Review by Phediuk

"Brief but very fun."

Chains of Olympus is a handheld version of the PS2 God of War games. But don't be fooled: it wants desperately to not be a handheld game. In the transition from DVD9 to a 1.8GB UMD, nothing has been lost as far as gameplay is concerned. Content? Replay value? That's another story. But as a technical achievement, you'd be hard-pressed to find any handheld game with production values this high. All of the over-the-top action of the PS2 games is here, as is their superb visuals and orchestral soundtrack. If this was the biggest-budget handheld game ever made, I wouldn't be surprised one bit.

As in the previous games, Chains of Olympus puts you in control of Spartan he-man Kratos, as he goes on his quest to...kick lots of ass. I barely remember what the game was about and I beat it only yesterday. The plot doesn't really matter. You've got a pair of chain blades, and you've got a lot of bad guys that need their asses kicked. That's all you need to know. The game starts off with a bang, as you defend the city of Attica from invading Persians and their pet boss, the Basilisk. There's multiple encounters with the Basilisk throughout the level, and passing each of them requires performing one of the series' trademark button-pressing sequences.

Oh yes, they're back. While their overuse in mediocre games has seen them fall out of favor with gamers recently, the Dragon's Lair/Shenmue/Resident Evil 4-esque parts really enhance the God of War experience. This time, you'll use them to smash a man's head with a crate, impale Charon against a wall with his own scythe, and have sex with two hot babes (another series tradition.) And plenty more. There's even one part near the end where a lot of button mashing is required for something that uses very little of Kratos' strength. In fact, it's kind of touching, and has a bit of...heart. Unusual for this kind of game. Not that the game has a good plot or anything. Like I said, I barely remember any of the cutscenes where I didn't personally make a guy bleed. The voice acting is pure ham. Just like the other games.

I should emphasize that Chains of Olympus pulls no punches in the gameplay department. Everything from the PS2 games is in. You've got the chain blades, you've got four magic spells, you've got an alternate weapon (the Gauntlet of Zeus), and all of Kratos' usual abilities are present. A few underused mechanics, like cliff-shuffling and swimming, seem to be included so the developers could say they included everything. Controls are virtually unchanged; because the PSP lacks a second analog nub, rolling has been reworked, but otherwise it plays just like its console brothers. The game looks terrific—better than most PS2 games. The developers reportedly recreated the engine from scratch to optimize it for PSP, and the hard work has paid off. This is arguably the best-looking handheld game ever released. It. Looks. Like. The. PS2. Games. I've been saying “like the PS2 games” a lot in this review, and that's perhaps a shortcoming of Chains of Olympus. There was so much effort spent to recreate the experience of the PS2 games that the game offers nothing new. The only change is that it's portable this time. I can think of few games I'd rather play on the go than God of War, but still, it'd have been nice if the game went in new directions.

While the gameplay has lost nothing in its transition to PSP, one major corner had to be cut: content. When they put all the features of a dual-layer DVD game onto a UMD, something had to give. It took me just over five hours to beat Chains of Olympus—half as long as God of War II. Maybe less. And if you're expecting cool unlockables after the game's beaten, like the making-of documentaries in the first two...don't. There's a few bonus challenges, but that's it. Chains of Olympus is over before you know it; don't blink, you'll miss it. If you live somewhere that lets you rent PSP games, then this would make a helluva rental. Otherwise, you'd be better off waiting until it goes on Greatest Hits.

Those five hours are packed, but no matter which way you slice it, it's still just five hours for a $40 game. It kicks a lot of ass, and I had a lot of fun, and it's an impressive achievement for a handheld game. If you're a big God of War fan, you probably own it already, and probably enjoyed it. But those who like a lot of bang for their buck should look elsewhere, at least until it's cheaper. It's short and sweet. Emphasis on the short. And the sweet.


Reviewer's Score: 8/10 | Originally Posted: 03/18/08

Game Release: God of War: Chains of Olympus (US, 03/04/08)


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