Considering the wealth of titles available on the Nintendo DS, the PSP can often come off as the poorer cousin, not receiving even close to the same support from its creator. With NDS owners able to pick and choose their poison from a ridiculously deep trough of titles, PSP owners are forced to hope for the best with the limited options available to them. There is a silver lining to this dark cloud, and it comes in the form of a bare chested, body painted psychopath that *****-slapped Ares into submission, took his throne and now has his
eye on the rest of Olympus. Yep, the Spartan deity with serious anger management issues is back, and has never looked better on a handheld console.
After the tragic events at the conclusion of God of War III, you'd be forgiven for thinking that Kratos' journey had reached its end (and those complaining about spoilers should have well and truly played and finished God of War III by now... sheesh!). Like the previous PSP outing, Chains of Olympus, Ready at Dawn Studios has used the opportunity to delve a little deeper into Kratos' back story, revealing juicy little nuggets of information about his past. Where Chains of Olympus looked at Kratos when he first began as Ares' lap dog, Ghosts of Sparta takes place between the events of God of War and God of War II, and gives insight as to why he's such a god-forsaking, mean spirited chap with a look-see at what happened to his family, more specifically, his brother Deimos.
Let me begin by saying this is pretty much the sweetest looking title on the PSP, or any other handheld, putting many PS2 releases to shame. After the stellar effort on Chains of Olympus, you'd think that Ready at Dawn Studios couldn't have pushed more out of the console, but it has, and the end result is glorious. The level of detail is amazing, from the constant flames that envelop Kratos' chains, to the exceptional cut scenes, it feels just like any other God of War release, and with the exception of God of War III, looks easily as good as any other offering.
Every aspect has been well translated across platforms, including a stirring soundtrack, the fantastic voice work (with staple Linda Hunt always a stand out as narrator), and the combat hasn't missed a beat, even if you take into account the lack of a second analogue stick. To work around this, Ready at Dawn Studios has made a combined tap of the left and right bumpers your evasive roll, and it really does work surprisingly well. Seasoned God of War veterans and newbies alike should have no trouble acquainting themselves with the controls. It really is a remarkable achievement, and I really wish other developers would have the time and inclination to work on more quality PSP projects to revive this slowly dying console.
As you'd expect, Kratos is still the angriest, hardest bastard there is. He still likes rending mythological creatures limb from limb, he still has an unnatural and irrational hatred of red orb dwelling urns, wooden planks and other forms of sculpture, and has a tendency to shout at everyone and everything. He's kinda like Charlie Sheen when his watch goes missing, with only slightly less destruction and devastation left in his wake. All the franchise's telltales are here, with upgradable Blades of Athena, magic (now easily accessed on the D-pad) and a few new weapons and twists.
Certain enemy types are heavily armoured. You'll need to shatter their armour before you can dispense them with more traditional attacks, that's where Thera's Bane comes in. Holding down the right trigger infuses the Blades of Athena with flames that cut through plate-mail like butter, and torsos, and sinew. You can also use them as a heavier attack or to open many sealed doors. It quickly became a welcome addition to my arsenal as the gauge recharges fairly quickly and can be used to dispatch larger creatures of myth with extreme prejudice, much like the Rage mode in God of War III.
The rest of your magic and weapons are pretty much part and parcel for the series, with the exception of the new (and my personal favourite) Arms of Sparta, which is the classic spear and shield combo, and if you're still drawing a blank, think of what the Spartans carried in the movie 300, and you'll be on the right track. This is the Reese's Pieces of your armoury, and has a wealth of options. The spear can be thrown for a ranged attack, or you can get stab-happy up close and personal. The shield is obviously for protection, but you can also bash heads in, if you're so inclined (as I was, repeatedly).
The meat and potatoes of Ghost of Sparta is by far, the story as you
battle to The Underworld to discover your brother's fate, and rescue him from the bowels of Hell. You'll thank me for not elaborating, as it really is one of the stronger elements of the franchise, and gives a decent bit of insight as to why Kratos is so ill tempered and filled with justifiable rage towards the gods. The only real let down are the extremely simple puzzle elements, which don't really evolve beyond "pull this lever" or "move this block" scenarios, and will have you barely breaking a mental sweat.
God of War: Ghost of Sparta is an absolute essential addition to your collection if you own a PSP, and is quite possibly the finest title to fit in your pocket to date. The pacing is tight, the combat hits all the right notes, and it compliments the entire series beautifully. If you're jonesing for another hit of Kratos, Ghost of Sparta is the fix you've been looking for.