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God of War: Chains of Olympus

God of War

God of War on PSP is an interesting pairing, yet one which can’t help but feel a little conflicting. The franchise is best known for its epic boss battles, mythical stories, and colossal settings, so when it was announced that a new God of War game would be coming to Sony’s PSP, speculation was running high. It sounds like it shouldn’t work, but Ready at Dawn have done a sensational job of bringing the world of God of War alive on PSP. Put simply, God of War: Chains of Olympus is an exceptional game that every PSP owner should experience.

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Chains is a prequel to both the original God of War and its sequel. The events in the game take place after Kratos offers his life to Ares, and immediately before the events of the first game. The story is on par with the quality of the two main games, with an interesting plot line, memorable characters, and some fantastic locations. The events of Chains add a lot of back-story to the franchise, and fills you in further on Kratos’ utterly intriguing past. As ever, it is told with the utmost finesse, with the voice talent for Kratos and the Narrator returning once again.

The story includes all the usual twists and turns you’ve come to expect from the series, and you’ll meet a whole host of new friends and foes. Chains‘ story mixes fiction with Greek mythology remarkably well, just like past iterations, and this is what makes the God of War universe so refreshingly new. Major plot events are told through slickly animated FMVs, and push the story along well, and even though the actual game is relatively brief, you’ll feel a lot has happened in those five to six hours.

And what a six hours, as Chains of Olympus is a rollercoaster ride from start to finish. If not the combat, it’s the settings, if not the settings, it’s the orchestral score. Chains excels in almost every area, and as a handheld game is a technological marvel.

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Legendary…It’s fair to say the God of War series is a gaming warhorse. Here’s a brief look at the series so far:God of Waris the first in the series, and arguably the best. It’s what started it all, and can be truly considered a gaming masterpiece. Its setting and character were like nothing before, and was filled with memorable moments. We sure liked it, giving it an impressive 9/10.
God of War IIrecreated the success of the original with yet another offering of epic gameplay, and receiving yet another 9/10 from us here at Thunderbolt. Released near the end of the PS2′s life as a kind of swansong, it still stands up to many next-gen offerings, such is its immense quality.

The combat, then, is just as fine-tuned as its bigger brother, and works wonders on the PSP’s control layout. With less buttons to work with you’d be right in thinking that combat would have to be watered down, but it’s never been more refined. Using a mix of button combinations and the like, Ready at Dawn have translated the controls wonderfully. Kratos’ Blades of Chaos are at full steam here, with a huge amount of combo possibilities and blade attacks. A second weapon is later unlocked, and while not as impressive as the Blades, it still packs a punch, and you’ll find it hard to neglect. Magic attacks make a tantalising return, and are devilishly effective, though the first attack you unlock is the most effective, and likely will be the one you use religiously. Unfortunately, due to the ergonomics of the PSP, extended play sessions can tire and cramp the hands.

Through Chains you’ll visit an impressive amount of locations, and none more inspired than the last. The game begins in the city of Attica, which is the setting to an epic battle between the Persians and Spartans. It is this city that holds the first boss battle, and arguably the greatest boss of the game. Following this you’ll venture through such areas as the magnificent Temple of Helios, the colossal Caves of Olympus, and even return to the pits of Hades. Each location is realised with immaculate attention to detail, it’s incredibly immersive.

Enemies are aplenty and animated with impressive authenticity. Many of the foes that populated the stories of God of War 1 and 2 return, with some new additions added to populate the many settings. Such memorable enemies as the Cyclops and Medusas return, and act almost identically to their console counterparts. Once again, the larger foes require a quick time event – or QTE – to be finished, and these work well on the PSP’s control pad. The QTE’s in general are spectacular, and always enjoyable to watch and perform. QTE’s happen all through the game, but they never grow tired due to their satisfying nature – they are a defining feature of the God of War series, after all.

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Aside from the addictive combat, there’s a fair share of puzzles and platforming sections. The puzzles are less frequent than in previous games, and are consequently less demanding – most can be worked out in seconds. There are some intelligent puzzles, however, that are extremely rewarding to complete. Platforming sections, like the puzzles, are spread thinly and quite far apart, but are nonetheless enjoyable and a nice break from all the slaughter. These moments take place in the most epic locations, and are constantly breathtaking. Unfortunately, it is when you add up all the parts of Chains that almost nothing has changed with the formula. Much like the first two games, it’s very much a case of combat, more combat, a puzzle or platforming section here and there, and then more combat. It would’ve been nice for some new gameplay elements to be introduced, but since the original formula is so flawless, it’s hard to feel hard done by.

While the main adventure is extremely epic in every sense of the word, it is still relatively brief, especially for a God of War game. The time you’ll spend with the game will be so intense that its length will do little to mar your experience. Once you have completed the game you’re treated with a bunch of unlockables dependant on the difficulty you beat the game on. The Challenge of Hades returns (a God of War tradition), and is as rock solid as they come. There are even some comical costumes for Kratos to wear if you choose to replay the game – something many players would be wise to do, since the game showcases such impressive quality, which deserves to be seen more than once.

The visuals are what makes the game such a technical achievement, and are easily the best ever for a handheld game. Textures stand out with an impressive sharpness, while the locations are modelled with an extreme sense of care and hard work. The environments are always filled with history and character, and the scenery that accompanies them are just as well designed, with the enormous statues truly a sight to behold. There are many times when the camera will zoom out slowly as Kratos walks down a path, and it is these signature moments that make God of War such a legendary series, it is these moments when the sheer scale of the world Kratos roams is presented, and in such pure beauty.

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The sound too, is also legendary, with a fantastic orchestral score accompanying all the beautiful bloodshed. It’s an effortless contrast, and one that works perfectly. Voice work is just as well tuned as in the PS2 games, and compliments the fantastically animated cut-scenes and FMVs, just as much as the excellent writing.

While God of War: Chains of Olympus will always be the younger brother of the God of War family, it’s a handsome brother, and a brother that bites. With an engaging story, outstanding visuals, and remarkable sound, Chains succeeds on so many levels. With the world of Greek Mythology now delivered in a PSP sized package, the fate of the Gods really is in your hands.

9 out of 10

The author of this fine article

is a Senior Staff Writer at Thunderbolt, having joined in July 2007. Get in touch on Twitter @_Frey.

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