It's hard not to warm to God of War's tortured take on Greek mythology, either. As Jaffe once admitted, it's hardly a history lesson, but it's rather appealing, largely thanks to the excellent voice casting that lends each vicious, dishonourable and vengeful character fearsome authority. In Kratos especially, Sony created possibly the most pissed-off protagonist imaginable - a surly beast of a man with a chip on his shoulder so large it can be seen from space.
Unlike most horribly clichéd gaming narratives, I found myself actually enjoying it more second time around, dimly aware of all the grim truths to come. Told in hellish flashback, it gradually unravels the torment that prompted the Spartan warrior to hurl himself off a cliff in the first place, and none of the revelations are exactly joyous.
Rarely has violence in a videogame felt so immensely satisfying and, at times, wholly justified. Played back to back, it's quite mentally draining to go through Gods of War 1 and 2 without some light relief. Even Kratos needed naked ladies.
Speaking of eye candy [oof - Ed], one thing that's impossible ignore about God of War's impact was how spectacularly easy it was on the eye when it first came out in 2005, and then how much further Sony subsequently pushed it with the sequel two years later.
Often when you return to a beloved old game a few years later it can be sobering to gently peer over those rose-tinted spectacles and witness the merciless ravages of time. In the case of God of War, of course, it helps that it was so outrageously opulent in the first place, sporting improbably detailed environments, vast bosses and chaotic battles that most games today still struggle to match. It was essentially an HD game squeezed onto a system that had no right to be pushed to such stratospheric heights.
It's hardly surprising, then, that scaling up the action to 720p in this newly remastered God of War Collection merely enhances its striking visual allure. With the benefit of anti-aliasing to smooth out those unsightly jaggies, the removal of the previously jarring v-sync tearing, and a solid 60 frames per second, it feels like you're seeing the game live up to its true potential.
Whether patiently exploring the brooding environments or duking it out with giant pissed-off Hydras, there are times when it looks every bit as stunning as the very best contemporary releases.
That's not to say the conversion is flawless. God of War 1's cut-scenes appear to be sampled directly from the original PS2 version, and the contrast between these and the crispness of the newly upscaled engine couldn't be more apparent - akin to watching a Blu-ray interspersed with scenes sampled from VHS. If conversionist Bluepoint Games could have recaptured these scenes from the newly upscaled engine, the port might have been perfect.
Fortunately, the effect isn't as noticeable in the even more impressive God of War 2, which makes the original look tame by comparison. Not only did Sony Santa Monica serve up grander and more beautiful environments than the original, but the feast of epic boss battles laid on was as fitting a swansong imaginable for the glorious PS2 era. So much so, in fact, that it shamed the entire PS3 launch line-up in spring 2007.
As cynical an idea as 'remastering' old PS2 games sounds, the God of War Collection demonstrates how magnificent the net result can look in the hands of the right developer. Far from being mere exercises in nostalgia, these hugely entertaining HD versions underline exactly why we all got so excited about them in the first place, and suggests that while God of War III faces off against a lot of big names in 2010, the greatest threats to its dominance lie in its own past. Best of all, PS3 games are region-free, so there's no excuse for not importing this immediately. Simply divine.
9 / 10
God of War Collection is out now for PS3 in the US. A European release will follow in 2010.