Release Date: March 4, 2008
Rating: M for Blood and Gore, Intense Violence, Nudity and Sexual Content
Available On: Sony PSP
Number of Players: 1
Strong Points: Outstanding music and visuals; engaging combat; upgradeable weapon options; unlockables for further play-through
Moral Warnings: Blood and gore is a big part of combat (blood sprays and enemies lose limbs); brutal violence (includes graphic executions); Mythology elements presented in the game (Hades, gods and goddesses, etc.); magic is used to some extent; exposed breasts are shown; there’s an optional sex mini-game as well
The game is a prequel to the PS2’s God of War, so if you didn’t play that one, you’ll be fairly lost as to Kratos’ background since neither the manual nor the game expounds too much on him. While the story does involve strong voice acting and good looking cut scenes, it really didn’t tie up the loose ends and just left more questions. For those new to the series, it wasn’t that satisfying as a story, but I’m sure the fans of the PS2 iterations will get a lot more out of it.
Gameplay, on the other hand, is a much stronger experience than the story. Combat for most of the game involves using your Blades of Chaos (swords chained to Kratos) in various weak and strong attacks to pull off combos. At first you’re given just basic chains to pull off, but as you progress you’re given stronger chain attacks, some able to clear entire rooms in seconds. Attack chains further in the story could begin with multiple area swipes into a focused explosive strike to break armor, and then you take that foe into the air, spin your metal chains around like a helicopter blade, throw out a chain to bring the helpless guy back to you, and then kick him back into the ground. That last sentence would only take about four seconds to pull off. You can also grab enemies, block, dodge, and counterattack through parrying, but these movements can be unresponsive sometimes, but are useful nonetheless.
Killing enemies and getting a higher combo-count will reward you with red orbs that go towards magic and weapon upgrades. Along with your various chain attacks, you’re given magic attacks throughout the game. The magic isn\'t as useful as pure melee, but it can get you out of some rough spots. Bigger enemies near defeat will have a button icon over them that, when pressed, Kratos will perform a special finisher (like kicking a blade into a cyclops’ eye) that will kill off that foe and reward you with various orbs. Finishing enemies with low health reward even more orbs (and in some cases, orbs to replenish health and magic) than killing the enemy with your average attacks. This is very useful when you’re facing off against the more deadly creatures further on.
Overall, the combat in Chains of Olympus will keep you on your toes and will cause player deaths many times over. The game ramps up the difficulty as you progress and enemies will even use attacks that require you to mash the shoulder buttons to break from grapples. Failing to do so will cause the next hit to instantly kill you. In no way does this make the game feel unfair. If anything, I should mention that smaller enemies sit back and wait to attack. Quick time events with the analog stick are also fairly tricky to pull off, but combat is a satisfying and visceral experience aside from that.
When not ripping the wings off a harpy or laying waste to armored skeletons, there are various puzzle elements for Kratos to overcome. This could be anything from run of the mill "put this here and turn this" to setting up statues to reflect into a central point. There are some clever puzzles to be had, but most objects that need to be interacted with will flash, making most of the puzzles easy. You will also come along chests that will either give you health and magic orbs before tough fights or give you items that will increase your max health and magic (once you collect 5 of each that is). Platforming is used to some extent, from scaling walls to swimming to cranking a massive gear to progress further into a level. I didn\'t like some of the invisible walls strewn around levels, but again, this is a minor complaint.
There are plenty of things for Kratos to do in each environment and keeps the game fresh since you’re just not running from point A to B all the time. As with the combat, quick time events are still a big part of the game, so you’ll be mashing the circle button to open chests and doors, move blocks, and so on. After completing the game, there’s a challenge mode to play and depending on which mode you beat the game on, you can unlock silly skins for Kratos, or even various Making Of movies from the developers. Chains of Olympus will only clock in about 7 hours on normal difficulty, but I believe it offers enough replayability for another one or two play-throughs.
If anything binds this game together nicely, it’s the presentation. The visuals closely resemble that of a PS2 game. With all of the various lighting and special effects running, it’s impressive that the game runs as smoothly as it does. The camera work will give you plenty of panoramas showing large draw distances and will pull back a few times, showing how insignificant Kratos really is compared to these massive environments. The cutscenes are a variation of CGI with an almost comic-book look, and the game engine rendered videos are done just as well. Most enemies are of low polygon count though, and are ugly compared to Kratos and the other characters in the game. It’s not a big problem since the game is drawing many of them, but it did bother me some. The music hits all the right notes as well, bringing the diverse areas to life and being distinct enough from each other to not sound thrown together. The voice actors bring some fine performances to the characters, and the combat sounds downright brutal, from the sound of flesh being sliced to the snapping of necks.
As for the moral content in the game, it easily earns it’s M-rating. Combat in the game is very bloody and enemies will split apart, be dismembered, beheaded, and so on. Blood sprays and spurts a lot, and the Hades level has rivers full of blood flowing past in the background. The way you dispatch foes is brutally violent as you can finish them by snapping their necks, kicking blades into them, ripping them in two, ripping heads off, crushing them, burning them, and other bloody means. The game mentions and takes place in Greek mythology, so you’ll see and talk to gods and demigods, and you\'ll face off against minotaur, harpies, skeletons, cyclops, and more. There’s a Hades level with flowing blood for rivers and Tartarus, where people are chained to the wall and are able to be killed for orbs. Magic is used by Kratos; one of the attacks summons Efreet to burn enemies. Breasts are shown in the game, once in a long cutscene, some in Tarturus from the prisoners, and on statues. There’s also a sex mini-game present which uses the quick time events and shows two women on each other with breast showing. The mini-game is optional, and doesn’t show sex on-screen, but you still hear heavy moaning and see a nearby candle shaking.
If you’re looking for an epic action game for the PSP, this is it. It is on the short side, but it’s an enjoyable ride to the end. While I didn’t particularly care for the story, it’s still grand in scope, and will be fun even if this is your first God of War game. With slick combat, great visuals, and virtually no load times after it first boots up, the developers at Ready at Dawn have given a great example of portable gaming done right. But those not fans of over-the-top bloody violence or the other moral subject matter should definitely sit this one out, there\'s just way too much to wade through even though it\'s a solid title.
Sexual Content/Nudity 3/10
Appropriateness Total: 23/50
Game Play 19/20
Game Score Total: 47/50