When it was revealed that God of War was heading to PSP, fans went into an excited, cold sweat. This, after all, is the game on PlayStation right now. Better news was to come when Sony revealed that its new star developer Ready At Dawn was coding the game - Daxter is still one of the best platform games on any console.
After such promise, the biggest compliment we can pay Chains of Olympus is that it plays exactly like the two God of War games on PS2. Granted, not the most memorable description, and certainly not a poster quote in-waiting, but when you consider how utterly brilliant God of War and God of War II are, then it's exactly what we want from a handheld version. The 'if it ain't broke...' maxim definitely pays off in this case.
Not that it's content to simply rehash the same story and levels. The game is set before God of War but after Kratos was tricked by Ares into killing his own wife and daughter - a tragic event that made him pledge his allegiance to the Gods of Olympus for the next ten years. And when we say 'allegiance', we mean slaughtering, butchering and mutilating thousands of enemies under the charade of some crusade or other. Nice work if you can get it.
The teasing tagline reveals that Kratos will be forced to choose between personal redemption and saving the world - some choice eh? -and so we're fully expecting Chains
of Olympus to pose as many new questions as it fills in the blanks.
In typical God of War fashion, the prequel opens with a spectacular battle sequence. Kratos watches from a rooftop in Attica as loads of Persian boats and soldiers arrive to lay siege - the latter immediately scaling the walls. As with the Colossus boss battle at the start of God of War II, Kratos must use a ballista to destroy the ship, at which point a hole is blown in the roof of a nearby building providing a handy escape route.
Once indoors, your situation doesn't improve much. After killing yet more soldiers, a huge Cyclops arrives wielding what can only be described as a massive spiked tree trunk. Only by hammering e can you push it away and avoid being squished to a messy pulp.
This being God of War, there are always bigger monsters further up the food chain. Next thing you know, in bursts a whopping great dragon that proceeds to eat the Cyclops and take its place in the boss battle. After trading a few blows you'll trigger one of the familiar button-pressing mini-games, which sees Kratos finish off the dragon by stabbing it in the head with his Blades of Chaos and then slamming its pained, snarling face into the ground. It's an amazing sequence, and this is just the beginning of the game!
Any fears about the slick PS2 controls not transferring well to PSP are unfounded. You still press q to jump, e to grab, r to perform a ground attack and w to launch an aerial attack, and the only differences are that the Left trigger is the special attack modifier and you press the Left and Right triggers together to evade.
We even got to try out two new attacks - a finishing move that starts with a leg sweep and ends with a stomp to the head, and another where you use Kratos's chains to pull an enemy in midair towards you before booting them away like they're on a piece of elastic - it's pretty spectacular.
You'll have gathered by now we absolutely love what we've played so far, and even with six months to go, it looks unbelievably good, pushing PSP harder than any other game. Ready At Dawn know the PSP inside and out and are creating a God of War title that can hold its own against the PS2 ancestors. This should make the tortuous wait go that little bit quicker.