If you thought the PSP wasn’t capable of hosting spectacular action games then you’d be very wrong, as Chains of Olympus and Ghost of Sparta are a fine pair of beasts. But let’s face it, Kratos was always way too angry to settle being stuck in your pocket.
While the first God of War collection and the Sly or Prince of Persia HD trilogies were upgrades of already good-looking PS2 games, this has taken more of an effort coming from the PSP. Sporting the best visuals the handheld ever saw, these games are now re-born with their potential fully realised in HD.
The collection features Chains of Olympus, a prequel to the original game and Ghost of Sparta, which plugs the gap between God of War I and II. In Chains, Kratos is already in the employ of the gods, as he tries to find the missing sun god, Helios. To be honest, the story in Chains is a bit of a letdown as it’s actually Ghost that really delves into Kratos' past. Ghost goes into details about his missing brother, Deimos, and allows players to revisit the Kingdom of Sparta. Add a pre-disaster Atlantis and Tartarus, the realm of the dead ruled by Thanatos -who even the gods fear- and it becomes clear just how ambitious the developers were for a game that was originally released on the little PSP.
Far from being cash-ins, you get a feeling you fully understand the whole saga now. Expect plenty of signs of what is to come as you'll be able to pick up on the references to the other games. The Titans make a few appearances too, although Kratos refuses to listen to their pleas and predictions they'll become allies. It’s going to be an absolute blast playing through the whole saga in HD in chronological order.
Combat is comfortingly familiar with the DualShock pad replacing the PSP. Dodge rolling returns to the right stick, but you can also use R1 and L1 in conjunction with the left stick if you're strange and prefer the PSP way. This method gets in the way in Ghost because your fire mode (Thera’s Bane) for melee is activated by holding R1, and L1 is your combat modifier, making for lots of unintentional rolls instead of a Cyclone of Chaos. Also, sticking with the d-pad for magic attacks is a annoying considering L2 and R2 are warming the bench. Minor foibles aside, you can't help but love Kratos' ridiculously cool moves. His chained blades whirl around the screen eager to tear through flesh again and again, begging for higher and higher combo counts.
Extra weapons available are low, with just a single metal gauntlet for Chains and a spear/shield combo for Ghost. The fire modifier for destroying armour is a great addition to the series though. It's a good thing that these games excel at combat so well because the number of actual puzzles in them could be represented with one rude hand gesture.
Ghost of Sparta is the better looking of the two as it features more epic scenery with lots of wide sweeping shots and gorier QTE kills. The CGI cutscenes in Chains of Olympus are lacking in polish as they're slightly blurry and a little dark, the in-game engine looks much better. No such complaints for the sequel though as the CGI is perfectly crisp and well lit.
Chains has a bad habit of occasionally pausing as it loads in the background, most often before a cutscene. Thankfully it never happens during combat, but it's unsightly all the same. It would have been nice to see the QTE prompts shifted to the relevant sides of the screen in Chains as they are in Ghost and III as they allow you to focus more on enjoying the action.
On their own, these games are short compared to the main God of War entries, with Chains clocking up about four hours if you’ve played it before and Ghost taking less than six hours. On the plus side, there are challenge modes for both and there are exclusive cheat items to use on a second playthrough of Ghost, similar to GoWIII. You can always play the games again on God or Titan settings for extra longevity too. It's worth mentioning that each game has its own Platinum Trophy and plenty of Gold ones too.
Naturally, this is an essential purchase if you’re yet to play the PSP games. Hell, I’ve played them both this year and would still recommend buying this version, so good is the HD upgrade. Ebay beckons for the old PSP if the small supply of quality titles continues to receive the sexy HD treatment. Of the recent HD re-releases, this is probably the best yet, it’s certainly the one that’s seen the biggest leap in visual quality.
- Gorgeous HD upgrade
- Controls better suited to the DualShock controller
- Two fantastic games to complete your God of War collection
- Few tiny loading pauses in Chains of Olympus
- Accidental dodge rolling in Ghost of Sparta
- No signs of a new God of War game yet
The Short Version: They might be shorter than the regular games in the series, but there’s no doubting the ambition of these awesome titles. The visuals are better than ever and sit proudly with the rest of the series. The combat’s return to the control pad allows Kratos to exact his bloody vengeance in comfortingly familiar style on the big screen too, where he belongs.