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Submitted by Gwynne Dixon on March 25 2008 - 13:48

As it looks ever more probable that God of War III will fall into a 2009 release window, Chains of Olympus is here to warm the PSP's cockles during the interim...

Pros
  • Faithful translation of the PS2 series on PSP.
  • Some of the best graphics on Sony's handheld.
  • Epic gameplay shows size isn't everything.
Cons
  • Short lifespan for a God of War game.
  • Kratos talks too much, losing his mystery.
  • Not particularly original.

There's so much more to a good hack 'n slash game than merely combat. For example, one of the key gameplay features that can be used to break-up monotonous, button mashing fighting sequences is puzzles. Prince of Persia games have nailed the puzzle formula over the years with bullet-time, wall running and extensive acrobatic moves all being integrated perfectly to challenge a gamer's IQ.

Other necessities include a good camera. Heavenly Sword, for example, had a well balanced camera that panned out to reveal magnificent vistas in the game, as well as being consistently well placed to keep you on the tip of your toes during combat. Then there's the need for an engaging storyline that binds all of these gameplay features together into a world that fully immerses the gamer.

What has made the first two God of War games on the PS2 so successful is that they have balanced all of these features so perfectly. The key to God of War games is that they never feel monotonous - not for a second. Kratos' Blades of Chaos have been critically acclaimed for their intuitive feel in combat, while additional powers are introduced throughout the game that keeps the fighting interesting.

The puzzles are truly taxing (in the Lemmings sense of the word), while the storylines are as epic as the Greek tragedies that that they pay such a respectful homage to. Then there's the brilliance of the God of War interactive cut-scene, most frequently used in boss battles and one of the few examples in videogames where we're actually excited to be responding to sequential button prompts. Additionally there's the standard cut-scenes between levels which, when coupled with the camera direction in-game, give the game that polished cinematic feel that gamers yearn for.

It's God of War, Jim, And Exactly As We Know It...

God of War: Chains of Olympus is the first outing for Kratos on Sony's PSP and you'll be relieved to hear that very little of the series' brilliance has been lost in translation. That's an incredible achievement in itself, given that the developers are working with one thumbstick rather than two (which significantly hampers any hack 'n slash game), as well as the fact the PSP is simply less technically capable than a PS2.

What makes it more impressive, however, is that Chains of Olympus hasn't been developed by Sony's Santa Monica studio (which did God of War I and II, and is currently at work on III). Instead it was developed by Ready at Dawn, which has been thrown in at the deep end by Sony after developing their first title on the PSP, Daxter, a couple of years ago. In other words, not only is this a studio with no God of War experience, but it's also a studio with only one game under its belt and it has done a sound job on one of Sony's flagship series.

Chains of Olympus' gameplay feels like the God of War that we know and love from the outset. As with the Hydra in God of War I and the Colossus of Rhodes in God of War II, Chains of Olympus' starts with the most epic boss battle in the game during the tutorial level (how's that for breaking a game paradigm?). The format is near identical as you pursue a giant lizard creature called the Basilisk throughout the city of Attica and confront him for a final showdown at the end of the level.

From here things keep getting better and better as Kratos travels to the city of Marathon where the god of dreams, Morpheus, has sent a deadly fog into the city and Helio's sun chariot has been mysteriously banished from the skies. Cue a lot of tricky puzzles interspersed with challenging combat sequences and Kratos is fully into the nitty gritty business of being the protagonist in a Greek tragedy - a job that should be avoided if possible.

Therein lies one of our very minor criticisms of the game. Kratos talks a little bit too much in the cut-scenes, which means that he loses a bit of his dark, twisted soul appeal of the previous two games. The result is that your reaction tends to be a bit more like: 'Oh, that Kratos... always getting himself into a bind,' rather than, 'Shesh! That guy is one screwed up dude!' Nevertheless, the balance is restored by a naked looking Athena, the haunting melody of Kratos' daughter Calliope that pursues him throughout the game, as well as the usual shenanigans with Ancient Greece's fraternity of gods.

One of our major worries for Chains of Olympus was how Ready at Dawn were going to translate the intuitive control scheme of the Dualshock 2 onto the PSP's single analogue nipple. On hindsight, we needn't have worried for a moment. On the Dualshock 2, the right thumbstick controlled Kratos' evasive roll moves. All that Ready at Dawn has done for this version is put both evasive rolls and movment onto the PSP's nipple. Simply hold down the right and left bumper buttons simultaneously and Kratos will move into an evasive roll that's directed by the PSP's analogue stick. Let go of the shoulder buttons and he moves around as usual.

It's a simplistic change to the control setup, but a stroke of genius at the same time. It has allowed Ready at Dawn to retain the same controls setup (more or less) from the PS2 version in all other areas of gameplay, which is a relief because you wouldn't want to mess with the control scheme that gave life to the superb Blades of Chaos.

Bulls On Parade

Some of Kratos' magic is slightly different though, and in this sense it's good to have something fresh to play with. The Efreet is one power that you'll encounter soon after the start of the game, and it's quite similar in form to Poseidon's Rage from the previous games. The only major difference is that Poseidon's bolts of lightning are replaced with a large bull spirit which crashes down on any enemies within a certain radius of Kratos (later upgrades allow you to tap the circle button with the attack for greater damage which is, once again, similar to Poseidon's Rage).

While Kratos got hold of Athena's Blades at the end of God of War I, he actually uses the Blades of Chaos in Chains of Olympus. 'Why?' I here you cry, even though both weapons are actually fairly similar. Well, the reason is that Chains of Olympus is a prequel to the first game on PS2, set 10 years before Kratos defeated the Hydra in the Aegean Sea (which, incidentally, is where he ends up at the end of Chains of Olympus). The Blades of Chaos follow upgrade stages similar to the first game as well, with familiar moves such as the Cyclone of Chaos opening up fairly early in the game.

In many ways, gamers shouldn't expect anything particularly original from Chains of Olympus. There are slight tweaks to the weapon and magic upgrades throughout the game, an all-new story arc that fits snugly into the God of War saga, and it's good to see little touches from God of War II (such as swimming sections) paddling onto this slimmed down PSP version. Nevertheless, gamers shouldn't expect anything more than the God of War that we already know faithfully translated onto Sony's handheld system, and in many ways that should be more than enough.

What isn't more than enough, however, is the length of the game. There are certainly enough puzzles that will keep you stuck for a bit, while some of the boss battles will require a few restarts. It is, by no means, an easy game. At the same time, what there is of it is pure gaming gold. It's certainly a shame that Ready at Dawn couldn't provide a game length more in the ball park of God of War II's 20+ hours but, then again, the PSP is a portable console which most gamers probably don't use for mammoth sessions anyway.

Graphically, Chains of Olympus is the same feat on the PSP that the previous two games were on the PS2. It pushes the hardware to its limits and comes up with visuals which depict the vast powers of Greek gods, while also illustrating the nuances of hand-to-hand combat with gritty detail. It's possibly the finest visual display we've seen on the PSP to date with smooth textures and limited jaggies that depict the grand scale of God of War's trademark environments in a mighty graphical feast that's befitting of the gods.

The sound is the usual God of War affair, splicing in that by now instantly recognisable theme music that sounds like it's from a battle scene in Ridley Scott's Gladiator. Voice-overs are similarly excellent and once again add to the cinematic feel of the production, boasting well trained actors for the main characters as well as the well chosen narrative voice of an aging woman. Unfortunately, as previously mentioned, Kratos does talk a little bit too much for the twisted anti-hero that he is.

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  • Graphics: 96%
     
  • Sound: 93%
     
  • Gameplay: 94%
     
  • Originality: 82%
     
  • Longevity: 84%
     
Overall Score: 9/10
To date, everything about the God of War saga has been epic. The combat, puzzles, and cinematic feel of the games have fittingly met the grand scale of a Greek tragedy. Ready at Dawn has translated this epic feel of the series seamlessly onto Sony's tiny PSP and, apart from the game's short lifespan, Chains of Olympus is a thoroughly welcome new addition to the God of War family.

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By: Mondruis

Added:Sun 10th Aug 2008 16:26, Post No: 15

I'm a huge fan of the God of War series. I even bought it for my cell. Chains is an excellent game. Too short indeed, but ReadyAtDawn stayed true to the series and pushed the PSP to its limits. It's great to be able to play GOW on the road. A must have for your PSP.


By: mrc99

Added:Thu 07th Aug 2008 11:39, Post No: 14

great game but its too short for such a good game.


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By: Anonymous

Added:Sun 25th May 2008 18:01, Post No: 13

i loved the god of war series... and now i can play it on my psp... AWSOME!!


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By: Anonymous

Added:Fri 11th Apr 2008 12:09, Post No: 12

game ois so gud i mean the start with the game play rocks go kratos =) =]


By: lee.birch123

Added:Wed 26th Mar 2008 14:01, Post No: 11

this game is great i am just glad that its as good as the first one


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By: Anonymous

Added:Fri 21st Mar 2008 15:39, Post No: 10

to Chewjacka this game is gr8. U have no idea what ur talking about. Mate.


By: Chewjacka

Added:Wed 19th Mar 2008 16:39, Post No: 9

this game is poor and dissapointing and rubbish do not buy


By: flippy1008

Added:Wed 05th Mar 2008 16:46, Post No: 8

Yeah, great prize, a flaming demo, which will be free to download from PSN store anyday now.Why not win the game, eh?


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By: Anonymous

Added:Sun 22nd Apr 2007 07:12, Post No: 7

god of war 1 and 2 kicked love and now it's on psp friggin a!☻


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By: Anonymous

Added:Sat 24th Mar 2007 02:25, Post No: 6

what about the right analog stick in the psp how would you activate rage of the titans? How would you dodge.There is too many things that wold need to be changed in order to make this work.


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