Review by druchrist
"An excellent addition to not only the PSP library, but also the God of War Universe: short and sweet."
God of War: Chains of Olympus Review
When reviewing God of War: Chains of Olympus, one central question comes to mind. How do we judge this game? Do we judge it as a PSP game? A God of War game? Or just a normal video game competing against all the others in the market? How about all of the above.
Overall, Chains of Olympus is a game that is executed extremely well, especially when viewing the limitations of the PSP. It is an engaging continuation in the storyline of Kratos that only adds to the series as a whole. However, this game does feel a bit small. Even Kratos himself, seems quite small on the screen. But, fitting an epic series such as God of War onto a handheld is no easy task. Even at its worst, when Chains of Olympus feels like a stripped down version of God of War, Ready at Dawn delivers with wonderful production values, making this game a must-have for any PSP owner.
One of the most notable aspects of the game is its length. Without getting into too much of a debate about game length (for all those ICO fans out there), the game could have been longer. But this brings up another question. Was the game supposed to be on a smaller scale and just not marketed that way? I am going to say yes. In a way, Chains of Olympus is just a piece of meat for us to chew on before God of War III comes out. Now, that is not to say that this game looses anything. However judging it in comparison with the console God of Wars will ultimately prove it's lacking in areas.
Given that the PSP has limitations, (notably UMD size) this game should have been marketed as a glimpse into Kratos' past, not as a game about his past. The difference is obvious. The beginning of the game starts with Kratos already in the servitude of the gods, and seems to end much earlier than when the original God of War starts. This is an interesting concept that I would have liked to have seen developed. The game seems to be short because we are expecting more. Easily, game can be beat in under seven hours, which is definitely on the shorter side. However, if viewing this game as just an episode so to speak of Kratos' past, then, with this new perspective, this game is a larger success. This is because, ultimately, Chains of Olympus is just that, a snippet of Kratos' past.
Speaking of Kratos' past, the story is a little hard to follow. You know what's going on, however you don't know what it means or why it's necessarily important. The story and character arch is relatively short because of the length and painting Kratos as a loving father isn't done entirely in the best manner. Morpheus, the god of dreams, seems to have a large omnipresent and malevolent role thought the game. But, he is not seen, nor is he a boss. Persephone is not introduced until the end of the story and is presented as the main enemy, but I wasn't sold on that. As stated before, Kratos is already a servant of the gods, however we're not exactly sure what he has done and if he personality is different than that of the Kratos in the PS2 games since the events take place much earlier. Even with these gripes, the game still flows and honestly, the story doesn't matter a whole lot.
One of the best parts of the game is the graphics. Few, if any PSP games on the market are at the same level of Chains of Olympus. The fluidity of the game is excellent. The frame rate stays consistent and the load times are short, and I don't mean short for a PSP game, I mean just short. The action keeps moving well because of this. All of the combos and actions that Kratos performs are rendered well and add to why this game is executed so cleanly. The cinematic camera angles also help keep the same console God of War feel on the PSP. With good lighting and detailed environments, the graphics round out to be of the highest caliber for a PSP game.
Another notable aspect of the game is the classic God of War game play. This game succeeds exceedingly well in that area, but it does not build on it by much. While bordering on button mashing in some parts, Chains of Olympus still has that bit of repetition that can get aggravating at times. However, the addition of the Gauntlet of Zeus, an alternate weapon, is a nice plus that spices combat up a bit. Magical abilities take a backseat, like in previous God of War games. The game can be beaten without ever using them, and the first spell, the Efreet, is probably the only useful one. The red orbs are still working the same, as rewards for killing enemies and they can be used to upgrade your weapons and magical abilities.
Chains of Olympus is also much more combat based than its predecessors. There will be times when you need to use items such as the Sun Shield to reflect light or move statues, however the platforming and puzzle elements are much more limited (except maybe wall climbing, which was fairly regular in parts). Many times you are playing the game from one fight to the next, merely walking through areas just to get to the next group of enemies. Sometimes this can be tiring, especially when playing on the hardest difficulty. On the Hero difficulty, many times the fights are just trial and error. They are figuring out what can and can't be blocked, what attacks work well and which are useless. While challenging, some fights have to be fought over and over again just to get to a green orb chest and do it all over again with more enemies. This may also be a reason why the game is shorter than it wants to be, too much combat not balanced out with other aspects.
The controls are another area that deserves some attention. Applause should be given to Ready at Dawn for their success in this area. The PSP is not known particularly well for its controls, especially when they are being translated. There are some gripes for people about evasion and blocking. However, the majority of the time both actions are very smooth and handled well. Achieving combos is just as easy on a PlayStation controller and even though the PSP has fewer buttons than its PS2 cousin, it never feels that way. Interestingly, some of the mini game sequences seem very organic to the PSP, such as using the analog stick in different directions and tapping the L and R buttons back and forth.
Overall, God of War: Chains of Olympus is a top-notch game for PSP owners. The things we have all come to love about God of War are all present, the game play, the violence, the naked Greek women (did I just say that?), and production values including great voice acting and cinematic cut scenes. By the way, make sure you have your volume turned all the way up for this game. The great musical score truly adds depth to the game and makes the experience much richer. Attention should be given to Chuck Doud, the Director of Music as well as Gerard K. Marino who provided original music. So to answer the questions stated at the beginning, how do we judge it as a PSP game? It's at the top of list when it comes to PSP games. How do we judge it as a God of War game? It's a great addition to powerful franchise that will surely have more to come. And how do we judge it as a video game in general? It's an all around solid game. You won't be disappointed playing it. And in the end, even if you wanted more from this game, you will still have enjoyed the time you spent playing it.
Reviewer's Rating: 4.5 - Outstanding
Originally Posted: 04/15/08
Game Release: God of War: Chains of Olympus (US, 03/04/08)
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