Review by transience
""God of War-lite" is fairly accurate, and it's both a good and a bad thing."
The God of War series is only three years old, but it already has two blockbuster titles to its name. Amazing graphics, a truly "epic" feel and some pretty tight control, along with next-to-no loading times to speak of, have made it one of the most popular games of the past generation, and has made God of War 3 one of the hottest upcoming titles on the PS3. God of War: Chains of Olympus is a solid title that continues the tradition, but comes up just a little bit short to the console versions in just about every area.
GOW: Chains of Olympus is a prequel, and doesn't do a very good job of explaining what's going on or where it fits in. Kratos is in servitude to the gods, and is trying to stop the world from ending thanks to a black mist that has threatened all of Earth. Kratos is the same defiant man we've come to know from previous games, and this game expands a bit on his backstory. Once again, Kratos is written into myths as you meet the gods, demigods and titans of lore. The storyline is enjoyable while not getting too much in the way of the gameplay. The only downside is that you can't skip cutscenes, something that can get mighty annoying if you get stuck on a part with a scene in the middle.
Chains of Olympus sports some of the finest graphics seen on the PSP yet. It stands up to the original God of War in graphics, and takes the Quick Time Events of GOW2 to create some intense and enjoyable encounters. When looking at GOW1 and GOWPSP side by side, it can be tough to tell a difference. The only major difference graphically are the FMV sequences, where the PS2 games outshine Chains of Olympus by a good amount. Outside of that, the game competes admirably with the very best the PS2 has to offer. If you've played those, this game will feel very familiar, right down to the attacks and the animations. It feels like you've played this game before. This is both a good and a bad thing: on the one hand, you know it's coming from a good place, and it feels very natural despite being a new game. On the flipside, you've done this before, seen this before, and it doesn't really break any new ground. For a handheld game, though? It's pretty top-notch.
Unfortunately, the same can not be said for the control. Simply put, the PSP's button layout doesn't do God of War justice. For one, the nub is far inferior to the analog sticks on the Dualshock controller. Trying to control the game while in the middle of intense battles can be frustrating, and playing the game for too long can hurt your hands. That's more the PSP's fault than the game's, but it has to be noted regardless. On top of that, there just aren't enough buttons to do what God of War's battle system is asking. Due to the lack of a second analog stick, rolling is now done by holding L + R and pressing a direction to roll in with the nub. It can be pretty frustrating at times. Magic is done by holding R and pressing a button while combos are L + those same buttons; given that both L and R block, it's very easy to confuse the two and use magic when you don't mean to. I wouldn't go as far as calling the control "awful", but it takes some adjustments, especially if you're going from the PS2 games to this one. On top of that, it can be glitchy at times: one time I fell through the level to my death, another the game froze on me, and a third time I went the wrong way and ended up trapped.
The battle system is shallow, but it works. It's more of a button masher than the Devil May Crys and Ninja Gaidens of the world, but I don't think it hurts the game too much. The main problem in the battle system is the balance - some attacks are, quite frankly, broken. The other problem comes from the PSP's limitations - occasionally the game will zoom out in large rooms, and if you're behind a large enemy you can completely lose sight of yourself. It doesn't happen too often, but you can find yourself fighting the camera if you're on the far side of a room.
Overall, it's a solid package - flaws are evident, it's not as good as the real thing, but who really expected it to be? This is a solid handheld game, one with some of the best presentation values to date. Unfortunately, the real flaw comes into play: length. God of War PSP is maybe five hours long. I can count the number of bosses on one hand. The difficulty is fairly low, except for the last boss which is frustratingly difficult at times. There are harder modes to compensate for this, but I think that would only cause to expose the shallow battle system for what it is. There's maybe 10 different kinds of enemies total. The game ends up feeling like half a game, one that's incomplete. It's enjoyable for what it is - a sidestory - but when comparing it to the Real Thing, it comes up short on just about every level. It looks good, but not as good. It's intense, but nothing like God of War 2. The battle system is the same, but the control holds you back. It's half the length, and easier than GOW2. Bosses are nearly nonexistent. Its best strengths are level design and graphics, and other games have topped this. This game is worth it if you're a big GOW fan, but for everyone else it's more of a rental.
Reviewer's Rating: 3.0 - Fair
Originally Posted: 03/10/08
Game Release: God of War: Chains of Olympus (US, 03/04/08)
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