God of War: Chains of Olympus HD Review

Platform: PS3
Release Date: September 13, 2011

A PS3 has everything a God of War fan would want. Even though only one game was natively spawned on the platform, all four other God of War titles have made their way onto the PS3, all in full high definition. The God of War: Origins Collection has a more difficult task of porting the smaller PSP experiences to the PS3, but also bringing a better controller and higher resolution into the equation. I’ve already played God of War: Chains of Olympus to death on the PSP, beating it around nine times, but this HD iteration improves upon an already fantastic game in a stellar series.

God of War: Chains of Olympus is the first chronological God of War game. Before Kratos earned his god status, he had to serve the gods for a span of years and this is where Chains takes place. During his slavery, he is asked by the gods to help in an attack from the Persian empire when a bigger problem arises; the sun falls for an unknown reason. Kratos has to discover why the chariot crashes to the Earth and who or what was behind it. The mystery is laid on well, giving you slight hints along the way who may be responsible and keeping you guessing along the way. Since this happens before every other God of War game, it does an excellent job foreshadowing what happens in later games and how Kratos’ trust begins to dwindle. He has to make an extremely tough decision at the end, showing you another side of him and further fueling his hatred and frustration. Origin stories can be hard to craft without sounding forced in, but Chains does an excellent job at providing some further backstory.

There is, however, one slight problem in the narrative department. While the story is told well and is a good motivation for moving along, too much is jammed in too quickly at the end. The ultimate menace and motive all is revealed to the player with five minutes at the very end of the game. Content-wise, it isn’t bad or stupid, it just happens too rapidly without any sort of build up. It all is pretty surprising, I just wish it was paced more evenly.

Chains of Olympus sticks closely to the formula the series has established, having the most in common with the original God of War. Playing it safe isn’t bad at all, and given the quality of the source material, it works for the game’s favor. Combat still remains as smooth and buttery as ever. Flinging the death blades is still a blast, failing to get old, and you will remember a lot of the combos you have developed in the past. There are a couple new tricks stashed in here (I love the rolling juggle-starting move) but the new weapon takes center stage. Before God of War III, the series had somewhat of a rough time competing with the blades of chaos. The other weapons were fun, but little reason was given to switch out. In response to this, Ready at Dawn crafted a brand new armament that is actually worth the time and is a complete joy to use. It’s fast, extremely powerful, and links quickly with the signature blades, urging players to make deeper, more satisfying combos. I was switching and using both equally until the end, a telltale mark that the new instrument of death was a success.

New weapons and combos aside, having a new home for a home makes the stellar fighting a tad better. The PSP wasn’t terrible, but it can’t compare with the accuracy, form factor, and extra buttons the Dualshock possesses. Using the right stick to dodge just feels right and the buttons just feel slightly more satisfying. Unless you have Cheeto dust stuck in the square button. If that’s the case, shame on you.

Actually I’d have to pass that shame to Ready at Dawn for one small pimple on the beautiful face that is the combat. Enemy combinations are not always the best, a first for the franchise. The series has been known for the “annoying” enemies like harpies and the bow-and-arrow zombies, which have always had their places. These are fine by themselves, but for some reason they invade almost every battle. Jerks likes these mess up combos and chip away at your health, making some instances a pain to get though. To alliterate this issue, you’d have to target these guys first, leaping around the battlefield performing the one-hit kill grabs just to thin the ranks to focus on the cyclops or giant beast at hand. Even thought that kills the harpies, this tactic can be tedious and devolve into frustration. Eliminating these enemies in favor of better, more difficult grunt battles would have been a more pleasing strategy.

Being a visual powerhouse on the PSP, I wasn’t sure how Chains of Olympus would look in high definition on a big television. Quite frankly, I was shocked on how sharp it was and how well the visuals held up. You’d be remiss to mistake it for a native PS3 title, but the smooth look coupled with the one-of-a-kind art direction pulls the game a long way. The cinemas have even been upscaled well, missing the blurry low-res effect from the other God of War Collection.

Sony almost single-handedly gave PSP owners a reason to sell their PSP. While the system has other quality software, God of War: Chains of Olympus was at the point tip of the game pyramid, and now that it has been bundled and made better somewhere else, there is little sense in going back. Experiencing this game again was a treat, and playing it in high definition and with trophies was just the ice cream on the warm apple pie. Transferring from the small screen to the big screen sounds difficult, but you probably wouldn’t know given the quality of this well-done remaster.

+Combat is still fluid and exciting
+Great looking game with beautiful places
+Blades, along with the secondary weapon, are useful
+Story is mostly well done and provides a good early look at Kratos
-Fighting scenarios often have the “annoying” enemies
-Story jams too much in at the end

Final Score: 9/10

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