God of War: Ghost of Sparta Review

by on December 14, 2010

Game: God of War: Ghost of Sparta

Developer: Ready at Dawn Studios/SCE Santa Monica Studio

Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment

Available on: PSP only

God of War, as a franchise, was started in 2005 on the PlayStation 2, since that time there have been multiple games, on multiple systems along with comics, action figures and just about everything else associated with a popular franchise. God of War: Ghost of Sparta is the second game in the series to be released for Sony’s handheld console and, like it’s predecessor, shines like a lighthouse in the sea of mediocrity that seems to plague the list of games that are available for the PSP. The God of War series prides itself on being a collection of games that enable the player to just unleash their rage and this new entry is no different, and you don’t even have to be at home now. Feel like unleashing your inner demon on the train or bus to work? No problem, just try not to shout too loud while you’re doing it. Some of us gamers have an image to maintain. Read on for the full review.

STORY: God of War: Ghost of Sparta picks up exactly where the original God of War left off back in 2005. You’re Kratos, the newly crowned God of War and, despite Athena’s promises throughout the first game in the series, you’re still plagued by the memories of your mortal past. In true demigod fashion Kratos decides to confront his problems head on, which usually involves a lot of stamping, stabbing, bloodshed and death. The story on a whole revolves around Kratos’ mortal life and his relationship with his brother Deimos and is, on a whole, very enjoyable.

As has come to be expected from the God of War games, the story is told, for the most part, by a narrator while the player is visually treated to environments of a massive scale and of a most impressive grandeur. God of War: Ghost of Sparta doesn’t skimp on the impressiveness of the environments, despite the limitations of the system it’s on. Everything in the story still feels epic even if the device sitting in your hands is decidedly not.

God of War: Ghost of Sparta - Screenshot 2

This...is my...BOOMSTICK!

GRAPHICS: Ready at Dawn have pushed and pulled the PSP apart in order to squeeze every single drop of power from the ageing system. The result is God of War: Ghost of Sparta. Arguably one of the best looking games on the platform. It looks as good, if not better, than the God of War games on the PlayStation 2, which is an achievement in itself. The first God of War PSP game, Chains of Olympus, was visually impressive but Ghost of Sparta visually surpasses even that in order to create a game so good looking that even when opening chests among throngs of enemies the engine will not stutter, not an ounce of slowdown is evident throughout the entire length of the game.

There are other problems with the game, which will be touched upon soon enough, but graphical quality isn’t one of them. You’d be hard pushed to find a game as beautiful as God of War: Ghost of Sparta on a handheld console. If anyone ever complains that the PSP isn’t powerful enough to show decent graphics, show them this and they’ll soon be quiet.

SOUND: It’s always important when developing a game to think about the sound that will be used to convey the games story. In God of War: Ghost of Sparta this mostly revolves around the use of in-game narration, although there are a few cut-scenes sprinkled in for good measure. All of the audio used, whether that’s narration or cut-scenes, sounds crisp and clear and is only really held back by the limitations of the PSP itself. If you’re the type of person who feels strongly about audio usage and quality in video games then you’ll probably want to play with a set of headphones on in order to get the highest quality of audio that’s available. If you’re not that picky then the consoles on-board speakers will suffice, making all the audio sound guttural where it’s supposed to be and gentle and calming when required.

GAMEPLAY: The main reason anybody plays a God of War game, well any game at all, is for the gameplay. When we’re talking about a God of War game it’s probably ok to assume that you’re looking for a game that allows you to vent your frustrations upon copious amounts of enemies that are thrown towards you. Some might be hard to take down, but more often than not you will eventually prevail and your reward for this? An endless stream of blood and guts! However, maybe you’re not looking for that. Maybe you’re looking for a deep, fulfilling story line with emotion, heart felt voice acting and environmental wonder? No problem. Whatever you’re looking for in a game God of War: Ghost of Sparta is probably right up your alley.

God of War: Ghost of Sparta - Screenshot 3

The gods used to leave writing on the walls, this time they're going for a much simpler approach.

The combat mechanic is the same as you would expect from a God of War game, use the analogue stick to move Kratos around and either square or triangle to attack the oncoming hordes. Different button combinations result in Kratos flailing his arms (and the weapons attached to those arms) in a variety of different ways. There are a host of different moves available to the player with more and more being unlocked as the weapons are upgraded. However, not many people will take the time to learn every single combo available. Most people will probably revert to the standard “button mash” approach that usually follows this type of game. Not that that’s a bad thing in the least, most of the time the game expects that and allows the player to pull of some pretty impressive looking stuff despite the inaccuracy with which they’re actually hitting buttons. Quick time events are also back and look as impressive as ever. Thankfully, they’ve taken a feather out of the cap of God of War III for the PlayStation 3 and hit the the coresponding button as it appears on the edge of the screen. As with God of War III this is a welcome change as it means you can see what button you’re expected to press without needing to actually look at it. You can just see which area of the screen it’s appearing in and hit the corresponding button in time. This means that you’re eyes are available to watch the truly amazing set pieces that are occurring on-screen at that moment in time.

If there’s one thing I’d complain about it’s that after about an hour of game time players will probably find their thumbs hurting a little bit. However, it must be stated that this a problem with the placement of the analogue stick on the PSP and not a fault of the game itself, but it’s just something that made itself very obvious, especially with a game that is as addictive as this.

LONGEVITY: Re-playability is something that the people behind the God of War series always seem to do well. The fact that you’re able to collect orbs throughout the game and use them to unlock things starts getting a little addictive very early on. Combine that with the fact that it’s almost impossible to get enough orbs during the first playthrough to unlock everything, this means that you’ll more than likely be playing this spectacular game more than once. The ability to unlock harder modes when you finish the game will also keep the hardcore gaming community happy too.

VERDICT: God of War: Ghost of Sparta is the perfect game to play on a long train ride, or even a short one, especially with the PSP’s ability to go into a “Sleep Mode” and use very little battery power. The only downer is the slight discomfort you might encounter during extended play sessions. That minor gripe aside, Ghost of Sparta is one of the most visually stunning games on the console and, combined with an impressive story and compelling narrative, it’s one of the PSP’s few must have games.

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