A new God of War game has been released and that can only mean one thing… A pissed off Kratos is on a rampage, out to destroy everything that breathes. This is the Spartan’s second PSP outing and once again the folks at Ready At Dawn are pushing the PSP’s hardware to the limits, providing us with the most epic experiences ever to take place on handheld device. With the looming rumors of PSP2’s and Playstation Phone’s this may well be the aging PSP’s last hurrah!
When the God of War series first sliced its way on to the PS2 half a decade ago it instantly raised the bar for action/action genre. Heavily based on Greek Mythology the God of War games has players assuming the role of Kratos, a former Spartan soldier who sold his soul whilst at the brink of death in order to escape his fate. The “God of War” Aires was at hand to answer Kratos’ call and as well as saving the Spartan’s life he also gave Kratos the strength to potentially become his protégé. But as the saying goes “With great power comes great responsibility” and it’s not long before Kratos regrets asking the gods for help. After been tricked in to killing his own family, a heartbroken Kratos sets out on a one man mission to destroy the gods and whoever else dares to cross his path.
Set as a prequel which takes place between the events of the first two games, Ghost of Sparta gives us another insight on Kratos’ dysfunctional family. This time around the story of Kratos’ long lost brother Deimos is finally being explored, a subject that was first hinted at in the very first game. Ghost of Sparta also digs deep in to Kratos’ past and answers many questions about the anti-hero, including who exactly his mother is and how he attained his trademark scar. For God of War fans this title is well-worth exploring for the story alone, finally learning about the Lost City of Atlantis and seeing mythological characters such as King Midus is sure to get hearts pumping. In the previous God Of War games Kratos always came across as a selfish bully, willing to shed bucket-loads of blood for his own personal gain. Thankfully Ghost Of Sparta bucks this trend and finally has him putting the life of someone else before his own.
While Ghost of Sparta shies away from the conventional in terms of story, unfortunately the game itself couldn’t be any more traditional. If you’ve played the previous God of War games you’ll encounter a distinct feeling of déjà vu at almost every turn. Obviously if this is your first time with the series the lack of originality will be a non-issue for you, but on the other side of the coin you won’t fully appreciate the well crafted story either. In Ready At Dawn’s defence, the fact that they have been able to perfectly replicate the God Of War experience on the PSP is astonishing but I would have appreciated it if they took more risks in the process. Ghost Of Sparta is a technical marvel, featuring phenomenal graphics and a huge sense of scale not-yet-seen on a portable system. Ready At Dawn has also populated the game with a diverse selection of enemies, some of which cannot be defeated by conventional means. Therefore you’ll have to think more methodically about your attacks as the “spam square button to kill everything in sight” technique that series regulars often rely on will work less frequently. This 10 hour adventure is also jam-packed with larger than life bosses who you’ll periodically encounter while traversing the games huge, destructible environments. Despite their extraordinary size, many of the boss bouts are uninspired but the few that are great are really great!
As far as combat, Ghost of Sparta once again provides your typical God Of War affair. Kratos can attack with his twin blades, launch enemies in to the air for juggling opportunities, perform grapple moves, perry enemy attacks and much more. As ever Kratos will discover new magical abilities throughout the game, all of which can be upgraded to make them stronger and improve their overall performance. Kratos’ health and magic meters can also be upgraded by finding hidden objects scattered throughout the game world, this makes fully exploring the environments an essential part of the game. Without dropping too many spoilers the first new power which Kratos possesses is Thera’s Bane, a gift from the gods which allows him to add fire to his blades. Once you’ve obtained Thera’s Bane you can use it to cut through the defences of heavily guarded enemies and bust open fire-sealed doors. Occasionally Kratos will take time away from ripping enemies apart to solve environment puzzles. The puzzles are a little on the easy side but they do a good job of braking up the game’s pace. Kratos is also quite the acrobat and he’ll frequently get a chance to demonstrate his skills by scaling huge walls and swinging from ceilings with his “magical grappling hook”.
Ready At Dawn deserves a lot of props for once again providing us with a portable God Of War game which feels on-par with its console brothers. Ghost of Sparta is a fantastic title which feels more cinematic than most PS3/360 games. The story is handled exceptionally well and will keep you hooked right until the very end. This is also one of the best looking handheld games I’ve ever played, with jaw dropping environments and epic set pieces. My only gripe with the game is the fact that it does very little new. If you’re a true fan of the series you’ll go through the entire game feeling like you’ve done everything here four times before. Still, nothing beats playing a God of War game on the go and if you’re tired of playing Angry Birds for the 100th time then Ghost of Sparta is the perfect pallet cleanser.