Since the release of God of War, Kratos has proven himself as a worthwhile addition to the gaming’s cadre of characters, with his aggressive attitude and visceral approach to combat setting himself apart. Players who have stuck with Kratos throughout his adventures have seen his attempts to murder Ares and his journey to change his fate. However, though these stories were well told, there was little exposition dedicated to explaining what made Kratos the desire to undergo these challenging endeavors.
God of War: Chains of Olympus attempts to fill in these blanks, providing the rationale for this Spartan warrior's actions. The setting for this vision quest is Sony’s PlayStation Portable, placing this as the first title in the God of War saga to see a portable release. Kratos’s time with Sony’s handheld comes with strong potent hits, as well as a few unfortunate misses; ultimately, his journey is a triumphant one.
When booting up your system to start Kratos’s adventure, it will quickly become obvious that Ready at Dawn has done their homework in managing this franchise, as everything from the introductory text to the title screen resembles what would be found in Kratos’s PlayStation 2 adventures. This strong similarity extends to in-game graphics and cut scenes as well; from Kratos’s motions as he navigates these environments to his attacking animations when he deals with his adversaries, there is enough present here visually to make you forget that you are experiencing this quest on a handheld. The sounds contained in this portable package are the same way; Kratos’s grunts are clear on the PSP’s speakers, and the voices of the characters that he meets enunciate well to the point that you feel like you are that much closer to the action.
The strong audiovisual elements present in this title effectively demonstrate the strengths of Sony’s PlayStation Portable, and successfully prove that if managed with careful hands, portable video gaming can reach the same levels as that of their console counterparts. Of course, while these Chains of Olympus may look and sound strong, some elements present contribute to them suffering some internal rust.
The first of these elements are the controls, which be challenging to manage in the heat of battle. Ready at Dawn ably managed to present a layout that proves conducive to Sony’s PSP, with attacks mapped to the face buttons and movement designated to the analog nub. The dodging mechanic, however, can take some getting used to; while avoiding foes in Kratos’s PS2 adventures was mapped to the right analog stick, in this portable adaption, evading foes is managed by pressing down on the two shoulder buttons and moving the analog nub. These schematics will eventually become second nature as you progress through the adventure, but in situations where you have to fight Cyclopes, armed guards, medusas and tigers, the constant shifting of actions can cause your hands to cramp, thus lessening the experience.
While the controls may prove challenging, mastering them will lead to you ultimately not wanting to put the game down; ironically, this leads to another problem: If you do not put it down, you will win within hours. God of War: Chains of Olympus is brief, to the point that it is not unheard of to complete the adventure in a single playthrough. Although this brevity is offset by unlockable content in the form of additional difficulty settings and bonus challenges, the fact that the main quest is this fleeting hurts almost as much as having Kratos rip your eyes out before stabbing you mercilessly.
Control-based challenges and brevity issues aside, Ready at Dawn successfully managed to squeeze the God of War experience into a small, travel-sized package. Those that wish to quench Kratos’s thirst for destruction on the go or are eager to experience more of his back-story should definitely give God of War: Chains of Olympus a spin in your Playstation Portable.
God of War: Chains of Olympus is rated M (Mature) by the ESRB for Blood and Gore, Intense Violence, Nudity, Sexual Content.