Review by Vyse_skies

Reviewed: 04/23/10

Chains of Olympus unfortunately lacks that special oomph.

I had first gotten in to the God of War series with God of War 2 only last year when I my brother picked up a copy. I'd heard great things about it and so decided to give it a whirl and unlike many other titles as of late, I found myself instantly absorbed from the get go. My initial impressions were pretty high and I loved the choreographed set pieces and thought that they were absolutely fantastic, brilliantly devised, wonderfully extravagant and it was those very cinematic pieces coupled with exceptional visuals that compelled me to continue playing the title- not the over repetitive and highly necessarily battling of enemies or the nonsensical mythological storyline. So how does God of War: Chain of Olympus play on the PSP? Did it deserve to bear the God of War name? Read on to find out.

The story in Chain of Olympus is a prequel that follows Kratos, a slave Spartan warrior to the gods of Olympus, as he went about working for the gods with their promises that they would remove a past that burdens him. Unfortunately, Kratos has been unfairly taken advantage of by the gods who always seemed to be portrayed as malicious in the GoW series, or at least they seem that way to me. Anyway, the story works its way up until the events of the GoW and you can see how Kratos has changed as a person and why- he seems more moral and human in Chain of Olympus. So you'll start to see all kinds of Greek mythological beings as the story progresses from Medusa's to the awesome titan Atlas. As a whole, I cannot comment so much on the story having not paid too much attention to it.

For me the gameplay is set in to two distinct modes. They come under Quick Time Event (QTE) sections- first seen done properly and efficiently in the wonderful Shenmue- and action/platform/puzzle solving sections. I'll first talk about the action sections. Here you'll control Kratos as he goes about battling numerous minions and enemies from Greek Mythology such as Medusa's to gods and demons. Gameplay here is rather repetitive and normally asks you to kill everything in sight in order to advance to the next room or section where you have to do the exact same thing. Now killing is a fun business in Kratos' world and he has two weapons and a bunch of magical artefacts that helps him to do so. Each weapon/spell has a variety of different uses, which allow Kratos to perform multiple combos with ease; some of the being flashy while other simple. The best part is that they are just a simple combination of button presses. Interestingly enough, God of War comes with four difficulties and this certainly takes in to consideration gamers who want both a challenge or a simple, fun play-through.

The control scheme in Chain of Olympus is excellent. The movement of Kratos is very fluid, tight and works exceptionally well on the PSP. Attacks work well as does the collision detection. Kratos never feels unresponsive (except the odd occurrence in QTES) and the control system is near perfect. My only qualm I had was within the QTE sections where the analogue sometimes doesn't function when battling a creature, this can end up with Kratos being knocked back and even steals a little life. Swimming in the water is well done as well and isn't all fidgety and clunky, thus allows Kratos to move smoothly and effectively through water sections relatively well without any fuss. Climbing sections are just as good except pulling off special moves on walled creatures when you're on a wall can be a little difficult because they have the tendency to jump on to Kratos where they'll try to knock him to his death. Apart from the odd little rough edges, Chain of Olympus controls too well for a PSP title.

During the game, you will find chests that provide you with orbs. Red orbs power up weapons, shield and magical items and by upgrading them you unlock more abilities and attack combinations. In essence, it allows Kratos to become a better fighter, providing Kratos with attacks that will damage enemies more than the feeble attacks you first start with. Green orbs restore health and Blue orbs restore magic. Also hidden in game, but not as well as they could have been, are gorgon eggs and feathers and collecting five of each allows the health and mana bars of Kratos to grow, thus allowing Kratos to have greater endurance throughout the duration of the game.

Now the cinematic QTE sections are by far and away the moments that make the God of War series actually any good. I would say it deserved its hype purely because of these sections. Ever wanted to rip the head off a man? Pull the wings off Harpy's? Well, God of War has the most epic QTE's ever and the developers really like to show the technology and fanciness of their talents when creating these highly imaginative set pieces. They truly are awe inspiring, exciting, amusing and it's these moments that make you want to special kill any enemy that you happen to encounter at least once. Though, in the console versions of GoW, Kratos tends to have more than one special kill for certain enemies such as trolls while he only seems to have just the one, but this doesn't make these scenes any less impressive. Now, it's very hard to describe just how creative some of these scenes are, but believe me, they'll have you begging for more...

Yes, I end that apart with an ellipsis. Why? Well, while Chain of Olympus has a decent length- on my first play through it took me about 8 hours to complete- the sheer lack of bosses and QTE sections inevitable bring it down. In fact, I was very disappointed because I was hoping to get more of the wonderful set pieces that I'd encountered in GoW2, but after the initial starting boss, the game was devoid of interesting QTE's until the next boss decides to come forth. So there I am battling the same kind of enemy over and over again with slightly improved attacks and the whole affair feels a little repetitive and unfortunately. At times Chain of Olympus was bordering on boring because behind it’s souped up visuals, it was just a kill all you can see to progress type of game, which is neither original nor unique. It is its wonderfully choreographed QTE's that allow GoW to be special and because it really lacked them- they were the meat on GoW's bones- it really hurt the title.

The gameplay section certainly has more than enough going for it in order to reap the rewards and pull in even the most sceptical GoW fan as well as anyone looking to get in to the series. It has plenty of in-game collectibles and attacks, battles, platforming sections, puzzle sections and of course those beloved QTE sections. Chain of Olympus is a decent length but lacks that special oomph in this area that made the other two titles so memorable and legendary. One more thing that hurts Chain of Olympus is that is feels slightly linear. You have a set path, you may not stray from it, and therefore there really is nothing to discover or find because most of it is presented to you on your current path. Chain of Olympus seems to revolve around battling the same enemies again and again- and so its lack of depth and exploration truly hurt its final score.

I actually liked the audio very much. Music was well produced and atmospherically eerie, cold and rather dark and daunting, however, those very same pieces are also forgettable. Nice while playing the game, but afterwards you won't remember them. Playing with headphones allows you to witness the better details of the audio such as flowing water. As you approach a fountain of water the sound will grow louder, walk away and the sound will slowly die down. Same goes for walking past them from different directions and angles. Walk past with the water on Kratos' right hand side and the sound of gushing water will be heard more so in the right ear, pass with it on Kratos' left and the water sounds will mainly be heard in the left. Little details like this allowed me to really appreciate Chain of Olympus. The voice acting is also very well done, sounds great and really brings the cut-scenes to life. I especially enjoyed the narration by Linda Hunt.

The best visuals I have yet to encounter so far on the psp. Wonderful cinematic cut-scenes, gorgeous and painstakingly detailed backdrops, great character creation and nice lighting sections. Chain of Olympus oozes beauty and looks very pretty. When it enters cinematic QTE mode though, Chain of Olympus looks astonishing and is gonna take some beating. There is always a lot going on whether it's an enemy, a building breaking, a flaming fire ball, rippling waters, light coming through arch windows, or even just the whole expansiveness that feels so alive and atmospheric. Chain of Olympus is near jaw dropping stunning, and at times, again in the cinematic sections, it really does amaze very easily.

For replay value, Chain of Olympus is really lacking. Beyond replaying the same game in God Mode- which is just a mode that tests your patience and frustrations levels. You will die a million and one times in God Mode unless you're a God of War master that is. Aside from that, you can unlock a few costumes (yawn), a few movies- one showing all the levels they were too lazy to include- which you'll watch once and then they're practically worthless. You have a testing challenge mode that provides you with another lame movie upon completion and considering how frustrating the mode is you may want to consider if five challenges are really worth completing. All this aside, God of War: Chain of Olympus has nothing else to offer. However, the length on the first play-through is reasonable and it is fun while it lasts.

In conclusion, Chain of Olympus is a decent title. While it certainly hides behind its supreme visuals and cinematic charm, it still manages to provide an enjoyable experience. Take away those visuals and cut-scenes and you have an under-whelming title that falls below par for the series that has set a very high standard. Beneath its layers of pristine beauty and immaculate presentation, Chain of Olympus is revised kill everything that moves title in the vein of titles such as Total War and Spartan Total Warrior.These type of titles tend to wear a little thing after the first hour or two of play and Chain of Olympus just manages to avoid this category. So for a quick rundown, Chain of Olympus is pretty, cinematic, fun, lengthy, lacking in QTEs, bosses, creativity and replay value. Still, I'd recommend a rental unless you can pick it up for cheap.

Pros and Cons

+ Stunning Visuals
+ Fantastic control scheme.
+ Lengthy (on first play through)
+ Nice QTE cinematic sections

- Lacks variety
- Linear world design
- Lack of bosses
- Lack of Cinematic QTES
- Repetitive battle system
- Repetitive enemies
- Next to Zero replay value

If you liked this then play:

God of War, God of War II, God of War III. All of which are much better.

Rating: 7

Product Release: God of War: Chains of Olympus (EU, 03/28/08)

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