God of War: Ghost of Sparta
Developer: Ready at Dawn
Publisher: SCEE
Release Date: Out Now
Players: One
Words By:

Ready at Dawn’s first GoW title “Chains of Olympus” was a fantastic showcase for the PSP and they certainly proved they knew how to handle Sony’s prestigious franchise with the care it needed i.e. they didn’t tinker with the formula too much. That was back in 2008 and now the series has (sort of) concluded on the PS3 the developers have come back for another stab/chop/cleave/slash on the handheld.

Set between the original GoW and GoW II, the story kicks off with the newly crowned Kratos suffering from flashbacks and visions of his suitably murky past and the revelation that his long-thought-to-be-deceased brother Deimos is actually still in the land of the living. Thus begins the search for your sibling in typical brutal style and the fan-pleasing origin of Kratos’s facial scar adds to the appeal. On the surface it’s all a bit daytime TV but Ready at Dawn have done an admirable job of weaving the plot into the existing timeline and in the end it certainly gets you pumped up for the many, many battles you’ll step into during Ghost of Sparta’s 6-8 hour length.

The combat, as always, is the primary focus of the game along with a few light puzzles dropped in to keep things fresh. Kicking arse is slick and familiar and for GoW veterans everything feels just as it should. There are the usual ‘light’ and ‘heavy’ attacks as standard which when used in conjunction with the shoulder buttons let you perform combination attacks where hits can clock up in the hundreds. For those willing to work a little harder there is the option to parry hits and tapping both shoulder buttons and the analogue stick lets you roll to avoid incoming attacks—vital when fighting some of the harder-hitting creatures you will have to slay.

Whether you’re floating on a ship headed towards Atlantis or working your way through hell, enemies are always in plentiful supply. The basic minions are despatched with a few flicks of your trusty weapons, the iconic Blades of Athena, but as is to be expected there are times when you’ll experience QTE (Quick Time Event) sections where you’ll be pushed into tapping the on-screen prompts in quick succession until you get it right. It should feel like an old and tired game mechanic after all this time but honestly it still works brilliantly to empower the player, especially when accompanied with the wonderfully over-the-top blood letting and eye gouging.

Slightly disappointing are the new weapons and magical abilities. The spear and shield combo is there mainly to be used as a projectile attack against archers but it does come in handy when moving forward through barrages of arrows or a flame trap unhurt. The other weapon is the Horn of Boreas, which gives Kratos some breathing space by freezing all the nearby enemies with an icy blast—great once or twice but never all that satisfying to use. The magic on offer has the usual lightening attack and some sort of ‘black hole’ attack, which literally sucks the life out of your foes, again not particularly enthralling. The most interesting of all the new combat features however is that the default blade weapon has also been given a boost. Thera’s Bane gives you the option to endow your blades with fire when holding down the right shoulder button. This, as well as allowing you to inflect more damage, lets you smash through otherwise impenetrable armour. A small addition but it does add a layer of depth to some of the tougher fights.

From the game’s opening battle with two massive sea creatures to the truly brilliant final boss, you’ll always be impressed with the scope and scale of what the game has to offer, even more so when you remember that you’re playing on the PSP and not its big brother. The environments share the same attention to detail with visually impressive landscapes to work through along with weather effects and cinematic camera angles aplenty adding the much-needed atmosphere. The terrific voice acting and thumping orchestral score must also get a mention.

Upon completion, Ghost of Sparta has a freeplay combat arena mode and some additional challenge modes to keep you playing. Certain criteria must be met to conquer them such as opening 5 chests in an arena without dying from constant respawning enemies. There are quite a few of these to partake in and they do get increasingly tough as you progress. The reward is the option to sacrifice some of your collected red orbs and buy/unlock making of videos, production artwork or additional enemy types for the combat arena.

God of War: Ghost of Sparta isn’t the longest game in the world (I had it finished in a weekend of solid play) and it never takes any risks to truly take the franchise forward but it honestly doesn’t need to when it plays this well. The mechanics are solid and it still has the ability to give you that visceral thrill that very few action games can. It’s well worth dusting off your PSP to spend some quality time with everyone’s favourite anti-hero. THIS IS SPARTA! And it feels great!

Best Bits

- It’s gorgeous (or should that be gore-geous? – I’ll get my coat.)
- You get to kick defenceless mortals through wooden doors!
- The story slots nicely into the GoW mythology.
Worst Bits

- Some of the new weapons/powers are a bit naff.
- It is essentially more of the same.
- PSP Thumb GRI (Game-Related Injury.)

by: Pedro

Copyright © Gamecell 2010