God of War: Chains of Olympus (Review)

God of War: Chains of Olympus is a real slap in the face to other developers trying to wrangle a half-decent looking game out of the PSP. One look at these screens is enough to show that Ready at Dawn have an understanding of the PSP that nobody else is even close to obtaining. On top of that they’ve kept the God of War brand in great condition while Sony Santa Monica press on with God of War III.

This game is a prequel to the original PS2 title where Kratos is still on the Olympian’s payroll. The tale begins with Kratos taking on an invading Persian army before the true enemy, Morpheus is revealed. The gods believe Morpheus to be behind the recent disappearance of Helios, the Sun god. If Morpheus is not defeated soon, it may be the end of the gods.

The combat survives the transition to the PSP extremely well. The lack of a second analogue stick means the evasive rolls are now performed by holding the L and R shoulder buttons and tapping the analogue nub. The series has always managed well with using fixed camera angles and on the PSP it makes life especially easier. The only time it becomes an issue is against some of the larger foes that can block your view of Kratos. A quick roll and a flurry of the Blades of Chaos will put him back on the map though.

The rest of the combat with those infamous chained blades is reliably familiar. Gory finishers are in, the best one that springs to mind is climbing up onto the shoulders of a Cyclops and stamping one of your blades into his eye. Jesus. F**king. Christ.

New toys include the Gauntlet of Zeus, a giant metal fist to hammer the hell out of anything. Then there’s the Sun Shield for better blocking and the chance to send enemy projectiles back where they came from. Otherwise there’s not much new to shout about, but seeing as Kratos does the best combat around, it’s hard to complain, especially seeing as the whirling, blood-soaked maniac is doing it all on your PSP.

Visually, the game never disappoints. Usually a PSP version of an established franchise, means shoddy graphics and everything being watered down to leave a miserably bland taste. Not here though, this feels like a title that was always intended to be a part of Kratos’ legacy.

Grand vistas of burning cities and the Underworld alike are supported by fine detail indoors too. A great example of the effort Ready at Dawn have put in are the polished marble floors in Helios’ temple, that reflect the walls and flaming torches perfectly. The overall effort bursting from every seam here is incredible.

It’s not perfect though. If you thought the Gorgons were annoying before with their stone-freezing glare you’ve not seen anything yet. If there’s more than one of them you’ve got almost no chance of recovering in time before you’re smashed to bits and you’ve usually got a bit of a trek to get back there again, where it very well might happen again. There’s an over-reliance on those awful rotating lever sections too, where you push a lever in a circle. It’s just so repetitive and boring. Just let us press a button already.

The main area that causes frequent frustrations are the quick-time events that require turns of the analogue stick, as the inaccurate PSP nub struggles to accurately detect starting and finishing points of a sweeping turn. Your best best is to complete a quick one and a half full spins even if the indicator only says a quarter. It’s the only way to be sure.

The game can be beaten in under five hours which sounds short, but it didn’t really feel that way. That was because there was so much packed into this game, I couldn’t believe it when I saw how little time had been clocked up on my final save file. The size of the levels, the boss fights and the stunning cutscenes just made it feel like a game I’d poured a huge amount of time into. There’s no other game on the PSP that has achieved so much in such a short time.

Dust off your PSP because this is the classic you’ve been waiting for. The combat has easily maintained its ferociousness, spilling just as much claret as the PS2 games. It’s the visuals that really impress here though, with some of the grandest scenes on any handheld ever.

Pros

  • It’s God of War on the bloody PSP!
  • Nothing lost in the combat or visuals
  • Feels like a proper addition to the series

Cons

  • Quite short
  • Analogue stick QTEs are a bit broken
  • Those Gorgon bitches 

9/10

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8 thoughts on “God of War: Chains of Olympus (Review)”

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