When it was announced that Sony's flagship bloodbath series God of War was coming to the PSP there were plenty of raised eyebrows here in the office, and around the globe. How in Zeus' name were they going to get the stunning, epically conveyed bloody tales of Kratos, Greek mythology's doomed, dual-blade wielding anti-hero, onto the PSP?
Of course the game was in solid hands with the dev team at Ready At Dawn so hopes were high. The shots rolled in, 'Oohs' and 'Ahhs' echoed around the office and eventually Sony stopped by one afternoon with a playable level that had us chomping at the bit for this prequel to the original PS2 games. Now I haven't been able to scrape my jaw off the floor since that little UMD, with all its amount of wonder, was put into the palm of my hand.
The best-looking game on PSP has arrived. And it also happens to be the best game on PSP too. Ever. From the opening seconds the sheer scope is apparent. With brawling ships at sea, the Persian's Basilisk is wreaking havoc in the distance with scorching fireball breath and hordes of undead fighting an army of the soon-to-be-dead on a blood soaked beach. This is a God of War game in every sense.
This is the PSP finally showing off its true potential. I'm impressed, can't you tell? The opening is signature God of War stuff, perfectly setting the scene and culminating in a kick-arse boss battle with the Basilisk at the gates of Attica.
Originally I had some issues with the control system when playing the one level demo back in issue 101, but getting to spend more time with it, it's actually pretty darned impressive that Ready At Dawn has managed to keep all of Kratos' combat moves from the superb sequel intact. Rolling requires you to hold L and R and tap the nub in any direction and using magic is as simple as holding R and tapping the requisite face button. Somehow it all works incredibly well when it should have been a nightmare to transpose Kratos' moves onto the PSP.
Tales from the crypt
As for the story? It's every bit as epic and bleak as the previous two games. Penned by series regular Cory Barlog and co-scribe Marianne Krawczyk, who worked on the last two games (and the stinker Sopranos: Road To Respect), Chains features our troubled warrior during his ten long years of servitude to the Gods of Olympus and somewhere in between the point at which he was duped into killing his family.
The world has been thrust into the depths of darkness and the Gods rendered completely powerless at the hands of a malevolent dark force. Spoiling the story would be a shame so I'm keeping schtum, leaving you free to play out the twisted tale for yourselves. And with plenty of nods to the subsequent games (and possibly even the third?) it's worth knowing very little until you've played through the plot.
The cutscenes look spectacular and they hammer home even more so how stunning Chains of Olympus looks, feels and plays. Everything is on a par with the previous games and it just totally engulfs you from start to blood-soaked finish.
If the God of War series couldn't be any bleaker, this fable plays home to some grim scenarios; the kind that makes Kratos the bitter butcher that he is. Still, if these things didn't happen regularly we wouldn't like him as much - now would we?
Much like its predecessors, the game takes a very simplistic approach to things. You slaughter hordes of enemies in any given room, sometimes having to clear a small army before you can advance. Some people may have a problem with this, personally, it's just a small issue I have with the game because it can feel repetitive, but it's the overall package experienced from start to finish that really counts with games like God of War - and here Chains of Olympus wins out.