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God of War: Chains of Olympus
Apologies to you, PSP developers of the world, but let's face facts: Ready at Dawn is making you look like a bunch of sissies. While the rest of you are struggling to bring your ropey ports of PS2 and PS3 games to Sony's handheld, the team behind last year's Daxter seem to have no problems bringing epic entertainment to the smaller screen. God of War: Chains of Olympus isn't just a tour-de-force of technical know-how; it's also an object lesson in how to take even the most ambitious of console games and make it work on a mobile machine. This isn't God of War lite or a decent God of War spoilt by minor visual or gameplay issues - it's just God of War, with all the scale, beauty, blood, guts, bombast and (ahem) boobs that this entails.
Of course, it's the astonishing visuals that steal the show. Lord knows how they've done it, but Ready at Dawn has managed to produce a God of War on PSP that doesn't look a million miles different to the existing two games on the PS2. Sure, there's a little less detail on the characters and scenery. Yes, some of the effects are a little toned down. That doesn't change the fact that our anti-hero, Kratos, the monster design, the animation, the architecture and the various combo and magic weapon attacks still look utterly spectacular. From the besieged city at the beginning to the grand temple that makes up the mid-section to the underworld areas at the end, you're consistently impressed with the coherent and beautiful production design, and the gruesome inhabitants that populate the game.
Nor has Ready at Dawn been tempted to reduce the series' awesome sense of scale. Where other developers, worried about the smaller screen and the limited 3D horsepower of the PSP, might have been tempted to zoom in on Kratos and reduce the numbers of enemies or the complexity of the environments, Ready at Dawn has copied the zooming, swooping camera of the PS2 originals and hasn't been afraid to pull the camera back out to show a minute Kratos looking almost puny in a world built on literally Olympian proportions. It's not often that I'm gobsmacked by a PSP game, but Chains of Olympus has had my jaw on the floor more than once. Put on some headphones and throw in that signature, brass-heavy Holst-alike score, and it's a surprisingly powerful experience.
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