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God of War: Chains of Olympus (PSP) artwork

God of War: Chains of Olympus (PSP) review


"Chains of Olympus is a handheld version of the PS2 God of War games. But donít 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? Thatís another story. But as a technical achievement, youíd 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 sound..."



Chains of Olympus is a handheld version of the PS2 God of War games. But donít 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? Thatís another story. But as a technical achievement, youíd 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 wouldnít 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 doesnít really matter. Youíve got a pair of chain blades, and youíve got a lot of bad guys that need their asses kicked. Thatís 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. Thereís multiple encounters with the Basilisk throughout the level, and passing each of them requires performing one of the seriesí trademark button-pressing sequences.

Oh yes, theyíre back. While their overuse in mediocre games has seen them fall out of favor with gamers recently, the Dragonís Lair/Shenmue/Resident Evil 4-esque parts really enhance the God of War experience. This time, youíll use them to smash a manís 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. Thereís even one part near the end where a lot of button mashing is required for something that uses very little of Kratosí strength. In fact, itís 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 didnít 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. Youíve got the chain blades, youíve got four magic spells, youíve got an alternate weapon (the Gauntlet of Zeus), and all of Kratosí 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. Iíve been saying ďlike the PS2 gamesĒ a lot in this review, and thatís 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 itís portable this time. I can think of few games Iíd rather play on the go than God of War, but still, itíd 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 youíre expecting cool unlockables after the gameís beaten, like the making-of documentaries in the first two...donít. Thereís a few bonus challenges, but thatís it. Chains of Olympus is over before you know it; donít blink, youíll miss it. If you live somewhere that lets you rent PSP games, then this would make a helluva rental. Otherwise, youíd be better off waiting until it goes on Greatest Hits.

Those five hours are packed, but no matter which way you slice it, itís still just five hours for a $40 game. It kicks a lot of ass, and I had a lot of fun, and itís an impressive achievement for a handheld game. If youíre 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 itís cheaper. Itís short and sweet. Emphasis on the short. And the sweet.

Rating: 8/10

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Featured community review by phediuk (March 18, 2008)

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