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God of War Ghost of Sparta

 

God of War Ghost of Sparta

ESRB: Mature - M
Platform: PSP
Category: Action Games
 
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8.5
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8.5
 
Author:

Developer: Ready At Dawn Studios
Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment of America

Features:

1 player
256KB game save
Ifrastructure online download only
Rated Mature

When Chains of Olympus, the first God of War game on Sony’s PSP, was released in 2007, it was viewed as one of the best PSP games ever made. It successfully translated the action of the then PS2 series into the palms of your hands. Shortly after launch, it seemed unlikely that Ready At Dawn (the developer) would ever make another PSP title as they publicly stated the PSP was not a viable platform for future games. This changed earlier this year when they announced God of War: Ghost of Sparta. This second adventure might not revolutionize things the same way the first one did, but it still delivers an enjoyable experience that fans of the series and the genre itself will enjoy.

Graphics

Ghost of Sparta is gorgeous. Graphically, it looks better than a big chunk of older PS2 games, and is absolutely the best-looking game on the PSP thus far. Detailed environments featuring constant rain, cascading water and lava create beautiful backdrops really bringing the world to life. I really had no idea the PSP was capable of such gorgeous graphics. Kratos looks even more detailed in fact; his character model was rebuilt from the ground up to add more detail to this game. There is one memorable area where he is bathed in blood during battle, much like God of War 3.

Kratos' moves and animations are extremely fluid and the various finishing moves and combos are fast paced and well modelled. The enemies are ones you've come to expect in a God of War game with the requisite Cyclops, Minotaurs, gorgons and undead soldiers. Ready At Dawn Studios has really become good at harnessing the polygons out of the PSP. Some battles are so incredibly fast with a frantic pace and filled with so many enemies at once that it gets hard to find Kratos. I suppose this is a good gripe as you die often, but it looks good while doing so.

Load times are extremely short and frame rates never seem to fall, although I did see a few clipping issues here and there. I think the game has visuals that genuinely wouldn’t look out of place on a current-gen console. It’s not just the technical side that impresses; every element of the game’s visuals exudes a sharp eye for design and drips with detail readily seen on any console machine. Yes it’s that good! Lava flows and spurts authentically, powdered snow wafts and drifts and sand is blown around cracked, crumbling temples. All of this adds up to the best-looking PSP game to date, bar none.

Sound

The game's sound is similarly outstanding, with a solid orchestral score running throughout the game. The music is quite integral to the story, rising and thrilling in those fast paced action parts, combined with the softer and most interesting scenes. It’s backed up by visceral sounds of combat, from chains, blades or even the crunch of bones, it's all clear and crisp. I found in most areas the sound cues will tell you what weapon you need to switch to. Quite intuitive.

As with any God of War game the voice acting is also perfectly suited to the outrageous action. The script is well written and voiced with the style of a movie production; excellent stuff indeed.

Gameplay

Ghost of Sparta takes place after the events of the first PS2 game; having already become a God, Kratos is haunted by memories of his past and decides to search for answers. He makes his way to the city of Atlantis to seek this information out. Upon arriving there, he finds his mother who reveals his father’s identity and that his younger brother, Deimos, is still alive but is held captive. Kratos isn’t too pleased and decides to hunt for his brother to save him from imprisonment.

Veterans of the God of War games will instantly find the old familiar hack and slash style of game play in Ghost of Sparta. Unfortunately, in keeping the game as robust as its older siblings, the controls can become frustratingly complicated at times. My only somewhat major gripe has to do with the PSP’s control. I’ve always said the analog nub is useless; it lacks a definite tactile feel, and its response time is slow. Some games are worse than others. In fact, Ghost of Sparta isn’t bad overall but it does have its moments of utter frustration. The new button additions increase my frustration with some new combos and moves. It is a good thing Kratos has so many tools at his disposal, but the PSP is a small machine with fewer buttons in which to pull off all of these moves. Often I found myself doing bizarre combos or moves at most inopportune times. A small slip or an accidental pop off could end up getting you stomped by a Cyclops rather than smoothly rolling yourself away as planned. Luckily, health and magic chests are well spaced so if an errant move causes you to lose either of those, it's not long until you can refill your meters.

Other than my lack of skill, controlling Kratos is achieved through fairly standard means, with the heavy and light attacks handled by Square and Triangle buttons. You can also use a combination of them with the game's block button (L) and the fiery attack modifier. You can even unleash magical destruction by pushing right on the D-pad and a whole host of combos can be achieved by mixing and matching the buttons at will. Button mashers will do fine on the easy level, which really poses very few challenges to those with little or no dexterity. Gamers that choose the harder difficulty levels will need to spend time to learn the combinations of moves. As I mentioned before, learning the proper button combos is no easy task.

Kratos’ main weapon is Blades of Athena, which function exactly like blades do in the other games. You will need to unlock the ability to add fire to the blades. The new feature called Thera's Bane functions in similar fashion to the awesome Rage of Sparta in God of War 3. It has its own separate meter, which thankfully replenishes over time. Gamers are going to find it quite useful in extinguishing enemies; it also has the ability to activate or deactivate at will making it one thing you don’t really have to keep track of as you battle. One important note is the power is necessary to open some doors and other obstacles that need to be destroyed, and to break through the armour of certain enemies.

Another weapon you acquire later in the game is the spear and shield combo known as the Arms of Sparta. This combo is one of the most formidable in Kratos’ staple. It serves double duty as ranged and melee weapon. Kratos’ is able to throw the spear at distant enemies or perform jabs up close, all the while his shield can be bashed into enemies, not to mention its most important blocking abilities. In fact, he can and will use the shield to block out fire and or wind somewhere in the game — most useful indeed.

Kratos also has three new magic based attack previously unseen in a God of War game. The first is the Eye of Atlantis, which is available from the outset. When you use this power, Kratos is able to blast out a straight-line of electricity. As you upgrade it, the Eye can seek out and attack more enemies. I ended up not using this particular power all that much though; it takes a bit of time to build up with sometimes not enough power behind it. It is still effective on smaller enemies and such, but seems to do little damage to mid-level bad guys. Eventually, you'll earn the Scourge of Erinys which is my favourite. When used, Kratos emits a black hole of sorts that drains life out of anything near it; it’s quite effective especially up close. Finally, the Horns of Boreas gives Kratos the power to hit enemies in a short circle around him, potentially freezing them with an icy cold Wind.

The game has a few functional improvements as well, such as showing button prompts on the side of the screen. The prompts correspond to the button's placement on the PSP and use of the analog nub which, as I remember, was terribly frustrating at times in Chains of Olympus. Load times are still practically non-existent, though the game will occasionally pause in mid-action briefly to load; but it's never enough to interfere with the gameplay. I have found downloaded titles run a bit quicker, but not enough for anyone to really take notice.

In addition to the campaign, Ghost of Sparta includes a Treasures option. Here you will find Challenge of the Gods, Combat Arena, The Temple of Zeus, and options for viewing game videos and art galleries (as you unlock them). In Challenge of the Gods, players are able to choose from five challenges from Ares and eight from Athena. The eight from Athena are only available after you play and complete The Temple of Zeus. The challenges from Ares are heavily combat based which require you to kill all enemies without taking a hit. Other Ares challenges include opening six chests while under constant attack from fast moving light enemies and gauntlet-style battles where you simply must survive a few waves of enemies. One interesting challenge I have yet to complete is destroying a massive crate within thirty seconds to unlock its red orbs. As easy as that may sound, I’m having a tough time completing it. Overall there is some good time well spent content here — fans of the game will love it.

The Temple of Zeus is where you can go to spend all of your hard earned red orbs. There are eighteen stations where you can spend your orbs. The cheapest unlockable is 5,000 orbs with others getting up into the fifty and sixty thousand range. The Temple is nicely designed and is a small playable area where you walk around normally, interacting and unlocking shrines or stations to use them. My only complaint is that every time you visit, you are forced to walk slowly for ten or fifteen seconds while the narrator goes over the same description of the Temple again. It would be nice to skip it over, but this a pretty small gripe. On the other hand I think this speaks to the dedication that Ready Art Dawn has put into its game.

The Combat Arena is a good practice ground in which you can specify the number and type of enemies (and a few other options) to face in arena combat. At first you can only put in the weakest of enemies, but you can unlock more types in The Temple of Zeus. This is an excellent place to earn a ton of red orbs.

The game also has those well known sexual connotations — Ghost of Sparta has a few notables in that regard scattered throughout the game. I think this game has the most ridiculous sex mini-game the series has ever seen. A whole swarm of women jump in on the action — I’ll leave the rest for you to find out.


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