Reviewed: October 25, 2010
Released: November 2, 2010
It didnít take much more than 15 minutes at E3 to easily award God of War: Ghost of Sparta the Best PSP Game of the Show and now after finishing the full game Iím ready to cast my nomination for Best PSP Game of 2010. In many ways the Ghost of Sparta surpasses a lot of full-sized console action titles, both in pure adrenalized action and polished presentation. To have this much intensity in the palm of your hand; I sort of know how Frodo felt.|
Ghost of Sparta is a prequel of sorts, wedging its story in-between the events of the first two console titles picking up with Kratos claming his throne as the new god of war. Haunted by his past and a new reoccurring dream, he sets sail for Atlantis to sort things out, and that is where our adventure begins. There are so many epic set pieces and huge story reveals that totally impact the entire 5-game story arc that I dare not reveal a single one. Suffice it to say, your jaw will be on the floor more than once as we explore some dark childhood memories of Kratos.
Gameplay is as slick and effortless as past God of War games, both console and Chains of Olympus on PSP. Since the camera is always under the virtual directorís control there is no negative effect of not having that second analog input, but you do have to get used to pulling off some crazy moves using the analog thumb pad. The attacks, combos, magic, and power-ups are as insane as ever. Feathers, Horns, and Eyes all return as special loot drops to increase Kratosí maximum abilities, and some new weapons make their way into the mix.
In addition to wielding a Spear and Shield, that can be used in melee and ranged attacks, and each with their own upgrade tree, you also have new moves like the Combat Rush that adds a whole new level of melee combat to the mix allowing Kratos to grab, pummel and throw enemies around like rag dolls. The combo system has been greatly enhanced adding new moves, both on the ground and in the air, and finishers that can be further enhanced with magic.
Eye of Atlantis is an electrical attack that you can upgrade like a weapon. It discharges, stunning, damaging, and even chaining to other nearby enemies. Itís a great way to get out of tight situations. The Scourge of Erinys is my favorite. You fire this magical orb and it seeks out and attacks nearby enemies, drawing them in like a black hole, and then delivers the resulting orbs back to you.
With all these new weapons and abilities comes a new and more powerful assortment of beasts to slaughter. There are a lot more of the large monsters that require you to beat them down then perform finishers and the mid-level and chapter-ending bosses are fiendishly difficult. QTE button cues are now positioned on the corresponding edge of the screen matching their button position making it much more intuitive. You also have certain creatures that can only be damaged if you ignite your blades with the fiery power of Teraís Bane and beat through their armor or shielding. As always, the game will offer to lower the difficulty if it detects you are having trouble (i.e. dying and restarting a lot).
There are a handful of puzzles tossed into this action game that require a bit of thought. I only got really stuck once and then it was a slap-your-forehead moment when I figured out I needed to smash through a floor. These, along with some cool platforming level navigation puzzles (climbing, shimmying, swinging) are nice diversions from an otherwise non-stop action-fighter.
Ghost of Sparta is gorgeous, easily the best-looking game ever made for the PSP. I was dazzled with each new level and location change and the sense of scale, even on the small PSP screen was epic, especially when Kratos walks into a massive background until he is only a few pixels tall. The cinematic camera moves and effects are excellent. The animation is fluid and the attacks and combos flow together seamlessly and the level of blood and gore will appease any God of War veteran.
Giving this game an even greater epic flavor is a score worthy of a Hollywood feature film and some of the best voice acting (TC Carson, Linda Hunt) to ever come out of your PSPís speakers. I apprciated the extra level of volume for this game. Most PSP games play at such a low volume that you are forced to use headphones. Not so here. I actually had to turn the volume down, but earbuds will certainly enhance and privatize the listening experience and give you a greater range of stereo effects; they just arenít required.
Ghost of Sparta is a fairly long game by PSP standards coming in around 7-8 hours. There is no multiplayer but youíll certainly want to relive the experience more than once, probably at a higher skill level so you can earn more of those red orbs and unlock all the cool extras in the Temple of Zeus. There is also a free-play combat arena where you can practice and perfect your moves and combos against a selectable assortment of monsters.
Itís been so long since I had a reason to even turn on my PSP and here comes God of War: Ghost of Sparta, a singular reason to go out and purchase a PSP if you donít already own one. They even have a special edition PSP bundled with the game if you need to go that route. But whatever you do, donít miss out on this fantastic new installment in the God of War saga. The story will impact you as much as the insane action, and with dazzling visuals and sound, this is one adventure you canít afford to miss.