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Returning to the original God of War is Tough

God of War is a hallowed series, there’s no doubt about it. Spoken about in hushed tones, remembered fondly and regularly as the definition of a PlayStation classic. And rightly so. But those original games haven’t aged particularly well, and are made worse for how hard they are to play decently.

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That’s not to say the effort isn’t worth it. If you’re happy to laugh at a few cheesy mini-games or poorly put together cutscenes, you’ll have a great time.

But it goes to show how incredibly far we’ve come in the last couple of decades. And thank Zeus for that.

Might of Olympus

I was a teenager when God of War came out, and it says something that it already felt a little too focused at my demographic. When people get cross about the changing focus of the games industry, this is what they’re going to miss. Every female character or monster has at least one boob out – as was the tradition in ancient Greece it seems. Every enemy can be hacked apart in an impressively gore-filled festival of dismemberment and violence. These things aren’t necessarily bad, by the way. They fit the theme, which is “let’s make a game every 13-year-old boy will want to hide from their mother”.

Seriously. Kratos takes no shit from anybody. Not even in the slightest. Every inconvenience is met with violence and aggression. It is the ultimate power fantasy, where one person can fight his way through a world filled with chaos and take his place at the top. He is the victim of meddling from a higher power but time and time again he shows he can overcome that using big swords and bigger muscles.

It feels a bit impotent 15 years later, whether due to my outlook, my age or just the progression of character and plot in the medium. It was a concerted effort to make something cool, which by definition means eventually it becomes uncool. Not bad, but a time capsule of a certain era. The first two games scream edginess, without ever doing anything beyond flash a little skin or show a little blood.

Being the God of War

The easiest way of playing the PS2 God of War games is through PlayStation Now. Outside of that or an old console, you’re completely out of luck.

I found the heavy QTE focussed gameplay to be a little tough at times with the added latency of streaming, and naturally the graphics of the HD collection aren’t quite what they should be. You could slap these games through an emulator and play at 4k and have a much better experience – sans those ever addictive trophies.

But even then, the gameplay has problems that were more palatable in 2005 than today. Repetitive moves, occasionally janky traversal that leads to multiple deaths… These are good old games, and you have to go in with that in mind.

A remake is almost inevitable, but the translation will be loose. In some ways that will be better, if only because the game’s female cast is bound to catch a chill if they go around like they do much longer. In other ways you’ll lose what gave it its personality, what made it popular at release.

It says a lot for how well these games were made that, despite everything I’ve written above, they’re still worth playing as they were originally. Returning to the original God of War games is tough – especially if you don’t have PlayStation Now – but it’s well worth the journey.

 

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blank Mat Growcott has been a long-time member of the gaming press. He's written two books and a web series, and doesn't have nearly enough time to play the games he writes about.

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