God of war: Ghost of Sparta review

Posted: December 1, 2010 by E-mann in REVIEWS

Eight months after the release of the smash hit God of war 3, Kratos makes his triumphant return to the PSP with God of War: Ghost of Sparta. Is Ghost of Sparta ambrosia fit for the consumption of the Gods or should it be thrown into the depths of Hades?

God of War: Ghost of Sparta is a lost chapter in Kratos’ life as the God of War. It takes place immediately after the events in GOW 1 and serves as a bridge between GOW 1 and 2. We follow Kratos as he tries to find out what happened to his brother Deimos.

The gameplay in Ghost of Sparta is very good though it is a touch slower than its predecessors. Some veteran players of the God of War series might find that their timing is a little off when first stepping in. Attacks don’t happen as quickly as you would expect and blocking may not catch the more speedy attacks in time. However despite the slower speed, countering in the game is a lot easier. Instead of pressing block as an enemy hits, you can press block as the enemy is attacking and you will perform a counter. This change increases the chances of you preforming a successful counter and definitely comes in handy in the latter parts of the game.

Ghost of Sparta has some really interesting sections of gameplay where they change things up. In one sequence you play a young Kratos and in another sequence you don’t fight at all. You are just Kratos walking through a town getting cheered on by the people. This sequence really stands out because for once it has Kratos getting respect and not being punished or killing everything in sight. It’s a welcome breather from all the chaos.

For the most part, gameplay is responsive and easy to jump into. I do have some small gripes with some changes in control though. The ability to kick a movable object instead of pushing it and the ability to quickly shimmy across ledges has been removed. These do not hurt the game in any way but you kind of miss them. Another minor problem I had was during a diving sequence toward the middle of the game. The sequence is set to the reverse flight style controls and doesn’t allow you to switch them like in previous titles. For those that aren’t used to this kind of control it can be a bit jarring. Fortunately the sequence is short and it’s the only time you ever use this mechanic.

The extra weapons and abilities in Ghost of Sparta are fun to use, however they pale in comparison to the chains of Athena. With that said that’s not exactly a bad thing. It seems like the creators didn’t want to out do the blades so they chose weapons that can be used in conjunction with the blades. The extra abilities range from updates to tried and true classics and some new comers to the series. One such additional weapon is Thera’s Bane. The function of this weapon is simple; when activated they give a fire ability to the blades. This ability increases attack damage and also charges enemies with a delayed explosive that can damage armor and shields. Thera’s Bane can be turned on and off  on the fly during a combo by simply holding and releasing the Right trigger. Using this ability drains a bar underneath your magic meter, limiting it’s use but luckily the bar recharges. Another first for the series is the Spartan shield and spear which serves as a defensive weapon and as a long range weapon. The shield and spear in the beginning is a little hard to get used to because it is a defensive weapon and if you are not more methodical with it, you will get hit more. Most players might wind up just using it for its long range attacks.

The sound in Ghost of Sparta, like other games in the GOW series is top notch. From it’s massive musical score, the angry grunts of T.C. Carson (Kratos) and epic narrations of Linda Hunt, you will forget that you are playing on a handheld. I strongly suggest getting a good pair of headphones because the speakers on the PSP don’t do the sound justice. Ghost of Sparta marks the return of Paul Eiding (Colonel Campbell from the Metal Gear Solid series) as the mysterious Gravedigger. Unfortunately, Carole Ruggier did not return as Athena. Regardless of who is doing the voices, the acting is right up there with previous GOW games.

Ghost of  Sparta’s story  is simple and self contained. At it’s core, Ghost of Sparta is a personal journey that leads to an epic adventure like in the first game. In the beginning of Ghost of Sparta, we find  Kratos disturbed by visions of his past. Though this time the visions are not of wife and daughter but of his childhood. The visions are of his brother Deimos and the mystery surrounding his death. In an effort to find out the truth, Kratos sets out in search of answers. Of course doing so defies the Gods. Some of Ghost of Sparta’s main story points might seem familiar to some fans. That is because it borrows heavily from the extra story content found in God of War 1. Despite this, Ghost of Sparta is not without it’s own  surprises and in a lot of ways the game feels more like a direct sequel to GOW1 then GOW2 did. We see the return of characters that haven’t been seen since GOW1. We get answers to some questions about Kratos and some nice call backs to events that will come later in the storyline. My only gripe with the story is that I wish we would have gotten to know Deimos a little more before the game ends.

Looking at the the graphics in God of War: Ghost of Sparta, it’s hard to believe that the game is on a handheld. One thing that really stood out to me was the animation during the cinematics. There is some really great subtle stuff they capture in faces and gestures of the characters. It seems that Ready at Dawn Studios squeezed every ounce of power out of the PSP. Just when you think they hit the ceiling they blow out the roof. From epic vistas, sinking cities and even the rain going down Kratos’s body, Ghost of Sparta has everything you’d expect from a next gen GOW game just in the palm of your hands.

The level design in God of War: Ghost of Sparta is smart, tight and for the most part it is clear what you need to do. The environments vary and each offer their own unique challenges. One thing I really admire about God of War games is the circular design to their levels. The beginning is the end and where you are connects to a place that you have already been. The only problem though is that in some sections of the game, you will not be able to back track a little to explore. Not that there are too many branching paths, but it would have been nice to return to a section that you just came through.

There is a lot of replay value to God of War: Ghost of Sparta especially if you are a completionist like me. Upon finishing the game there is a new game plus where you keep all of your upgraded items. There are also hidden collectible items, a challenge mode, unlockable costumes, artwork and videos. Most of the extras in the game can be  unlocked in the temple of Zeus. In the temple of Zeus you use red orbs that you have earned in the challenge modes to buy extras.

God of War: Ghost of Sparta is yet another great entry in the GOW series. It follows the GOW formula to a T but not without being it’s own unique title. Personally I think that there is something for everyone and if you don’t have a PSP you should pick one up for this game.

God of War: Ghost of Sparta was developed by Ready at Dawn studios and published by Sony computer entertainment for the PSP. Released on Nov. 02, 2010. Retails for $39.99 USD/ Store bought copy Completed singleplayer campaign on Hard difficulty unlocked all extra content.

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Comments
  1. Eric says:

    Good review. I just played through the God of War trilogy, and it was just awesome. Guess I need to tackle the PSP games now.

  2. Greg says:

    The picture at the very top; the cover art for the game. Where did you get the full version of that picture at? Unfortunately you only posted a portion of it; I’m looking for the entire picture, for wallpaper use

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