There are times where reviews get lost in the shuffle of other events, or misplaced after completion and never published. And there are times where we simply want to return to a title that captured our interest long after it was released, but still deserves a review, nonetheless. In the Review Recall, Press2Reset will breathe life into those games of the past, those games we missed along the way, and put them back at the forefront of the gaming population’s attention.
While it is scientifically impossible to fit all of Kratos’ rage into a device the size of the PSP, Ready at Dawn discovered a loophole. The solution was to go back in time before the Ghost of Sparta was quite the wrecking ball of anger we control in the latter installments of the series. While Chains of Olympus’ tale is from before the series’ debut, God of War: Ghost of Sparta takes place between the two PS2 titles and features a kinder, gentler Kratos more akin to a harpy with a wing cramp than a cyclops with pink eye.
The story is pretty typical God of War, showcasing several mythological figures that should be familiar to anyone who managed to stay awake in literature class and lots of beasties that could have leapt straight out of a Frazetta painting. There are some surprising moments though, such as flashbacks to Kratos’ childhood focusing on the relationship with his brother. For some of these moments, Kratos lowers the decibel level of his scorn and shows a softer, more human side. As one who doesn’t particularly like his video game protagonists to be non-stop jerks, this was welcome indeed. As if Kratos’ didn’t already have reason enough to hate the gods, Ghost of Sparta’s story adds another heaping helping of resentment.
I don’t imagine most people play God of War for the homage to mythology or for the character development, and those looking for some handheld hacking and slashing won’t be disappointed. Despite the fact that this portable God of War is down one analog stick from its console brethren, its controls are responsive and intuitive. For those that have never played a God of War game, it focuses on stringing together moves via button combinations and is quite a bit simpler than something like Devil May Cry or Ninja Gaiden. I am certainly no action game virtuoso, but I have played every God of War game except for Betrayal and I found the combat in Ghost to be incredibly easy on the default difficulty level. I was fine with that and enjoyed myself regardless, but for those looking for more of a challenge you might want to bump up the difficulty. I have always loved that the series is about more than just combat, and there are several simple puzzles, some light exploration, and fun platforming segments (though the precision could be a little spotty in a few instances) which add welcome variety.
God of War’s presentation is impeccable. The graphics are sharp and detailed and the animation is smooth. Even more impressive is the art direction. Ready at Dawn Studios knows its money shots, and pulls back the camera at opportune times to show incredible backgrounds that just shouldn’t be possible on the PSP. I didn’t think PSP quality graphics could take my breath away, but Ghost proved me wrong. The soundtrack is movie quality and matches the action perfectly, and the voice cast familiar to series vets is instantly recognizable and once again does a bang up job.
Despite all of my glowing praise, Ghost isn’t all that different from Chains of Olympus which wasn’t all that different from God of War I and II. If you haven’t grown at least a little tired of quick time eviscerations or pulling the heads off medusae, add another half of a point to my score as I can almost guarantee you will have an amazing time. If each God of War is starting to feel a little more well-worn than the last, Ghost of Sparta probably won’t change your mind once you get past the novelty of playing a God of War title on the PSP. Ready at Dawn follows Santa Monica Studios’s God of War checklist, from larger than life boss battles to more intimate affairs.
While it is hard to call Kratos’ second PSP title an evolution of the series, it is easy to recommend it to series vets and newcomers alike. Even if the formula is starting to wear thin for you, a handheld action game this fun and polished with console quality production values really shouldn’t be missed.
Tested on PSP