Developer: Ready At Dawn
Release Date: March 4, 2008
The PSP is a system that rarely gets to show off its potential. For some reason or other, the PSP just hasn't attracted quite the same following as Nintendo's DS or Game Boy Advance systems, which is a real shame. When developers use it to its full power, the PSP is capable of graphics that are simply mind-blowing for a portable device. While a few titles (Metal Gear Solid: Portable Ops comes to mind) have managed to use the system's full power, they are few and far between. Luckily, the PSP is shaping up to get a real booster shot in the form of Ready At Dawn's prequel to the PS2 smash hit God of War franchise, God of War: Chains of Olympus.
Chains of Olympus takes place in the days before the original God of War, when Kratos was still bound to the will of the gods, long before he undertook his quest to slay the god of war, Ares. Much of the game's plot is still shrouded in mystery, but it's safe to say that it will involve Kratos once again going on a rampage against mythological creatures, all the while cursing the gods for his fate. The preview build opens up in a Greek city that is under assault by the Persian Empire and its pet monsters. Naturally, the Greek gods won't stand for any outsiders coming into their lands and screwing things up, so they send Kratos to "deliver a message" to the Persian leader. As gamers should know by now, Kratos isn't one for the rational exchange of ideas, and as the demo opens, Kratos has entered the city, prepared to unleash the full fury of the Gods on those poor unsuspecting Persians.
God of War: Chains of Olympus plays almost identically to its console counterparts. Kratos is still armed with his trademark chain-blades (the Blades of Ares instead of those of Athena, owing to the prequel nature of the game), with which he can tear foes asunder. If you played the PS2 God of War titles, it shouldn't be too difficult to jump right in and take on mythological beasts with the greatest of ease. Much like the PS2 version, the Square and Triangle buttons perform weak and fierce attacks, X jumps, and Circle grabs enemies so that Kratos can deliver an extremely violent finishing blow.
The real change comes in the fact that the PSP only has one analog stick and half of the shoulder buttons of the PS2 controller. Luckily, the developers of God of War: Chains of Olympus did a fairly good job transferring the control scheme over to the more limited PSP. The shoulder buttons are bound to Block and Magic, respectively. Hold down the Block button, and Kratos fends off damage from all but the nastiest of attacks, as long as he's facing his attacker. Kratos can cast deadly spells of epic power by holding down the Magic button and pressing the face button that corresponds to a particular spell. Dodging, however, is slightly different. Instead of simply flicking the non-existent right analog stick in a direction like in the console versions, you hold down both of the shoulder buttons and flick the analog nub. It takes a bit of getting used to and never quite feels as natural as the right analog stick method, but it works well with the PSP's setup.
The few enemies that could be seen in the preview build of Chains of Olympus show off the usual God of War flair. You've got weaker enemies, such as Persian soldiers, who Kratos can slash, throw, disembowel and whatnot to his heart's content. Then you've got the bigger foes, like the Basilisk, a giant fire-breathing lizard who was the key to the Persians' assault on the town. Much like the Colossus of Rhodes in God of War 2, Kratos has to fight a running battle against this monster as he fights his way through the contested city, and it doesn't go down easily. Sadly, the build finishes before we can see the undoubtedly clever way that Kratos would finish off this foe, but it's certain to be gruesome. It looks like this particular God of War title will be taking Kratos out of the realm of Greek mythology and introducing monsters and magic from the invading Persian culture, such as the fire demon Efreet, who becomes the source of power for Kratos' first magic spell after he "liberates" him from his previous owner.
Graphically, God of War: Chains of Olympus really shows off what the PSP can do. It simply looks fantastic, and except for the slightly lower-resolution models, it could easily pass for one of its PS2 brethren. The areas shown in the demo are rich and vibrant, although a bit smaller than the PS2 areas, and the backgrounds live up to the epic God of War feel. Kratos has to run through a burning town, with ships engaged in an all-out naval battle in the background, while a terrible flying monster swoops from building to building. It's heart-poundingly intense and keeps up the God of War tradition of throwing you right into the action. If Chains of Olympus can keep up this level of graphical quality for the entire experience, it will be one of the most jaw-droppingly beautiful games ever to grace a handheld.
God of War: Chains of Olympus is essentially God of War on the PSP. It's difficult to convey in words exactly how impressive that is, but Ready At Dawn really did an amazing job shrinking down the PS2's biggest adventure without losing any of the violent flair. It's a near-perfect translation, and anyone who enjoyed Kratos' earlier adventures, and especially those who are dying for word of God of War 3, will certainly want to take a peek at God of War: Chains of Olympus when it hits next year.
More articles about God of War: Chains of Olympus