So once again we slip into the blood-stained sandals of Kratos, pasty Spartan sword-for-hire and anti-hero of the God of War franchise. He’s busy killing everything for very little reason and touring the Underworld again, and we’re all invited.
Chains of Olympus is a prequel to the main series and concerns a plot orchestrated by the Goddess Perspehone to destroy the world. Because the game is set during the time of Kratos’ ten years of service to the Olympian Gods, it’s his job to sort everything out, primarily by grunting and stamping on lots of faces. It’s a typical God of War adventure and if you’ve played the PS2/3 games then you’ve essentially played this. What sets this instalment apart, however, is the hardware, this being the first God of War adventure finding a home on a portable console.
Despite the action taking place on the tiny PSP screen as opposed to a television, it still really looks the part. That trademark sense of scale and grandeur is still present and correct, and while I couldn’t be arsed making side-by-side comparisons, the visual differences between this and the PS2 iterations are marginal. Very little has been lost in Kratos’s journey from home to portable console. That being said, very little has been gained, either.
The traditional God of War formula is still resolutely intact, with gameplay once again divided neatly between butter-smooth combat, climbing walls, quick-time events, and pushing large boxes around. Unsurprisingly, the overall design and pacing are as tight as ever, but there’s little here to justify the series’ continued existence other than being able to play it on the bus.
Funnily enough, a bus ride is about the length of time it will take you to progress through the story, and you’ll forget about it even faster. Much of the game is unremarkable; even the gigantic boss creatures have been trimmed down to a measly basilisk and very little else, while the story continues to meander around, desperately trying to flesh out Kratos’s character and justify his increasingly extreme behaviour, but ultimately failing to do either. The narrative has always been the least appealing part of the God of War games, but if every title is going to persist on being fundamentally unchanged, then it really needs to step up and take some of the weight.
Don’t get the wrong impression, though: Chains of Olympus is still great fun, and it doesn’t make any serious design blunders at all. The length is an issue, but there’s a fairly substantial challenge mode to busy yourself with, and a good amount of unlockable bonus content on top of the standard multiple difficulty settings. Don’t go into this one expecting anything you haven’t seen before (unless, of course, you never played the main series) and you’ll have a good time for as long as it lasts.
As a final word of warning, if you are going to play it on the bus, try not to do so near any old ladies. And turn the volume down during the sex mini-game, otherwise people will think you’re a pervert.