God of War: Chains of OlympusESRB:
Category: Action Games
Developer – Ready At Dawn Studios
Publisher – Sony Computer Entertainment of America
Memory stick save - 656 KB
The PSP has been getting quite a lot of love lately. With Sony and numerous developers focused on the PS3, and even the aging PS2, it seemed like PSP owners were getting the short end of the stick in terms of titles. I know that my own PSP was collecting the proverbial dust for sometime. Lately though more and more major titles have been released, or are in the works, for the Sony's little wonder machine. For quite sometime now developer Ready At Dawn Studios has been hard at work on God of War: Chains of Olympus. The insanely popular God of War series has seen two instalments on the PS2 and there are even rumours that Chains of Olympus being ported to it as well. Regardless, Chains of Olympus has been built from the ground up for the PSP and it is a direct prequel to God of War and God of War 2. Having played the PS2 games I was definitely excited to give this latest release of the series on my PSP.
Chains of Olympus really shows off what the PSP hardware can do as almost everything in the game breathes with incredible life. Torches scattered throughout the game spit sparks with incredible light sourcing effects, walls glisten with moisture from water or blood splatter, and yes the blood flows in great amounts too. The game brings the huge scope and surroundings of the previous games on the PS2 to the PSP quite effectively. There is some use of static backgrounds but these are used quite effectively. This is done so well you will have a tough time telling the difference and this really allows the PSP to never drop in the frame rate department. The visuals were so impressive that there were parts of the game where I wished I were playing on a bigger screen if just to see all of the detail that Ready at Dawn has put into the game. For veterans of the series you will be able to tell where they had to scale back some of the graphics, but for the most part the PSP keeps up with the PS2 offerings quite easily.
I would say that presentation wise, Chains of Olympus is an absolute stunner; it is the pinnacle of PSP development at this current moment. The game surprisingly uses almost no loading time anywhere except when you first fire the game up. Chains of Olympus is programmed to stream everything off of the UMD as you play making for smooth transitions throughout the game. The action on screen moves beautifully with very little loss in detail or speed. Kratos and various enemies look almost as detailed as they do on the PS2, although some of the enemies and backgrounds have been scaled down a bit more to fit onto the Sony portable. Overall I was very impressed with the visuals offered in this portable version of God of War and I think it has set the bar quite high for future games to be released on the PSP.
Like God of Ware 2 on the PS2, Chains of Olympus sports a fantastic soundtrack and some great voice acting work. The folks at Ready At Dawn have crammed a superb orchestral score into the game which manages to give it a life of its own. The action and music are perfectly matched and complement each other very well. In high tension filled moments the music can be very dark and brooding, and with any small victories it is uplifting and powerful. I’ve always been a fan of motion picture musical scores, which are mostly symphonic in nature, and although Chains of Olympus is a videogame it certainly rivals some of the best accompanying music ever put to movies or videogames.
I’m not sure if the voices in Chains of Olympus are the same from God of War 2, but in any event they are very good. The dialogue is never cheesy or muddy as the clarity is quite crisp and clear. The weapons and background effects are also fantastic. Every weapon has its own sound, as do all the doors, gates, bridges, and everything else found in the game. The attention to detail is really quite astounding. The PSP’s tiny external speakers are more than adequate to pump out the soundtrack and sound effects included in Chains of Olympus, but really the headphones are the best. They convey the deep bass and unbelievable separation from ear to ear, which when heard is quite an impressive and immersive treat.
Chains of Olympus is a direct prequel to the original God of War on the PS2. The story still takes place inside the timeline set by the first game. It takes place during the early days of Kratos' service to the God of War Ares, and it starts with his defense of Sparta from none other than the Persian Empire. When the sun literally falls from the sky, and the world plunges into darkness, Kratos knows that the Gods have more games to play up. Athena, as usual, needs a mere human mortal to right things as darkness has come from the god Morpheus, and so your adventure begins. The game follows the same gameplay introduced in the earlier two titles. Fans of the series will recognize the block moving, body carrying puzzles, levers and switches, tons of both weak and tough enemies, set piece battles, and huge bosses. There are new combos, magic abilities, and a new weapon to try out (which is very cool by the way), but as with past games most of the core action is the same as before, which overall is not a bad thing.
While the games graphics are really unbelievable, what really surprised me was how good the game actually controls. I have never been a great fan of the PSP’s analog nub as I have found it to be somewhat inaccurate and even sloppy. Ready At Dawn have really found the nub's sweet spot in Chains of Olympus, and most gamers will pick up the control almost immediately. The game uses pretty much the same button placement as the PS2 except for the shoulder buttons. You use the nub to move Kratos around with the face buttons taking up the usual functions of attack, jump and grab. To leap in any direction you push both shoulder buttons and move the nub in the direction you want to go. It’s pretty straightforward and I think it is a bit easier than on the PS2. Kratos’s magic attack is performed by pressing the right shoulder button and one of the face buttons and power attacks are done with the left shoulder button and a face button. With the exception of using the bottom button on the d-pad to toggle between weapons the d-pad is mostly unused. It is a simple system once you figure it out and it works really well.
You only get two main weapons to use throughout the game. The Blades of Chaos is one that you’ll be using the most. You do pick up another weapon towards the end of the game and it is pretty much used to solve a few puzzles and is extremely powerful and cool to use. The Gauntlet of Zeus is like a huge glove and does extreme amounts of damage. You’ll also have three pretty solid magic attacks added to your arsenal and they are fairly effective on any or all enemies. For example, the Effreet Power levels up pretty quickly and it also sets people on fire. All in all the weapons in Chains are more than adequate to the task at hand, and they also have just the right amount of flair to make the experience memorable.
The Enemy AI for the most part was pretty solid, however there were times that is could be really tough and then all of a sudden it was almost too easy. For example, sometime I was able to walk right up to some of the archers without them attacking yet other times they would maul me at the slightest step. It really is not a big deal though as their shortcomings are counterbalanced by some of the cool attack and retreat attacks of some of the other enemies, and of course the really tough boss battles. There are not a large amount of enemies throughout the game; in fact there are only around eight different types of enemies to be found. As I got towards the end of the game I found that there was a marked increase the difficulty too. The game begins to force you to take on more enemies in a smaller space rather than introducing newer/harder enemies on a gradual curve. This is probably due to a limitation of hardware and memory issues with the PSP, but overall the game’s characters and their corresponding AI are very well done.
Once you finish the single player campaign there are some costumes to unlock, and some various challenges which you can play that unlock some videos including one that reveals some of the lost levels from the game. For the hardcore fan it is definitely a nice treat. I was a bit disappointed at the lack of extra stuff, and the game itself is really only about 5-7 hours long. I’m sure the diehards however will endeavor to try and finish the game on the harder modes, extending the life of Chains of Olympus somewhat.
Continue to Page 2