God Of War: Chains Of Olympus // PSP
September 22, 2009
I’ve been behind the curve with the God Of War franchise. Having never owned a PS2 when it was the console of choice (I purchased one second-hand last year) and not buying a PSP until the PSP-3000 came out, you could say I’m very late to Kratos’ party. However, my first dip into Olympian waters with the PSP incarnation comes at the same time as the God Of War franchise is emerging once again into the gaming limelight with upcoming releases God Of War Collection and God Of War III.
Luckily for me, then, that God Of War: Chains Of Olympus is actually the prequel to the first games in the series that appeared on the PS2. The player must guide the Ghost of Sparta in rescuing Helios, God of the Sun from the clutches of the Titan Atlas, and free the Olympian Gods from their slumber.
The story itself is twisting and convulted, revolving around several key deities from Greek mythology. I won’t detail any more of the plot here (you can check the Wikipedia page for the full story breakdown), but suffice to say, it’s pretty epic. When you journey down into the Underworld itself, than I guess it pretty much has to be.
As I mentioned before, this game is akin to a Hollywood blockbuster. No PSP game does a gory boss battle as well as God Of War does. The only drawback to their sheer epic-ness is that they achieve their dramatic power through scripted Quick Time Events, that much-maligned control system jeered by the majority of the videogame industry. Personally, I have few problems with QTE’s. The only time they become a frustration is when your failure to get the buttons right results in instantaneous death. Here, when used purely for massive thrills, they work beautifully; capturing Kratos as he swings up onto the head of an enormous fire-breathing basilisk and clamps it’s jaws tight together, resulting in the ginormous beast swallowing it’s own flames and collapsing to it’s death.
Elsewhere, the game is a pure hack’n’slash-em-up, with various upgradeable pickups dotted throughout the game to vary the formula. Despite these attempts at variety, however, I sailed through most of the game using little more than the L and square-button combo, which would send Kratos into a whirlwind of death, blades outstretched, which would decapitate any enemies in his immediate radius. As a challenge, God Of War falls short of the mark. That’s not to say the fighting becomes tedious, however – it’s the best feature of the game. God Of War is intended to be a shallow affair, with the emphasis placed squarely on ‘War’.
Why then does it insist on bringing the game to it’s knees with snail-pace puzzles and archaic progression? More than once I had to look up the way forward because of the non-existent signposting, and there’s one section which involves pushing statues around that will feel like the longest hour of your life. These rudimentary, stereotypical, industry-standard puzzles have been done ad nauseum before – God Of War would have been better served if they were removed entirely.
Thankfully, these sections dry up before the climactic finale that takes place in the Underworld, complete with a stunning battle against Charon on the boat that ferries the dead to Hades. It’s a shame that the two most impressive sections of the game come at the beginning and end of it’s experience – many players will switch the game off in boredom through the tedious middle-third and never reach it’s conclusion, even though my full playtime of the game clocked in at under 5 hours. It felt like longer, seemingly because of switching my PSP off so many times when exasperated by the drag-statues mechanic.
When God Of War focuses on what it does best – the war bit – it’s an unbeatable cathartic bloodbath that offers as many thrills as it does spills. The series just needs to trim off the puzzle fat and remember what it is. A blockbuster.