God of War: Chains of Olympus

godofwarcoo
What we liked:
+ Epic story and sense of scale worthy of the series
+ Some of the best graphics on a handheld to date
+ Combat is nearly flawless
+ Awe inspiring level design
What we didn't like:
- Very short
- Not enough "epic" feeling boss fights
- Dodging without the right analog takes some getting used to.
DEVELOPER: Ready at Dawn   |   PUBLISHER: SCEA   |   RELEASE: 03/04/2008

When it was first announced that Sony’s mythological blockbuster God of War series was going to be arriving on the PSP, there were some nagging doubts. Would the development team be able to squeeze the game onto a handheld system and still capture the epic feel, frenzied gameplay, and visceral action of one of the best hack-n-slash games of all time. With Ready at Dawn at the helm, they have done exactly that, and produced a game that more than lives up to the lofty expectations that come with the series.

Chains of Olympus finds our favorite mass murding Spartan at the beginning of his journey to deification. He has begun his service to the gods, and is summoned into battle to combat the Persian army and its mighty Basilisk. That’s just the beginning of an epic tale that is more than good enough to live up to the God of War name. Ready at Dawn could have very easily used the portable platform as an excuse to neglect the story, but thankfully they took the opposite approach. I won’t give anything away, but the end of the game features some truly great story moments that really help flesh Kratos out as a character.

A big part of God of War’s amazing story is its epic sense of scale, which has been achieved in large part by the series ability to push the hardware to the limit graphically. Chain’s of Olympus carries on this proud tradition by featuring incredibly detailed graphics nearly on par with it’s predecessors on the PS2. Characters are nearly just as detailed as in the console originals, and the environments are every bit as awe inspiring as you would expect from a GOW title. Not to mention that all the fast and frantic head-chopping, eye stabbing action goes off with out a hitch in the framerate. This is hands down the best looking game on the PSP, and it’s a great showcase title for Sony’s handheld.

Thankfully the transition from Dual Shock to PSP is pretty smooth overall. Kratos has all his familiar moves and combo’s, and he controls nearly just as well as you remember. The lack of a right analog stick does hurt the control a bit, but once you get used to hitting both shoulder buttons to dodge it starts to feel more natural. Kratos has some awesome new magic at his disposal, and a brand new weapon that actually succeeds where other GOW weapons have failed. In fact after I acquired it I seldom went back to the Blades of Chaos.

Combat is standard GOW, and while I could have done with some more variety in terms of grapple moves, it definitely holds up to it’s pedigree. You’ll have all the basic enemies you are used to, along with the traditional button combo’s to finish them off. The boss battles in Chains of Olympus are a bit of a let down compared to GOW and GOW2, however. While there are several, only one succeeds in feeling truly epic, and one of the others is basically repeated twice. This doesn’t really take away from the story per say, but part of the fun of the GOW series has always been taking down bosses that dwarf your Spartan killing machine.

The score and sound always add a ton to a game like this, and COO will definitely give you an excuse to plug the headphones in. The music is classic GOW, and pushes the game along at perfect pitch. The sound effects seem to be the same ones fans of the series have grown accustomed to, and sounds great out of either the PSP’s speakers or the aforementioned headphones.

My only gripe about GOW: COO is that is just too short. I completed the game on the normal difficulty in less than 5 hours on my first play through. While this is somewhat understandable due to the medium and graphical prowess on display, for forty dollars I expect a little bit more. The Challenge of Hades will add some replay value, and a chance to unlock some bonus content; however I would have liked another couple hours of story.

All in all, Chains of Olympus is a fantastic game, and one of the best handheld titles in a long time. If you are a fan of the series, or action games in general it should be high on your list. Its nearly flawless gameplay, impressive graphics, and immersive story make it the perfect way to kill some time (and a heck of a lot of other things) on the go.

Ryan Wombold

Wombat lives by the code that if you are playing a game from this year, you are doing it wrong. His backlog is the stuff of legend and he is currently enjoying Perfect Dark Zero, Skies of Arcadia and Pong.