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Critical Reception: Sony/Ready at Dawn's God of War: Chains of Olympus

This week's edition of Critical Reception examines online reaction to Ready At Dawn's God of War: Chains of Olympus, a PlayStation Portable-exclusive prequel to the hit franchise that "hit[s] the mark on every level of production," according to cri
This week's edition of the regular Critical Reception column examines online reaction to God of War: Chains of Olympus, a PSP-exclusive prequel that "hit[s] the mark on every level of production," according to critics. After seeing its 2005 debut on the PlayStation 2, Sony's God of War won critical acclaim both for its solid action-based gameplay and for its attention to visual and audio production. Boasting a strong narrative atypical of its fellow hack-and-slashers, God of War pushed the expected limits of its platform, and its presentation quality and polished gameplay resulted in an experience that is widely regarded as one of the best of its kind on the PlayStation 2. God of War II was released last year to similar acclaim, and the recently released series prequel God of War: Chains of Olympus has been credited with challenging the PlayStation Portable's hardware as much as its predecessors did with the PS2. Chains of Olympus currently averages a score of 94 out of 100 at Metacritic.com. Matt Leone at 1UP.com gives God of War: Chains of Olympus a rating of A, praising developer Ready At Dawn's aptitude at translating console hits to portables. "With Chains of Olympus, Ready At Dawn has cemented its reputation as a master mimic," he says. "In 2006, the studio reenergized the Jak and Daxter franchise by focusing on its sidekick, and now they've finished their follow-up, this time taking less creative license with a replica of the epic action-adventuring from the God of War series. According to Leone, Chains of Olympus meets the standards set by Ready At Dawn's Daxter. "Without question, technology is the star here," he writes. "Even with all the hype behind Ready At Dawn's technical abilities, it's hard not to be surprised at how easy it is to forget this is a portable game." Leone also assures that Chains of Olympus' controls suffer little for their PSP transplant. "When word first got out that the God of War series was heading to PSP, everyone seemed to want to know how evading was going to work, given the lack of a second analog stick on the system," he explains. "The developer's solution allows players to toggle between movement and evading on the left analog stick by holding down both shoulder buttons." The result? "In many ways I actually prefer this setup to evading on a right analog stick," Leone says. Leone finds that Chains of Olympus doesn't quite meet the impressive standards of its console predecessors in some ways, however. "Where I find myself disappointed is that the game doesn't quite have the same feeling of showing you something new around every corner that the previous games did," he critiques. "Also, things like swimming and tiptoeing across narrow ledges are underused, and only seem to be here because they existed in previous games." "So as a God of War game, Chains of Olympus is slightly lacking, but as a PSP game it's fantastic, and as a technological achievement it's off-the-charts phenomenal," Leone concludes. "If this game had shipped a couple of years ago, I think people would perceive the PSP a lot differently today." IGN's Chris Roper contributes a score of 9.4 out of 10. "Ready at Dawn has done it again," he says. "Combat is extremely responsive, perfectly mimicking the console versions. I immediately and naturally went back to my favorite combos, and they worked exactly as I'd remembered." Roper agrees that the PSP's lack of a second analog stick does little to impact gameplay. "Though the PSP is missing the L2 and R2 buttons and the right analog stick of the Dual Shock 2, I dare say that the control scheme here works better than on the PS2," he praises. "Each of the control changes has been implemented fantastically and you won't miss any of the missing buttons." However, some could fault Chains of Olympus for its strict aherence to its source material. "Ready at Dawn didn't mess with the franchise's proven formula whatsoever, which is perhaps one of our only (small) gripes for the game," says Roper. "Like the previous titles, it's a very linear experience, with only small nooks and crannies hidden away with secrets that'll take you off the beaten path for a few moments." "It would have been nice to have seen a little experimentation here or there to mix things up," Roper admits. Otherwise, Roper's review is almost entirely positive. "The audio in Chains of Olympus is right on par with its visuals," he writes. "The combat effects, which seem like they're ripped right from the PS2 titles, sound great here, and the soundtrack perhaps even better than the score from the first two titles. Phenomenal work here, proving that Ready at Dawn can hit the mark on every level of production." At GameTap, Dana Jongewaard rates Chains of Olympus at 9 out of 10, giving specific praise to its narrative. "I’m pretty calloused when it comes to videogame stories," she writes, "but Chains of Olympus does have one of the more heart-wrenching moments I’ve seen in a game." Jongewaard is impressed with Chains of Olympus from a technological standpoint as well. "From the technical side of things, graphics are gorgeous," she says, "and the seamless loading is super impressive when you consider the lengthy loads that early PSP titles had." "Controls have been translated over beautifully," Jongewaard continues, "and the automatic camera is as excellent as it was in the prior two games." Jongewaard notes some occasional control hiccups thanks to the PSP's inherent setup, however. "The only thing I didn’t like were the quick-time events requiring analog nub action—it felt harder to respond in a timely fashion," she critiques. "But that’s more a hardware shortcoming than a software problem." Jongewaard describes Chains of Olympus as a worthy purchase for series fans in particular. "While not as long as the console counterparts—probably seven or eight hours—Chains of Olympus is still a highly recommended purchase," she concludes, "and God of War fans who haven’t yet invested in a PSP should strongly consider taking the plunge." Though the PSP's control setup and its lack of processing power in comparison to consoles had series fans worried, critics assure that Chains of Olympus lives up to expectations. Its short length and sometimes too-close resemblance to its predecessors might be of concern for some, but otherwise, Chains of Olympus is described as a worthy, impressive addition to the God of War franchise.

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