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PSP Fanboy hands-on: God of War: Chains of Olympus

We got a chance to try an updated version of the upcoming PSP-exclusive God of War: Chains of Olympus and walked away impressed, yet again. Somehow, the tech team at Ready at Dawn has managed to make the game look even more stunning than the demo disc version earlier this year. We can't pinpoint it exactly, but it appears the framerate has improved, as has the lighting and anti-aliasing. (Maybe it's due to the developer's access to PSP's full power?)

Of course, impressive visuals are only a small part of what makes the God of War experience so much fun. Ready at Dawn has managed to capture the feel of the PS2 originals by adapting the controls quite smartly to the PSP. We tried swimming, and found it remarkably easy to get used to. To perform Kratos' underwater dash, players must hold the L and R shoulder buttons together and release. Because it's mapped the same way the dodge move is, it feels rather intuitive.

We also got a chance to use some of Kratos' later moves. As in God of War II, Kratos will now be able to reflect enemy attacks by pressing L (block) right before an enemy strikes. We don't know if its our experience with the PS2 game, but we found returning enemy projectiles to be quite easy. Maybe the timing is more generous in this handheld iteration? Regardless, it was easy to catch projectiles and throw them back -- even without a second analog stick.

Kratos' magic was also expanded in this updated build. We got to spend some time with the Efret magic, which is easily the most over-the-top spell created in the GoW universe so far. Those that played the demo disc know that it summons a giant fire spirit out of Kratos that slams his arms down on the ground, generating a shockwave that'll hit nearby enemies. The visceral presentation really emphasizes how powerful this spell must be. However, the spell has been expanded a bit as well. If the player double jumps before the spell, the animation will change to a far more brutal one. The screen is literally filled with the Efret spirit, and the resulting shockwave is absolutely massive. Don't mess with Kratos.

Other projectile magic is at Kratos' disposal as well, and targeting is quite generous in the handheld iteration. There's one new move that was revealed to us that we'd love to share with you ... but we can't. Let's just say that those that have been following Chains of Olympus very closely have already figured out what the newest addition to Kratos' arsenal is.

Both the combat and visuals necessary of a production like God of War have been successfully carried over to the PSP in Chains of Olympus. True GoW fans will be glad to hear that none of the brutality and gore from the console iterations has been removed for the handheld. You will be ripping enemies apart. And for those that have been wondering: yes, you can expect some more female nudity. If that's what you really need from a God of War game ...

God of War: Chains of Olympus comes to PSP next March.

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