In Depth Review: God of War: Chains of Olympus [PSP]
God of War: Chains of Olympus puts you into the combat sandals of Kratos, dubbed--per the original Playstation 2 game--the "Ghost of Sparta" for his various deeds and misdeeds committed as part of his servitude to the Greek gods of Olympus. The core action lies between the brawler motif and the "character-action" motif (think Ninja Gaiden or Devil May Cry). Controlling Kratos is a breeze; you don't need precision timing to pull off the various combos and counters that are crucial to getting the most of Kratos' abilities. At the same time, it behooves you to learn and master Kratos' more in-depth maneuvers if you're to maximize his potential.
The game combines light platforming and puzzle aspects with a heavy emphasis on melee combat. You will spend most of your time wailing on enemies, though, which is why learning how to do more than just button-mash is critical. Sure, the combat is accessible enough that a novice might be okay just jamming on the Square button. But the heavier-hitting the combos you pull off, the more red orbs your foes relinquish upon death. These red orbs act as currency with which you upgrade Kratos' melee attacks, combos and magic potency. The better combos and spells you unlock and use, the more red orbs you can coax from defeated enemies, and so the cycle goes. Being as upgraded as you can certainly comes in handy against certain enemies and boss battles.
You'll also be executing "mini-games"--which are somewhat similar to Shenmue's quicktime events--which require you to follow on-screen prompts for button presses and analog-stick movements in order to perform cinematic finishing attacks and platforming maneuvers. In fact, it's the cinematic presentation more than the actual gameplay mechanics that makes God of War: Chains of Olympus so much fun to play, and so impressive on a portable platform. It's hard to discern this game from its home console brethren without a magnifying glass: it runs at a decently smooth framerate; character models are detailed and environments are well-lit and large; and the camera angles are always situated to give the most satisfying view of the action and to show off just how vast the environments are. When Kratos fights, every swing and blow is punctuated by stylish flare, making you feel like a real badass--no matter what you're doing. The orchestral score adds drama and adrenaline to every major fight scene, and ambient tracks lend an air of mystique to the calmer platforming and puzzle-solving scenes.
What are the major differences between Chains of Olympus and its console predecessors, then? Truthfully, there aren't many that are noteworthy. The quest will likely take you only a handful of hours to complete, which might be the single most disappointing thing about it. Chains of Olympus, like any other God of War game, is so easy to get into and enjoy, that those handful of hours fly by pretty quickly and don't quite feel like enough--unlike the meatier console games. It also feels slightly lacking in the boss battle department. Considering that God of War II was a major improvement over the original in that area, it feels like a step back and is a little bit of a let-down that there aren't more insane, epic major enemies in this, the third game of the series. Fortunately, the pesky balance-beam mechanics from the console games are absent.
The bottom line is this: If you're tired of God of War mechanics, or never liked them to begin with, there's nothing that this game does that adds to the franchise's appeal or that will change your mind. Developer Ready At Dawn simply aimed to recreate the console experience for people who want to satisfy their Kratos-inspired bloodlust on their daily commute, and the studio has succeeded at that. It's impressive enough that such high production values were squeezed into a portable platform in the first place, and God of War: Chains of Olympus stands as one of those PSP titles that shows off the type of experiences you can currently find on the platform that you can't find anywhere else.