God of War: Chains of Olympus – PSP – Review

The year 2008
is starting out in spectacular fashion for Sony’s PlayStation Portable. Not long
ago, the company released Patapon, an engaging platformer that combined elements
of strategic gameplay with roleplaying and musical-rhythm based combat.

Now, on the
heels of that wonderful title comes God of War: Chains of Olympus. Without a
doubt, GoW: Chains of Olympus shows off the gaming capabilities of the PSP,
rendering out a cinematic experience that may be a touch linear, and may have
some repetition when it comes to the puzzles, but still is a rich and wonderful
bit of entertainment.

For the
uninformed, God of War is the story of a former Spartan general named Kratos.
Through his own actions, Kratos is a tormented individual, ready to die, but the
ancient gods of Greece have other plans for him and employ this brutish, and
somewhat bloodthirsty, powerhouse to do their work. It is not always in synch
with what Kratos wants, of course, but therein lay the classic elements of Greek
tragedy. Kratos, the Ghost of Spartan, tool of the gods, is being used again,
under the pretense that the gods will reward him by removing the nightmares that
haunt not only his sleeping moments, but his waking ones as well.

God of War: Chains of Olympus PSP screenshots

And speaking of
sleep, as with previous releases in the series, gods and titans make their
presence felt, and this time, the threat comes in the form of Morpheus, the god
of dreams. The first mission level takes place in Attica and is, more or less,
the introduction to the control scheme. The Persians are attacking and using a
variety of creatures with the boss being the basilisk. Of course, Kratos is sent
to rid the city of this horror.

During the
course of this level, players will find out how to string together combat
combinations, collect the red orbs emitted from fallen enemies (which in turn
can be spent to power up Kratos’ trademark chains), and use the
button-matching/mashing finishing moves to dispatch opponents. However, while
the window for matching the buttons is slim, gamers will find that they do not
have to match the buttons to trigger the cinematic kill sequences (which can be
a tad gory, but satisfying in some regards). You can just use the attacks and
kill the foes the old-fashioned way – by beating them to bloody pulps.  

(If you get the
idea there is a fair amount of bloodshed in this game, you are right. There is
also some nudity, as well.)

After the
Attica sequence, Kratos turns to the heavens and spills a challenge to the gods.
The answer he gets might not be what he truly wanted, but it is the key story
arc in the game. The sun plummets from the sky and the world is cast into
darkness. Helios, the legendary titan that was the personification of the sun
(driving a chariot with fire steeds across the sky), has been knocked from his
chariot and captured by Atlas. The world is cast into darkness and Morpheus is
using the opportunity to induce a deep slumber upon the gods and take control of
the world. Athena pleads with Kratos to rescue Helios and save the world.

Okay, like he had
anything better to do with his time. But this sets Kratos on a journey through a
remarkably rendered landscape that includes not only the temple of Helios, with
amazing details and texturing, but even an underwater sequence. After finding
the lance of Triton, Kratos is able to breathe underwater, thus allowing the
players to see some of the more remarkable graphical nuances of the game. While
playing there are a variety of chests that contain power-ups and such scattered
throughout the levels. The same holds true for the underwater sequences, but
opening the chests is usually preceded by the release of air pressure and
bubbles. It is a small thing, but clearly demonstrates the attention to detail
present in this game.

God of War: Chains of Olympus PSP screenshots

The game does
feature a variety of new elements, from combat moves and combos to more
demonic-like creatures drawn from mythology and more puzzles. The latter is not
particularly strong, but you will encounter moments where you are standing and
trying to figure out what needs to be done to advance to the next section of the

The game also
has save points (or checkpoints) scattered throughout and progress can be saved
– which is always a good idea.

The cut scenes
are cinematic in nature but blend seamlessly with the in-game elements. When it
comes to the graphics, GoW: Chains is arguably the best-looking PSP game to
date. Not only are the environments, from the creeping fog of Morpheus to the
fire sconces on the walls reflecting off the marble floors of the temple,
stunning, but the animations are smooth. If there is one drawback to it all is
that, at times, the game seems too grand for the PSP’s screen. But counter that
with a noticeable lack of load times and you have a game that moves so fluidly
you will find yourself drawn in and propelled along an engaging adventure path.

The camera is
fixed, but as it is in follow mode and swings around to give an optimal view, it
really does not detract from the gameplay elements. 

And then there
is the sound track to the game. Linda Hunt narrates the story and does a great
job. The voice of Kratos is T.C. Carson (actor and producer), who gives the
title character a real angry quality that almost sounds like the gruff Riddick
voice (Vin Diesel) in Pitch Black. The musical score is also very good. This is
a game that deserves stereo ear buds to listen to the richness rather than have
the sound pumped through the PSP’s speaker system.

God of War: Chains of Olympus PSP screenshots

The game
mechanics are simply to use. Players will not only have to use the standard
hotkeys, but the left and right shoulder bumpers and the analog stick to execute
some moves. While that may sound like a lot, it really is not. The control
schemes are easy to understand and implement. And there are unlockables along
the route and the Challenge of Hades will reward players with a nice array of
items to choose from. The game also has three difficulty levels (from an easy
mode where you can die, but not easily, to a hard mode where you can die
easily), which should make it a challenge for players of any level and add to
the replay (can you say more unlockables) as the difficulty level is bumped on
subsequent attempts to play through the game.

Chains of
Olympus is the prequel to the original God of War story, thus making is a valued
part of the franchise. Because it was a God of War title, expectations were high
for Chains of Olympus, but the Ready At Down Studios team, in association with
SCEA, have done an exquisite job of releasing a game that is highly entertaining
as well as a real treat for action gamers. The game is relatively short in
length, but even that does not deter from the fact that what has been crafted
here is an amazing achievement and a must-own for PSP adventure fans.

Review Scoring Details

for God of War: Chains of Olympus

Gameplay: 9.2
The story may not be
as deep as past releases, and the puzzles are on the simple side, but the
gameplay elements are accessible and the focus is on the adventure, not fumbling
with trying to get the control scheme down. The adage “don’t fix it if it ain’t
broke” seems to have been part of the Ready At Dawn mantra when it came to the
controls of this game and the studio took those aspects and made them work
wonderfully on the PSP.

Graphics: 9.8
Is this the
best-looking PSP game released? Here’s one opinion – YES!

Sound: 9.5
The course and
angst-ridden voice of Kratos is great, as is the narration by Linda Hunt. The
music is magnificent.

Difficulty: Medium

Concept: 9.5
From the story to
the graphics to the sound, this is a complete package. Kudos to Ready At Dawn
for what was achieved here.

Overall: 9.5
Sure the game is a
bit linear, and there are some repetitions in the puzzles, but for a PSP title,
this is one of the finest, if not THE finest, games released to date. The story
will lure you in, the lack of load times will make the adventure seem seamless
and the visual and aural treat will keep you in the game until you get to the
very end. God of War 2: Chains of Olympus is the game that sets the standard by
which other PSP games will be judged on this year.