Note: The following will not include screenshots of gameplay due to the PS Vita’s inability to take pics of PSP games. If you wish to see screenshots or gameplay, by all means Google Ghost of Sparta.
Earlier in the year I bought both the original God of War PSP titles on the PSN sale, something that I felt was a huge bargain for only £2.87 each. I wrote a piece here about my feelings and experience with it. (I apologise for it’s length, during this year of writing I feel I’ve gotten better at writing, something I feel a comparison to this article would show easily.) This is the second game, one that I finally re-downloaded and played whilst I was on the bus and any spare moments I had around the house.
Ghost of Sparta starts out with Kratos, on his throne as the God of War (chronologically, this game takes place after God of War 1), getting flashbacks of his life as a child, sparing with his brother Deimos. Deciding he can’t put up with the visions no more, he decides to travel to the temple of Poseidon to find the origins of his nightmarish flashbacks and hopefully, settle them once and for all. He sets sail with his spartan men towards this temple, only to be ambushed (as is always the case) by a massive sea monster. Taking control of Kratos, you’re taken through some tutorials on how to fight, and all of the other essentials required in playing the rest of the game. It’s unoriginal at this point in the series, but still a spectacle to behold, and one that makes you feel like a badass for taking on gigantic sea monsters at the beginning of the game.
The controls are the same as they’ve ever been: left analogue stick to move around, X to jump, Square to slash quick, Triangle to heavy attack, and circle to grab, making this a similar ordeal to other games. There’s nothing new to add, the only difference is the items you eventually collect whilst exploring Ghost of Sparta’s world. These range from items that freeze other enemies (Horn of Boreas) to items that electrocute enemies, which has been done in previous games, but under different names and weapons. Quick Time Events (QTE’s) are back for finishing off enemies big and small, and can sometimes cause frustration, but are otherwise fairly simple to overcome. One day we’ll find a way to make QTE’s become a thing of history, but today is not that day.
Level design is fantastic, ranging from the oceans of Poseidon to the volcanoes of Methana, it’s all glouriously rendered and lovingly crafted. Levels are linear by design, which is fine in a God of War game as its not the place you’re looking for free roaming action. The game makes sure you get enough space to fight enemies, and breaks up enemy encounters with puzzles at good, regular intervals. People may complain about the puzzle elements, but it’s needed to maintain the pacing of the game, otherwise fight after fight would get boring and tedious by the end of the 5 hour game.
The story of Ghost of Sparta flesh’s out the God of War universe without being essential to the main story. It’s good in showing why Kratos is so angry at the God’s, and helps to also shine light on his past with regards to his immediate family, where as Chains of Olympus concentrated on his daughter in the afterlife. You get to meet Kratos’ mother, who almost tells him who his father is, whilst also learning more about other greek Gods such as Thanatos, the God of Death. You don’t see any main God’s here, that’s left for the main story, but that’s ok as the cast of Ghost of Sparta is more than adequate to fill the plot out.
Graphically, this is one of the most artistically realised God of War games to have come out of previous generation hardware (so all games except God of War 3). At times I was genuinely surprised to find I wasn’t playing a PS Vita game, as the views and graphics are spectacular for a PSP game, something I rarely say for old games made for old platforms. Hair and cloth physics play a part in making enemies and Kratos come to life, with fire effects and water making levels look gorgeous on the Vita’s 5 inch screen (and I’m sure, the PSP’s 3.5inch screen).
There are a few niggles I have with Ghost of Sparta’s gameplay, namely the developers insistence on using enemies that can freeze Kratos in the same room as normal, fast enemies. It seems the developers done this to add a challenge to some of the fights you encounter, but it just comes across as frustrating and unpassable to the end user. I like to think I’m skilled when it comes to games like this, but I would die over and over in these instances, making the game a frustration multiple times.
Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed my time with Ghost of Sparta, and would suggest that if anyone has a PSP, this is a game that they must own to show off the potential of the PSP or PS Vita. It’s a full console game that makes no compromises, despite the fact it’s made for a portable console, and that my readers, is an achievement in itself.