost of Sparta took place prior to God of War 2. I therefore felt it appropriate to play the games in chronological order in the hopes that the plot would feel fully fleshed out (where I feared it wouldn't if played out of sequence). As a side note, I am presently working my way through God of War 2 (included along with God of War 1 in the previous title, HD Classics: God of War Collection).

As I have now completed both games in this collection (Volume 2), I felt the need to provide you with my review. (I will of course review both Chains of Olympus and Ghost of Sparta separately.)

- God of War Chains of Olympus

The God of War series is a simplistic "hack-and-slash" action platformer which uses Greek mythology as foundation and a basis for progression. You take control of the permanently-enraged Spartan, Kratos, a man who has lost those close to him as a result of his desire for battle, blood and victory, which, unfortunately, was also his downfall. Kratos, on the verge of death, makes a deal with the titular God of War, Ares that in exchange for his soul he will serve under the command of the Gods, with particular loyalty to Ares himself. I only came into this knowledge upon playing God of War 1 (from HD Classics: God of War Collection) however it is only unfortunate that Chains of Olympus goes to no effort to explain any of this and automatically assumed I had played the first game, which left me in the dark on occasion. I guess this was the downfall of playing in chronological order and not in sequence of how they were released.

Chains of Olympus follows Kratos in his 10 year servitude to the Gods where he initially assists in repelling the Persian King, his pet basilisk and his army from the shores of Attica. This portion of the game is entertaining by all means and unfortunately sets a standard which the remainder does not live up to, especially in relation to oversized boss battles.

The controls are simple, with the Square button causing Kratos to perform quick, "light" attacks, the Triangle button causing him to do far stronger, but alas, slower attacks, with the X button relating to jumping and climbing and the Circle button corresponding with any on screen interaction. Left Stick controls Kratos with Right Stick causing him to roll or dive out of the way of any threats. L1 is block and, if timed correctly, can parry away opponent's attacks. There is a selection of moments when the game requires you to press the buttons in response to command prompts on screen (known as Quick Timer Events or QTEs) but these, cinematically, are few and far between. Generally, the controls work well and I was thoroughly entertained with combat against all varieties of enemies, however, the lack of camera control was missed on occasion.

Following the largely pointless but enjoyable opening chapters, Kratos is presented with the task of locating the missing sun God, Helios and thereafter encounters a decision which, even for the Spartan, is difficult. The mythology is the foundation of the series and I find it a quite interesting and compelling vehicle to drive such a game, however it's certainly underused in any event in Chains of Olympus. There is also a distinct lack of effort on behalf of the game's producers in relation to the plot which I found largely irrelevant and uninformative (especially so after other games in the series) and, whilst the voice acting was good for the most part, Kratos aside, I felt it did little to assist presentation of the weak plot.

I feel there was also wasted potential to delve deeper into Kratos' history in this game, aside from some short lived scenes at the very end, which would have been far more interesting than Kratos' 10 year servitude. This disappointment also applies to the transitions between locations in the game which are poorly constructed and feel like "patchwork" at best.

As in all the God of War games (as I found out), you are presented with a simple yet effective levelling system (accessed via the Start button) which is advanced by using "red orb" points-based gathering. Your primary weapons and "special" moves, which are acquired through progression of the game, can be upgraded to increase strength and allow additional and more interesting attacking combinations to be performed. I found this interesting and it compelled me to progress through the uninteresting plot simply to see what extra moves and attacks I could unlock.

Aside from near-constant attack from all manner of foes (from soldiers to trolls to minotaurs, there is a large variety of combatants most of whom are seen in some form in Greek mythology), the game has several subtle yet straightforward puzzles for you to complete. Generally, these are limited to moving a large stone block around and placing it in the correct location, however, despite my initial worries, I found these weren't as obtrusive as I first thought and eventually became a welcome relief from the primary gameplay.

As the finale loomed (which will take you approximately between 2 to 4 hours to reach depending on the level of difficulty), I found that the graphics presented throughout had been lacklustre, even when considering this game's roots. Many objects and textures were bland, and this was to be found in the game's artistic direction also, with uninspired locales and insipid structures. I appreciate that the game is simply a HD re-master but an injection of clarity and colour was amiss in places.

In conclusion, I was disappointed by the game and, given that this was my first foray into the world of God of War, I was somewhat concerned as to what my opinion and reaction to the other games in the series may be. I was happy to find that my disappointment was soon dismissed after playing Ghost of Sparta and God of War 1 where I discovered why people fell in love with the series in the first place.

In short:

Positives

+ Entertaining gameplay.
+ As always, interesting mythology and background.
+ Simple yet effective weapons levelling system.
+ Puzzles, whilst straightforward, are a welcome distraction.

Negative

- Short game time (between 2 to 4 hours, depending on difficulty settings).
- Despite PSP origins, textures look bland and uninspiring.
- Art direction is lacking the genius of other God of War games.
- The plot is largely irrelevant and uninformative.
- Transitions between locales are poorly constructed and are somewhat patched together.
- Wasted potential to delve deeper into Kratos' history.
- Lacking in oversized boss battles.
- Simplistic animation in places.
- Aside from one, the special moves are forgettable.
- Lack of camera controls is sometimes frustrating.

Score 2 / 5

- God of War Ghost of Sparta

After playing and completing God of War 1, my interest was completely renewed in the franchise and I went into Ghost of Sparta, the second game in this collection, with interest and anticipation.

We catch up with Kratos following his defeat of Ares and whereby he has been granted the title of God of War, despite his mortal status - a first in the series' lore, apparently. A brief vision of Kratos' long thought dead brother, Deimos sets him on an adventure to find his younger sibling and what transpired on that hellish day in their mutual youth. Whilst the prospect of a plot commencing via a vision is generic and overused at best, it continues at a pace that never lets up combining the lead's encounter with a wide range of brutal, crazy and whimsical characters and a sublime artistic direction making this the far superior game in this collection.

As always, the gameplay remains as tight and entertaining as other God of War games, with responsive controls and a wide array of attacking combinations that make it simply a joy to slash, disembowel and decapitate your way through the horde of enemies wishing to test your skill. The controls remain the same as they were in Chains of Olympus, with a new investment in more QTE (Quick Timer Events) that provide for a more intense cinematic experience. The special moves are a lot more useful this time around (with the levelling system working in the same manner and being just as effective), with certain enemies bearing weaknesses for these moves (and strong defences against others) and therefore forcing you to apply a little bit more strategy than normal.

There are far more interesting set pieces and spectacles to keep you entertained that, on occasion, do take your breath away; just look out for the opening boss battle which is divided up across initial chapters, the escape from the core of the very active volcano, the Return to Sparta and receiving a hero's welcome, right up until the amazing final sequences which lead perfectly onto God of War 2.

There is a lot that Ghost of Sparta got right in this instance and I do feel that the producers, largely, learned from the wrongs of Chains of Olympus and applied them here. I have little complaints over Ghost of Sparta aside from the lack of camera control and short game time (I completed this in close to 4 hours) which were of course present in the previous game. Again, this is probably attributable to the games being designed around the PSP (which has a different controller interface and is designed to be played on the go).

I also found that Ghost of Sparta was sparse on the puzzle front, with none that I can recall being particularly memorable - again, the puzzles I can remember were simply pushing a large stone block around to reach a higher position. Whilst the puzzles within Chains of Olympus weren't different; I seem to recall there were more puzzles that had a different variety. Anyhow, whilst the puzzles served as only a minor distraction from the primary gameplay, this is forgivable.

Finally, whilst not a complaint in particular, the "Return to Sparta" chapter was tantalisingly short and only makes me wish the God of War series was more than just a hack-and-slash / action platformer, and expanded on the levelling elements that could turn this into a lengthier and far deeper experience. However, I appreciate the simplicities of a game that revolves around pure pick-up-and-play arcade-like action, so, really, my preference in this regard did not effect the final score.

All that said, Ghost of Sparta was an absolutely amazing experience, despite its short run time and I will certainly be playing it again sometime soon.

In short:

Positives

+ Entertaining gameplay.
+ As always, interesting mythology and background.
+ Simple yet effective weapons levelling system.
+ Despite PSP origins, the graphics are clear, colourful and beautiful in places.
+ Artistic direction purely sublime, mirroring the genius of God of War 1.
+ Great set pieces and well-designed large boss battles.
+ A more interesting plot sees Kratos tracking down his brother, whom he had long thought dead.
+ Smooth flowing transitions between locations.
+ Interesting supporting characters.

Negatives

- Short game time.
- Lacking in puzzles.
- Lack of camera controls can be frustrating on occasion.

Score 5 / 5

- Conclusion

So, the God of War Collection Volume 2 is a tale of two halves - one subpar and one amazing.

Whilst I was sorely disappointed with Chains of Olympus (even more so considering I had just bought the entire series for the PS3 on a whim...), I was glad that Ghost of Sparta made up for this.

I would recommend purchase of this collection, if only for those God of War fans without a PSP who wish to experience the amazing Ghost of Sparta.

Overall 3.5 / 5
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jan 24, 2012 3:02 PM GMT


Who Goes There
Who Goes There
by John W. Campbell
Edition: Paperback
Price: 5.59

8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Stunning; A well-crafted novella that stands the test of time., 5 Dec 2011
This review is from: Who Goes There (Paperback)
John W. Campbell's novella "Who Goes There?" is a science fiction tour-de-force; a collection of 7 short stories which were primarily featured during the American magazine Astounding Science Fiction during the late 1930's. The legendary Isaac Asimov was quoted as saying that Campbell was "the most powerful force in science fiction ever, and for the first ten years of his editorship he dominated the field completely" and I would have to second this sentiment. For any young pre-published novelist wishing to delve into this complicated and sometimes overly used genre, I would heartily recommend that they pick up this novella as, personally, it is a pure and utterly brilliant lesson in science fiction.

Who Goes There

The first of the seven short stories and, what I consider the lengthiest, is a claustrophobic horror set amidst the barren, icy wasteland of Antarctica. A team of researchers discover a crashed alien ship and, with that, an alien which had been frozen for, seemingly, billions of years. As a decision is made to thaw the creature out for study, it becomes apparent that The Thing is not dead. Thawing revives the alien, a being which can assume the shape, memories, and personality of any living thing it devours, while maintaining its original body mass for further reproduction leading to the team questioning who is human and who isn't.

Blindness

Perhaps the shortest of those included in this novella, Blindness charts the life of a scientist, a dreamer, of a journeyman wanting to succeed in finding an infinite source of power whilst, simultaneously, discover the mysteries behind atomic power. In order to achieve his dream, he concludes that the Sun must hold the greater powers of all and, together with his ever-trusting assistant; he sets about designing a spaceship which would be able to approach the sun and collect the data they need. His work eventually leads him on his ultimate space flight and, at a sacrifice, finds what he is looking for.

Frictional Losses

Following an alien invasion across the entirety of the world, the survivors look to rebuild, to start again and look to move forward amongst their diminished numbers. Unfortunately, whilst the alien invasion was repelled, human losses were great and worry sets amongst the survivors that a second invasion is very likely. Old Hugh Thompson spends his days scavenging the ruins of the larger cities, attempting to research and build parts for restoring an alien weapon; however, he stumbles across something completely different which ultimately saves the last of human kind.

Dead Knowledge

An expedition to a neighboring solar system, finds a research team on a seemingly abandoned planet much similar to our own; with vast cities of towers, automobiles, streets, pavements, parks and tropical, heated climates. Immediately on setting down do our intrepid travellers come across the realisation that the city is not inhabited but what could have caused the population to have fled? There are no signs of war, threat or terror, nor are there any signs of wildlife; there are no birds or insects to be found. On further exploration, only do we begin to find out the chilling event that befell a great and once powerful race.

Elimination

John Grantland, an American patent-lawyer, is approached by an arrogant young inventor who claims to have discovered how to revolutionize energy and how to apply this. In his dissuasion, Grantland tells the tale of a couple of inventors he came across many years back who developed a television set that was able to see the entire history of time from its explosive beginning to the many thousands of possible futures.

Twilight

Jim Bendell, travelling late one night, stops to pick up a hitch hiker - one with an especially curious tale; he is a time traveller from a distant future where man has made an efficient and endlessly powerful machine that takes care of their every need. The hitch hiker goes on to explain of how he has seen the Twilight of humankind's civilization, on the verge of extinction in a world where they lack curiosity, vigor and the ability to reproduce. Ultimately quite a simple tale, this, however, is well-written and beautiful.

Night

Night is a sequel to Twilight and follows the exploits of a traveller who has returned to Earth in early 20th century, recounting his time at Night of humankind's civilization upon which he finds the sun and the earth, frozen and dying. Again, similar to Twilight, this is simple tale constructed in an expert fashion.

Each and every one of Campbell's short stories are well crafted, succinct and an absolute delight to read and, given the years in which he wrote them - some 80 years ago now, they still stand the test of time and seem as fresh now as when they were first published. The stories themselves have also clearly inspired science fiction throughout its history and it is only unfortunately that Campbell didn't decide to turn any one of his ideas into a fully fleshed out novel given their originality and potential depth in character and story.

Whether you are a fan of the genre or not, I highly recommend purchase of this 244 paged paperback novella to anyone with a love for well-written books.

5/5


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