God of War: Ghost of Sparta PSP Review

November 19, 2010 by  
Filed under Reviews & Features, PlayStation, PSP

Publisher – Sony Computer Entertainment Europe – Developer – Ready at Dawn Studios – Genre –  Action Adventure – Players – 1 – Age Rating – 18+ – Other console/handheld formats – N/A

There have been plenty of console franchises that have also had entries on the PSP, many of which have had developers making compromises to better suit the portable format and its limitations, but in no way does God of War: Ghost of Sparta feel as if it’s held back by the format.

Developer, Ready at Dawn Studios, have previously displayed their proficiency with the PSP with Daxter as well as fellow God of War title Chains of Olympus, but their final PSP offering, God of War: Ghost of Sparta, even manages to make those technical wonders look almost as if they’re from not only a previous generation, but another century altogether.

Whilst there’s never been any doubt at the PSP’s graphical capabilities, God of War: Ghost of Sparta however employs visual effects that most would have thought not possible for the format. Flurries of snow, fire waving in the wind, pounding rain and hugely detailed and towering bosses have never looked better on Sony’s mini powerhouse.

There's quite a variety of enemies for Kratos to pull apart.

Some of the scale of the mainline series has been diminished, whilst the engine can only handle three or four enemies on the screen at one time, but these are necessary changes for the format and, with Ready at Dawn’s already considerable achievement in crafting what is the PSP’s most visually astounding game, it would also be unfair to expect even greater magic from them.

Similarly to Chains of Olympus, God of War: Ghost of Sparta focuses on the background of the very angry anti-hero Kratos. In terms of setting, it takes place between the first two games in the series and sees Kratos, now the God of War, go in search of his brother Deimos.

Much like Chains of Olympus, the game explores a more human side of Kratos, which is largely absent in anything from the main series, but grants a layer of depth to him and makes you think of him as slightly more than just an angry, bald mass of muscle that shouts a lot.

Conversely, the combat system functions much like the main trilogy. So it’s easy to pick up for anyone with hands, but more elaborate things are possible for those that want it. Kratos attacks with as much ferocity as ever, whilst the divisive QTE’s are liberally used. Changes are only incremental, with the only fresh additions being a tackle manoveoure and the fact that you can imbue the Blades of Athena with fire to break through the armour of certain enemies, but when the combat system was already strong, it hardly matters.

Kratos begins the game with the iconic Blades of Athena, but along the way will also gain magical abilities, though the only other melee weapon he’ll receive  is the Arms of Sparta (of which should the situation call for it, can also act as a ranged weapon) a combination of a shield and spear. As always, the combos possible with weapons are limited until you level them up by spending red orbs (earned by defeating enemies or finding them), being granted new moves in the process and in turn widening your combat options.

You are occasionally given a break from the combat, allowing you to explore, sometimes coming across and being rewarded by a chest either stuffed full of red orbs, or items that automatically enhance facets of Kratos. Navigating the often harsh environments can be exhilarating in itself, as, on your initial run through the game, you can never be sure of what platforms and ledges will collapse under your weight.

The Blades of Athena in death dealing action.

There’s also some puzzles that have you pushing around blocks and pulling levers. They’re not particularly cerebral and are simplistic in their design, more so than the most complex from the main series, of which will come as a disappointment to those who were expecting much of the same again.

Length wise, God of War: Ghost of Sparta is around the eight hour mark, though once completed there’s the familiar challenge of The Gods mode, where you’re set tasks and a combat arena, a good place to polish your fighting skills, or just the place to go if you feel like a good fight, without exploration and such getting in the way. There’s also a new Temple of Zeus, where you can spend red orbs to unlock costumes that can be used in the main game, as well as videos and other extras.

God of War: Ghost of Sparta is easily the most authentic portable representation of Sony’s series that is currently possible. It loses little from the main series and sticking rigidly to the formula, it also gains few things to call its own. The series’ mechanics remain excellent though, and the game can easily hold its head high amongst the finest that the PSP has to offer.