Review by Arkrex
The smaller they are, the softer they fall?
I assume you're familiar with Kratos's bloody exploits? If not, shell out a couple of hundred bucks and go buy yourself a PlayStation 2 and two of the finest action-adventure games the PS2 has to offer: God of War and God of War II - you don't want to play this one just yet...
God of War: Chains of Olympus is the direct prequel to the two aforementioned God-blessed titles. Following the shift to the portable platform, production switched hands from SCEA to Ready at Dawn (the developers of the highly overrated Daxter - another PSP exclusive based on a PS2 IP). I was incredibly skeptical from the very beginning, but the pre-release demo featuring a large chunk of the opening Attica - city at siege - level was enough to make me a believer. It was essentially everything I loved about the God of War duo - the explosions, the carnage, the colossal scale - recreated almost too perfectly on a down-sized screen.
Here's the thing, though: past Attica, Chains of Olympus meets humble pie. The Temple of Helios is too clean, the caves of Olympus too barren, and the Depths of Tartarus (AKA "Hell") is more like a lukewarm reception. I wanted to see plenty of interactive scenery, dynamic camera shifts that would rock my socks off as epic battles raged on in the background, heck even at least ONE more giant boss character would have been much appreciated. But no. Instead, all we get are several ruined battlegrounds, a few switch puzzles, a little bit of wall-climbing, even less swimming, and plenty boxed-in, Gladiator-esque monster-killing sprees - which is not usually a bad thing, but in Chains of Olympus's case they occur far too frequently.
Understandably, much effort was directed towards squeezing as much graphical juice out of the PSP - Chains of Olympus is arguably the best looking portable game on the market - but at the expense of building solid foundations. i.e. focusing on what really matters - gameplay. Unlike its predecessors, Chains of Olympus is a more of an action-orientated game. This does make it more suitable for the handheld medium (simply keep moving forwards until the next boxed-in fight initiates - you won't ever get lost), but it feels not just like a dumbed-down God of War, but a dumbed-down God of War who hasn't got his priorities straight. There's only so much fighting you can take at a time, especially with the limited arsenal of useful moves at Kratos's disposal.
Five hours later, the game ends, and rather abrubtly at that. You'll have mastered your Blades of Chaos and given the Gauntlet of Zeus some loving; four magic spells will be yours to wreak havoc with, too. But only THREE boss fights? And the only one worth a dime (that is to say the only one who is actually big enough to pose a threat to lean-mean Spartan warrior Kratos) is the Behemoth... who is the game's very first boss... in the introductory Attica siege... who we should all be familiar with by now after playing the demo feverishly countless times...
Sorry guys, but we've already been so spoilt by the two God of War sequels that this just doesn't cut it. Chains of Olympus succeeds in creating a polished image of the PS2 games, but its ideas only run knee-deep. The focus is nearly always on the combat, with even more interactive button-pressing sequences than before to breathe some life into what would otherwise be a glorified button-masher. (Dear fanboys: don't kid yourself.) There are harder difficulties to tackle once you're done with the default selection, but it shouldn't take you too long to have it all under your belt given the brevity. The Challenges (of Hades) make the transition, but they don't add a hell of a lot to the overall running time - you're essentially paying for a 5 hour interactive movie here, which is nice and bloody, but nothing we haven't seen or killed before.
Some have been quick to label Chains of Olympus as the PSP's killer app. These individuals have been too easily swayed by the God-awesome visuals (and they are probably just looking for anything to counter the DS's overwhelming whitewash success). Credit must be given where credit is due. Chains of Olympus is fun while it lasts, but it has lost that epic appeal of the console iterations, churning out repetitive battles to make up for the environmental puzzles that were lost in translation. It deserves an award for technical achievement and proving that the PSP sure is one little powerhouse (Ready at Dawn claim there is still more untapped potential!), but apart from that Chains of Olympus is just an average, mortally-competent 3D action-adventure. Far from Godly if you ask me.
VERDICT - 7.5/10 Bigger is better, which means smaller is...
Rating: 3.5 - Good
Product Release: God of War: Chains of Olympus (US, 03/04/08)
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