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God Of War: Chains of Olympus was one of those rare games that make you wonder how they fit it all on a PSP. Unfortunately, that doesn't leave a lot of room for improvement - or so you'd think. God of War: Ghost of Sparta developer Ready at Dawn Studios manages to get a bit more kick out of the half-decade-old handheld.
The demo was essentially a tutorial so if the gameplay has changed much, I didn't get to see it. Same routine here as usual: you string together combos of heavy and light attacks with your blades, pry open chests for health/mana/experience, and so forth. If you've played any other games in the series, you'll be at full speed very quickly.
While the fundamentals of combat are about the same, there have been a few additions on top of this foundation. The first is a new move called the Hyperion Charge. Kratos tackles a foe and, while grappling with him, can initiate one of a few different finishers. The Eye of Atlantis is a new item that allows you to shoot enemies with an electrical beam.
The new spear and shield set may have bigger gameplay implications. Kratos has always been very offensive-minded but the shield allows him to slow things down. He can deflect enemy attacks and counter with a stab of his spear. The spear can also be thrown, thus making this set of equipment very versatile.
What was really striking about the demo was how the visuals have improved. God of War III was known for its grand setpieces and while the PSP obviously can't support the level of eye-candy that the PS3 can, Ready at Dawn makes a valiant effort. Kratos begins the demo on a ship in the waters outside Kratos. In the background we can see the turbulent seas tossing other ships about. Water spills over the side of the boat and the camera sways along with the ship.
The most impressive visual is the boss, Scylla. Scylla is a massive sea monster that grabs hold of the ship with a few of its tentacles and then tries to pummel Kratos with its remaining appendages. The fight has multiple phases spread throughout the level, bringing to mind the Poseidon encounter at the outset of GoWIII. The scale of the fight is above and beyond anything in the Kratos' previous PSP journey Chains of Olympus.
Chains is regarded as one of the best games ever developed for the PSP so Ready at Dawn is really competing against themselves, here. That sort of situation can result in some laziness on the part of developers but the team behind Ghost of Sparta seems intent on pushing the limits of the platform. It remains to be seen if this game will shake the rigid orthodoxy of the series. Either way, this should be another satisfying journey for Kratos fans.