Quick Note: If you haven't played God of War 1 or 2, I highly recommend picking up the collection. It's now $20 - $30 for one old school game that is slightly frustrating and one great game that leads up to God of War 3.
When God of War released it's first demo, I played it for all of five minutes. Maybe it was just my gaming skills at the time or maybe my patience, but I got so frustrated that I quit and vowed I would never play the series out of spite. So God of War released to acclaimed reviews and I passed it up. God of War 2 followed, but again I passed it up. After years I broke down and played God of War 3 (my review here) I have finally come to my senses to play the first two.
God of War itself is a master piece, or at least was at it's time. Over all the game is fun, just frustrating in an old school way. The controls are different and slightly cumbersome, such as opening doors requires the player to repeatedly tap R2 rather than Circle, and show their age fairly quickly. Dodging is sluggish and less responsive than in later iterations which can lead to some frustrating combat. Though in later games Kratos has a large arsenal of useful weapons, the only other weapon available to him in this bout is the Blade of Artemis, which is essentially useless. Fortunately, the magical repertoire available to Kratos helps to add depth to the combat.
Though the combat is over all enjoyable, the lack of boss battles is very disconcerting. With only three total boss fights, one of which is the opening of the game and another which is the final boss battle, the game feels oddly paced. However, the battle are incredibly enjoyable and have multiple phases that keep them interesting.
The puzzles are when the game really starts to show it's age. Most of them are simple and the solution easy to find, but the execution can lead to repetition. One distinctly frustrating sequence requires Kratos to climb a tower of rotating segments lined with spikes. However, once the player touches a spike, Kratos plummets to the bottom, forcing the player to start over again. This gets really annoying as the player gets higher and higher, only forcing them to come right back down. It is such a frustrating sequence that beating the tower awards the player with a Gold Trophy, which is quite a relief, until he/she realizes there is another one just ahead that needs to be toppled.
Overall, God of War should be played by any fan of the series to experience the beginning, but it's easy to see how the series has progressed since then.
God of War 2 however is a different story. The game is far more familiar in control scheme. The controls as most fans know it stem from this game, making the game much less frustrating to play. The combat is more fluid and continues to utilize the 4 magic spell system with 4 brand new spells, three of which feel different and influence combat in new ways. The combo system is the same, but far more rewarding than the first with more accuracy in striking, dodging and blocking opponents. The combat system also adds Sub weapons, giving Kratos access to two sub weapons to use through out the game, and one for the final battle. These sub weapons have their uses and are upgradable and more divers than the first game's Blade of Artemis, but their are still not as useful as the arsenal introduced in the third game.
The problem of lack of boss battles is fixed tremendously, with the amount of boss battles tripling from the first game. Each battle is challenging in it's own way, whether it's combat oriented or puzzle oriented, keeping the player on his/her toes. The battles also help pace the story, keeping the player feeling a larger sense of accomplishment around every corner and helping Kratos grow.
Over all the second game is far more enjoyable than the first and is a great starting point for any one not willing to deal with old school frustration. Both games are packaged together (with the exception of Playstation Plus members who buy it off the PSN), but the price is perfect for just one of these classics, so it's hard to not enjoy both.
9 out of 10
The Wiki Page: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/God_of_War_%28series%29#Collections
The GameFaqs: http://www.gamefaqs.com/ps3/971800-god-of-war-collection/faqs
The IGN Review: http://www.ign.com/games/god-of-war-collection/ps3-29855