God of War has finally arrived on the PSP. Set ten years before the events of God of War, Chains of Olympus follows every gamer’s favourite ass-kicking Spartan as he attempts to stop Persephone from causing the end of the world. Jack Bauer, eat your heart out.
The ancient Greek setting certainly provides a rich tapestry, helping Chains of Olympus provide a typically epic narrative, complete with customary visit to the underworld. However, the fact that God of War: Chains of Olympus is a prequel rather than a sequel initially proves worrying.
PSP titles often have the misfortune of being neutered versions of PlayStation 2 titles. Concessions often have to be made in terms of graphics and gameplay. In the opening moments of Chains of Olympus, it becomes perfectly clear that this is not the case.
Seamlessly shifting from a computer-generated cutscene to the in-game action, Chains of Olympus, using a reworked version of the engine used in Daxter, is graphically without equal on the PSP. Indeed, the graphics are so impressive that Chains of Olympus could be mistaken for a PS2 title.
Going beyond texture clarity and resolution, Chains of Olympus offers such a grand sense of scale that it’s often impossible to believe that it is a handheld title. In one particular early moment, a giant cyclops smashes through a wall, only to be then eaten by a giant basilisk. The astonishing animation and the sweeping camera angles demonstrate how a game can be cinematic without resorting to hours of pre-rendered footage.
The early appearance of the basilisk is also a reassuring reminder: a boss fight in the first five minutes means that the God of War gameplay is completely intact. Indeed, although there have been some concessions in terms of control, nearly everything from its PS2 brethren has made it into Chains of Olympus.
Along with the deep combat system – one that allows for a range of gruesome chain combos – are the quick-time events that the series is known for. Appearing frequently, the quick-time events never seem to get in the way of the action and even compliment it by providing cinematic experiences that would otherwise be impossible.
In addition to the blade-swinging, button-pushing combat, Chains of Olympus also provides some puzzles to balance out the carnage. Fewer in number than the PS2 titles and never exceedingly difficult, the puzzles and their frequency can actually be seen as an improvement on the God of War formula.
If there is one downside to Chains of Olympus, one thing that makes it impossible to recommend to all, it’s that it’s so deliberately masculine. After brutally smashing a crate over the head of an enemy, Kratos encounters two naked females who beg him to pleasure them.
After gifting them the fruit of his loins, he then walks back out into battle to continue his reign of destruction. One almost expects a quick-time event where Kratos eats lions and then shits bullets. Yes, it’s customary to hand in your Man Card if you don’t dig God of War, but more effeminate gamers might find the experience just a little obtuse.
With the excellent graphics and intact and improved gameplay, Chains of Olympus is easily the best God of War title in the series. Indeed, not only is it the best title in the series, it’s also the most fun one can have with a PSP and it’s definitely worth purchasing a system for.
God of War: Chains of Olympus is a masterpiece. The bastion of both technical achievements and engrossing cinematic gameplay, it would be difficult to find a game, let alone a PSP title, that accomplishes as much as God of War does.