God of War: Ghost of Sparta for PlayStation 3 Review

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If you’re looking to take the God of War experience with you on-the-go, you have a few options. There’s the mobile game, God of War: Betrayal and the two PSP games; Chains of Olympus and Ghost of Sparta. Chains of Olympus is okay. A little too easy in my opinion but fun nonetheless. Developed by Ready at Dawn and published by Sony Computer Entertainment, God of War: Ghost of Sparta was released for the PlayStation Portable in November, 2010. It was remastered along with Chains of Olympus and released for the PlayStation 3 as part of the God of War: Origins Collection in 2011. For this review, I played the PlayStation 3 version.

Set between the events of God of War and God of War II, Kratos sets out on a quest to find his brother, Deimos. A series of flashbacks reveal that Deimos was kidnapped as a child and Kratos failed to save him. Ghost of Sparta explores Kratos’ past and has a slightly darker tone than the previous entries. At this point, it’s clear that Kratos’ has been through some shit. The more we learn about him the more we understand why he’s so angry and almost every character he encounters basically fuels the fire. As a result he slays anyone that gets in his way because fuck them. I find the whole thing comical.

Ghost of Sparta contains everything that makes a God of War game a God of War game including the camera system and quick time events. Kratos can walk, run, jump, double jump, grab, block, evade or roll, parry, and perform light and heavy attacks. He can chain attacks together to form combos. All of this should be familiar to veterans of the series. One new mechanic is the Hyperion Charge. Kratos can force enemies to the ground and beat and stab them to death. Kratos will get use to weapons and magic abilities to defeat foes and can power them up with red orbs. Red orbs can be found in chests, acquired by destroying objects, and are earned by defeating enemies and you’ll earn more red orbs by racking up combos. Taking hits drains health and using magic drains through your magic meter. Health and magic can be replenished by green and blue orbs respectively.

Kratos starts with the Blades of Athena and will acquire the Arms of Sparta later on. The Arms of Sparta is a spear and shield. Kratos can use the spear as a melee weapon or throw it at distant enemies and he can use the shield to protect himself from projectiles and hazards. Early on you’ll acquire Thera’s Bane which allows you to imbue the Blades of Athena with fire. You have a fire meter that drains when using the ability and it regenerates over time. Thera’s Bane makes your blades more powerful and you’ll need to use it to break through enemy armor and shields. Not only can this ability be used to set enemies on fire and break armor, but it also allows Kratos to implant searing cores into his enemies which will explode after a few seconds.

Magic can be extremely helpful during certain encounters and all of the abilities are really fun to use. The Eye of Atlantis lets you unleash electricity at your foes. My favorite ability is the Scourge of Erynis. You unleash a void that sucks in enemies like a vortex. And then there’s the Horn of Boreas which lets you damage and freeze nearby enemies. If you power up weapons and magic as you go you should be more than capable of dealing with most threats but the game does put up more of a fight than Chains Of Olympus. Powering up weapons and magic certainly made me feel more powerful but I never felt overpowered.

Ghost of Sparta features multiple difficulty modes and I played through the game on Hero which equates to Normal. You’ll face familiar and new foes on your journey and get to slaughter them in all kinds of cool and fun ways. You can shove your blades into a Minotaur’s mouth, rip the wings off a Harpy, stab a Cyclops in the eye and even rip its eye out, and decapitate certain foes. There’s a bunch of new enemies including some that can freeze you and a new type of Wraith which is the most annoying enemy in the game because they can attack you from undergound at long range. They can be very dangerous in numbers. Many of the tactics you learned in the previous games can be applied here. The combat and most of the mechanics are all familiar. The emphasis on armored enemies mixes things up a bit but there’s no real surprises. Knowing when to block, evade, and strike are the keys to success.

The game will take you to various different locations. You’ll have to fight enemies and solve puzzles in temples, a volcano, even a sunken city. The checkpoint system is forgiving and you can only save the game manually at certain points. You’ll often be locked in areas and have to defeat all of the enemies to progress and I think Ghost of Sparta contains some of the easier puzzles in the series. There will be hazards to avoid and if you look around, you can find secret areas which house orb chests and chests with items like Gorgon Eyes, Phoenix Feathers, and Minotaur Horns. And collecting enough of them will permanently increase your health, magic, and fire meters. I can’t say Ghost of Sparta reaches the same highs as some of the previous games but it does feature some neat set pieces. I really like the sequence where you’re fighting enemies on a ship during a storm and have to avoid lightning strikes. The environments are mostly linear as expected and you will come across Relics of the Gods which are like collectibles that can be used after you beat the game and grant Kratos special abilities.

Beating the game unlocks additional content like the Challenge of the Gods, Combat Arena, and The Temple of Zeus. The Temple of Zeus is where you can sacrifice red orbs to unlock even more content including content for the other game modes.

Like Chains of Olympus, Ghost of Sparta looks great for a remastered PSP game and I do think it looks better than Chains of Olympus. It’s a little more colorful and features more diverse environments. The presentation really show its age whenever the camera zooms in on the action but for the most part, it looks great. The character and enemy models look good and there’s some cool stuff going on in the backgrounds of certain areas. You’ll often come across dead bodies lying around and blood splattered on the ground and walls. You’ll fight enemies during storms, in the snow, and navigate around burning buildings and structures. The soundtrack consists of orchestral tunes that compliment the action nicely and the sound work helps make the combat feel as brutal as it looks. Kratos will grunt and enemies will make different noises. Successful strikes and slashes result in blood flying through the air and sound satisfying. On the technical side, I encountered no major issues.

I think Ghost of Sparta is the better game out of the two PSP offerings. It’s short but not as short as Chains of Olympus and all of the unlockable content ensures there’s plenty of reasons of return. Ghost of Sparta does provide a decent challenge and contains everything that makes a God of War game so much fun. However, like Chains of Olympus, there’s no real surprises here. The emphasis on armored enemies is a nice change of pace but it didn’t really change the way I approached encounters. It just means these enemies take a little longer to kill. Honestly, the most memorable thing about the game to me is the tone. Other than that, it’s your typical God of War experience. Action-packed, brutal, and fun.

I would recommend Ghost of Sparta to fans of the series. It’s not innovative or as exciting as some of the previous entries but it’s definitely the best PSP game in the series and I think this remaster is a great way to experience it. If you’re not tired of the series at this point or are looking for a good portable action game, definitely check out God of War: Ghost of Sparta.

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