Long before he was the god of war, bald badass Kratos was just the Ghost of Sparta, a berserk agent of the ancient Greek gods whose job it was to roam around smashing the faces of mythological monsters. God of War: Chains of Olympus delves into those dark years, shedding light on Kratos' troubled past while delivering the same epic storytelling, beautiful scenery and vicious ass-stomping we've come to expect from the series. And for a PSP game, that's a hell of an achievement.
The first thing that should be said about Chains of Olympus is that developer Ready at Dawn - also responsible for the excellent Daxter - has done an amazing job of replicating the look and feel of the PS2 GoW games. The environments are huge, stunning and filled with ornate architecture and colossal statues, and the automatic camera means no clumsy workarounds to make up for the lack of a second analog stick. Kratos and his hulking enemies look great and animate beautifully, and there are times - usually when Kratos is by himself - when the game looks as though it's running at 60 frames per second.
What's more impressive is that all this is done with almost no noticeable load times, although there are a whole lot of unskippable cutscenes littered throughout the game that might be covering some of them up. For what it's worth, though, those cutscenes are great - especially since they feature the same art direction and voice actors as previous games.
The story they tell isn't half bad, either; although he starts out defending the city of Attica from a bunch of seemingly inconsequential Persians and their giant, fire-breathing basilisk, Kratos is soon given a much more important task that carries apocalyptic implications. That's right: for the first time, Kratos has to save the world instead of just himself. While that sort of goes against his sociopathic nature, it'll nonetheless reveal something very tragic and important about him before the twisting story's through.
Although it's a prequel to the PS2 slash 'em-ups, you won't be playing as some young, underpowered version of Kratos here. Like his later incarnations, this compellingly tormented arch-bastard is able to eviscerate everything around him with the Blades of Chaos, a pair of whiplike scimitars on chains that he swings around in deadly arcs. It's just as fun and visceral as it's ever been, especially when you get in close for a grab - which, with smaller grunt-types, will either leave them disemboweled or forcefully booted halfway across the screen.