Review: God of War: Chains of Olympus

GoW CoO Box Art (M).jpg Okay, it’s now official. Ready At Dawn Studios is the preeminent PSP developer, period. Any thought that the budding dev studio could be a one-hit wonder with its first title Daxter can now be tossed out the window for good, as God of War: Chains of Olympus, the studio’s second PSP game, is yet another portable gaming masterpiece for the RAD squad to add to its resume.

Chains of Olympus is such an amazing accomplishment for basically one reason: it’s the full God of War experience transported to the PSP without any scaling back or any downgrade in quality from the PS2. That means you get the same brutal, intuitive combat system, gripping story, epic set pieces, cinematic camera views, film-caliber score and voice acting, and everything else we’ve all come to cherish about the previous two PS2 installments, only packed down into a bite-sized action/adventure mythological epic you can carry around wherever you go.

Frankly, I’m astonished by RAD’s ability to squeeze all this brilliance onto a UMD. Graphically, the game is a tour de force of scale and beauty, with every environment meticulously detailed, every character smoothly animated and every special effect perfectly executed, all while maintaining a remarkably steady frame rate (though the speed dips in a few rare instances). Needless to say, there’s no better looking game on the PSP right now, and I seriously doubt there ever will be.

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Even more amazing, to me at least, is how well the gameplay carries over to the PSP, mainly in terms of controllability. The combat system functions no differently and with no disadvantages to that of the PS2 control scheme. Controlling Kratos with the much-maligned analog nub is effortless, and an evasion mechanic tied to holding down the shoulder buttons and twitching the nub makes not having a second analog stick (which the PS2 games use for evasive maneuvers) a non issue.

I actually think some areas of the game function better than the console predecessors too. The puzzles, for instance, I found to be even more environmentally organic and inventive than the past titles, and some of the new weapons and abilities, like the Gauntlet of Zeus and Sun Shield, are truly memorable additions to the series.

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Now, I’ve heard numerous people complaining about this being a short-lived game, and while it is only around five hours or so, to say it’s short on value is a gross misjudgment. Let me spell out my total play time thus far. The first trip through on the normal difficulty took me just over five hours, as mentioned before, my second play on the unlocked God mode gave me an additional eight hours of enjoyment, and then the tough Challenge of Hades bonus mode pumped another couple hours out of me. Altogether, that’s at least 15 solid hours to complete the game to its fullest, not to mention even more time spent watching the behind-the-scenes videos, goofing around with the bonus character costumes and flipping through the unlockable art galleries. I’ll surely replay it again too, especially once it’s time to refresh on the story when the PS3 installment finally comes around. $40 for that much replay value is totally worth it.

I really can’t praise or recommend Chains of Olympus any more than that, and quite frankly I shouldn’t have to. This is the best PSP game money can buy, and if you don’t add it to your collection may the gaming gods have mercy on your soul.

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Pros:
+ Full, uncompromised God of War experience on a portable device
+ Award-worthy presentation and production values
+ Packed with unlockables and hours and hours of replay value
+ Though maybe not quite as deep as the PS2 games, the story delivers a gripping prequel narrative to the original game

Cons:
– Ummmm… not coming up with anything here…

Game Info:
Platform: PSP
Publisher: SCEA
Developer: Ready At Dawn Studios
Release Date: 3/4/08
Genre: Action/Adventure
Players: 1

About the Author

Matt Litten is the full-time editor and owner of VGBlogger.com. He is responsible for maintaining the day to day operation of the site, editing all staff content before it is published, and contributing regular news, reviews, previews and other articles. Matt landed his first gig in the video game review business writing for the now-defunct website BonusStage.com. After the sad and untimely close of BonusStage, the former staff went on to found VGBlogger.com. After a short stint as US Site Manager for AceGamez, Matt assumed full ownership over VGBlogger, and to this day he is dedicated to making it one of the top video game blogs in all the blogosphere. Matt is a fair-minded reviewer and lover of games of all platforms and types, big or small, hyped or niche, big-budget or indie. But that doesn't mean he will let poor games slide without a good thrashing when necessary!