My first God of War game was the first PSP prequel, Chains Of Olympus.
It’s my favorite PSP game of all time, and easily one of the best I’ve played on any console. I can’t count how many times I’ve beaten the game on either the PSP or the VIta. I recently got God or War: Saga for the PS3, which included the HD renditions of the PSP games, and I’m midway through my second playthrough of COO on the PS3. It just never seems to get old.
After playing through COO, I was super excited about God of War III, and picked it up as soon as possible. I had no idea that Ready at Dawn, who made the PSP games, wasn’t even affiliated with Sony; seeing Santa Monica, the main developer for the series, wrap up the trilogy on the PS3 had me super excited.
However, while I do like GOWIII okay…the experience doesn’t hold up nearly as well.There are several reasons why Ready at Dawn’s first take on Kratos’s story was better:
- More intuitive controls: One thing that’s bugged me about the console GOW games is how Santa Monica insists on using every goddamned button on the DualShock just because it’s there. This isn’t a problem with COO; the lack of extra shoulder buttons means that they have to streamline and simplify the controls, which makes handling Kratos feel much more natural in and out of battle. They actually addressed this in the Ascension demo, with the use of weapon drops reorienting the controls in a way that works as well as the PSP games. I felt it was long overdue, frankly.
- A better story: With COO, the narrative was more solid all around. Unlike GOWIII’s plot, which hinged on a cheesy, awkward retcon of the first game’s use of Pandora’s Box, the story was straightforward and convincing. Kratos was also a more relatable figure in COO, rather than the bloodthirsty lunatic we got in most of GOWIII. That bloodlust made it impossible to feel any sympathy for Kratos’s vengeance, which made a lot of the game feel hollow. His belated realization of how much death and destruction he cause by the end (which was disappointing sequel bait) did little to make up for things.
- A proper sense of scope: COO made excellent use of the PSP’s limited hardware to create something that lookedgreat. Seeing how they managed to create something of such visual fidelity put the game head and shoulders over the PSP’s sea of neutered PS2 ports. GOWIII, on the other hand, served to show how problematic the PS3’s accursed hardware is. Between the wildly inconsistent character models, the fluctuating framerates, and the weird issues with texture pop-in, I constantly get the sense that Santa Monica’s vision for GOWIII was beyond what they could pull out of the system back in 2010. The beauty of GOW: Ascension only makes the third game look that much more constrained by the Cell architecture.
All in all, the physical and technological limitations of the PSP forced Ready at Dawn to design COO more intuitively, a key factor in what made Chains of Olympus work. They didn’t have the latitude to go apeshit like Santa Monica did with it’s $40 million+ budget for 3, which only served to work against the game by allowing for more blockbuster-type set-piece design.
I’ve heard that Ascension is even more oriented towards such massive visual scale, to the point that you can barely tell what’s going on at times because Santa Monica is constantly pulling away to show you how EPIC everything is. I’ll see for myself once I pick the game up, which should be soon.