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God of War: Chains of Olympus

Platform(s): PSP
Genre: Action
Publisher: SCEA

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PSP Review - 'God of War: Chains of Olympus'

by Tim McCullough on April 14, 2008 @ 3:08 a.m. PDT

God of War: Chains of Olympus delivers highly detailed graphics, incredible animation detail and yet another adventure in the dark and brutal world of Greek mythology that fans of the God of War franchise have come to know and love. Kratos will journey to lands that no mortal has ever walked upon. With the world plunged in eternal darkness and the Gods rendered powerless, Kratos will face the most feared creatures of Greek Mythology, and ultimately be forced to choose between his own personal redemption and saving the ancient world from certain destruction.

Genre: Action
Publisher: SCEA
Developer: Ready At Dawn
Release Date: March 4, 2008

God of War: Chains of Olympus is the prequel to the original God of War action/adventure title, which was released in March 1995 on the PlayStation 2. In Chains of Olympus, you play as the self-proclaimed champion of the gods, Kratos. He seeks redemption for his past sins but is suddenly faced with choosing between his own personal salvation, or saving the world from some of the most powerful creatures in Greek mythology.

Chains of Olympus combines fierce combat action with occasional puzzle elements to offer an enjoyable linear, action-packed adventure. The combat follows the traditional formula of battling a series of minions prior to facing a level boss, who you must defeat using the guidance of a QTE (Quick Time Event) system. The game includes combo attacks, a magic system, special items and weapon power-ups. Chains of Olympus should not be considered a family-friendly title because it contains high levels of gore, some nudity and sexual content, so parents may wish to use discretion before allowing children to play it. The game features a quick in-game tutorial to quickly get players up to speed.

Chains of Olympus' only game mode is a single-player adventure consisting of eight chapters, although you can add some additional content by unlocking challenges throughout the game. Kratos maintains a linear path through the entire adventure, with only a few side-quests that provide access to minigames and hidden treasure chests. The game can be played at four different difficulty settings: Mortal, Hero, Spartan and God, and the final one becomes available only after you successfully complete the game on any other difficulty setting. The additional difficulty levels offer some replay value, which is sorely needed, considering that the story can be completed the first time through in Hero mode in fewer than 10 hours.

The title offers some innovative gameplay features as you progress through the levels. For example, in the City of Marathon chapter, you are faced with a deadly fog, and you must push a flaming cart through the city streets to dissipate the fog around you. It's not as simple as it sounds, since you'll have to periodically stop and fight some previously hidden enemies along the way, such as archers and screamers. Chains of Olympus utilizes both automatic checkpoints and "altars" to allow players to save in-game. The save altars are well placed throughout the adventure so as not to become a detriment to the enjoyment of the game.

You won't find a large selection of weapons in Chains of Olympus (six in total), but you will have the ability to upgrade them so that they become much more effective. Several attack combos become available as you progress, and some are available only after weapons level-ups. Attacks and attack combos are divided into two classes: ground and air. One special ground-based attack, the Helios Reverse, requires a Sun Shield before you can execute it. My personal favorite is the air-based attack, Cyclone of Chaos, which swirls your blades around you and thrashes nearby foes. As he moves through the game, Kratos must sometimes climb, swim and push or pull objects; the latter is an important part of solving puzzles.

Puzzles include tasks such as moving objects on trigger points to open gates, aligning statues, firing stationary weapons at ships or creatures, and even completing an optional sex minigame for additional red orbs. Chains of Olympus usually features QTE during the level boss fights; they consist of a linear sequence of attacks that must be completed in a tightly timed manner to finish off the antagonist. I personally don't enjoy this style of controlled combat, but it's a key feature of the God of War franchise.

Predictably, each chapter and/or level boss is a bit more challenging to defeat than regular enemies. All bosses demonstrate unique attack moves, such as the Charon's energy ball and deadly firewall attack, or the Basilisk's swipe and chomp attack. As you progress, you'll realize that the excellent battle system requires you to become equally as skillful in defensive actions as you are at raging offensive attacks. I found that some of the most satisfying moves are the ones that allow you to jump through the air and attack or tumble quickly out of harm's way.

After a few initial battles, Kratos is granted magic powers and can use the magic system. Although not plentiful, the magic attacks are fairly effective, especially after they've been upgraded. For example, the Light of Dawn provides solar flares at level 1, which offers basic ranged attacks with orbs of light. When Light of Dawn is upgraded to level 3, you get "Radiant Sun," which is a much more powerful ranged attack. The magic system is metered like the health system, which requires the collection of orbs from fallen enemies and chests to replenish your levels. The total amount of available health or magic is upgradable by locating five Gorgon eyes or five phoenix feathers, respectively, and you can only upgrade these traits a total of three times. The items are usually found in grey treasure chests, which are located throughout the game.

Magic and weapons can be leveled up after collecting a designated number of red orbs. Some of these chests are hidden, so it pays to search each of the levels after clearing them out. It's also possible to increase the number of orbs you'll receive after killing enemies by using attack combos, which increase the total number of hits that you land.

The graphics and animation in Chains of Olympus has to be some of the best I've experienced on the PSP, so much so that I found myself eagerly looking forward to each new chapter. The environments are beautiful, and the widescreen display makes it feel like you're participating in a movie. There are also numerous cut scenes situated throughout the entire adventure, and viewing and listening to each of these wonderfully narrated segments is essential to understanding and following the story line. My only disappointment regarding the visual aspects is the automatic camera system, which offered a changing, but totally uncontrollable view of the game environment. The game's excellent graphics are equally matched by a thundering musical score, which helps to enhance the powerful presence of the hero Kratos and his mythic antagonists throughout the entire game.

Beyond looking and sounding good, Chains of Olympus is also pleasurable to play, with responsive controls and fairly intuitive button sequencing. Particularly helpful with the PSP is the availability of subtitles and hints for when you can't hear the action or need to keep your session low-key. I found the UMD load times for new areas to be a little lengthy, but there is plenty of action between loadings so the wait times were certainly tolerable.

Chains of Olympus includes a nice rewards system. As you play through the game, you can unlock items, including bonus costumes, challenges, image galleries and videos. Unlocks and their requirements are accessible on the main menu under "Treasures." This additional content helps in offsetting the limited gameplay options.

One subtle feature that I noticed while playing Chains of Olympus is that the AI will make dynamic adjustments to the difficulty (usually in adjusting HP) if you are either having repeated difficulty in battles or you are moving too easily through the game. On a final note, Chains of Olympus is a single-player gaming experience only and does not include any features that utilize the Wi-Fi capabilities of the PSP.

God of War: Chains of Olympus is presently one of the most visually appealing games out for the PSP. The high-quality cut scenes and over-the-top battle action makes this both an immersive and challenging adventure that is definitely worth experiencing. The game performs extremely well and is easy to control. You will experience some lengthy load times, but they are not frequent enough to become annoying. Unfortunately, the adventure feels a bit short, and you should expect to complete it in less than 10 hours on the normal difficulty setting.

Players of the original God of War titles will find the PSP version to be scaled-down and lacking in new features. However, if you enjoy the God of War series, you'll gain some satisfaction in owning a portable version of the game. There is very little I didn't like about Chains of Olympus; I would've liked to have more camera control, and although I didn't care for the controlled Quick Time Event attacks, I'll readily admit that they offered a more cinematic experience when you're fighting the bosses. Parents should keep in mind that the game is rated "Mature" for gore, violence, nudity and sexual content. God of War: Chains of Olympus is an extremely entertaining action title that's certainly worth adding to your PSP library.

Score: 8.5/10


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