Review: God of War: Ghost of Sparta (PSP)

Title: God of War: Ghost of Sparta
Format: UMD / PSN Download
Release Date: November 2, 2010
Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment
Developer: Ready at Dawn Studios / Santa Monica Studio
Price: $39.99

Set between the events of God of War I and II, Ghost of Sparta will take you on a more personal journey as Kratos goes on a bloody quest to find his brother whom he presumed was dead. While I won’t be giving any story spoilers here, I will say that you’ll speak with Kratos’ mother, fight your way through Atlantis, back to Sparta and into the Domain of Death, a place that has been around since long before the Gods and Titans from which no one has ever returned alive…

If you’re looking to play as Kratos’ brother, Deimos, prepare to be disappointed. While your ultimate goal is to track down and save Deimos from the Domain of Death (a goal with an excellent payoff), you won’t even get to him until almost the very end of the game. Pre-order copies of the game will come with a voucher to download a Deimos skin for use in God of War III that includes new abilities as well so keep that in mind.

The gameplay is no surprise for anyone who has played a God of War game in the past. You’ll be doing a lot of the same button combinations while you hack and slash your way through Atlantis and Death’s Domain and that’s not a bad thing. The difference is that Kratos also now has the ability to throw enemies to the ground and beat them and also toss them around the room which adds a new layer of strategy to some of the more frenzied battles.  I found myself smiling with a sense of satisfaction as I ripped apart a number of the larger enemies and you’ll find that epic battles, even with mini bosses, are the order of the day.

The bigger differences however, as with all God of War games, come in the new weapons and magic you’ll gain throughout the game. While you’ll start with the standard Blades of Athena, you’ll eventually gain access to Thera’s Bane giving you fiery blades which will come in very handy later in the game. You’ll also acquire The Arms of Sparta which mark a change in God of War gameplay. The Arms of Sparta consist of a Spartan’s shield and spear. You’ll use the shield defensively to block and parry incoming projectile and fire attacks. You can also use it as an offensive weapon to slam you opponents and knock them back. The spear can be used for both up close and long range attacks. It’s also critical in some of the puzzles along the way. Overall, the new weapons are a nice change of pace and you’ll quickly learn which ones work best against which enemies.

The new magic available consists of three different abilities starting with The Eye of Atlantis. Using this, you’ll fire off a powerful electrical bolt which you can chain between enemies for even greater damage. The Horn of Boreas creates a roaring tempest which can damage and even freeze enemies in ice for a short time similar to Medusa’s gaze. My favorite however is The Scourge of Erinys which is a homing attack using an “eternal void” that literally sucks the life out of enemies even transferring some of it back to Kratos. A very useful weapon indeed.

As you play through, there are a series of other items to be found which can then be used once you beat the game. These include things like Callisto’s Armlet which will allow you to automatically win context sensitive mini games and The Bonds of Ares which will grant infinite magic among other items.

Ready at Dawn has stated that Ghost of Sparta would be about 25% larger than Chains of Olympus and from what I played, that seems to be a pretty fair estimate. Chains of Olympus took me about six and a half hours and while I certainly wasn’t rushing through Ghost of Sparta, I also didn’t do much wandering around as the God of War games aren’t built for that kind of exploration and it still took me just over nine and a half hours to finish it.

There’s certainly a fair amount of replay value once you’re done with a ton of unlockables and challenges. The Challenge of the Gods is a series of very tough battles that you can use to see how good you really are. There’s also the addition of The Combat Arena where you can choose a set of parameters including health, magic, arena, difficulty and which enemies you’ll face. It’s a great way to practice moves and combos with very little pressure. You’ll also find a large number of videos and galleries to unlock by playing through the game and by visiting The Temple of Zeus in the Treasures menu.

In a word, exquisite. This is the best looking PSP game on the market hands down. Ready at Dawn built a brand new proprietary engine for this game and the visuals rival some of the best PS2 titles. Comparing this with the previous God of War PSP title, Chains of Olympus, it’s easy to see just how big a leap this game is. Everything is much more crisp and smooth, textures are much more detailed and jaggies are almost non-existent. Subtleties like dust kicking up when you walk and small sections of the ground turning to gold as King Midas scratches and claws his way across it help immerse you in this world and make you forget you’re playing on a handheld.

This is a much darker game in general with most action taking place in overcast or stormy weather and underground in temples and caverns. You won’t have many bright, sunlit scenes like Chains of Olympus. The lighting effects throughout are truly outstanding and the new engine takes all of it in stride. The fire of Thera’s Blades creates a shower of visual destruction as they whip around the screen and tear through enemies. The Eye of Atlantis with its electrical chaos lights up the environment with a wonderful blue-white glow. Save points even take on the look of the swirling bright light of God of War III on the PS3. You’ll see rain, smoke, water, fog, lightning, lava and more all rendered with beautiful clarity. Stepping from cut scene to gameplay is often seamless. The game actually looks more like a stripped down version of a PS3 game rather than a PS2 game like most PSP titles, it’s just that good.

Every sound effect you’ve come to expect from God of War is here. The voice acting is, as always, top notch. All the regular voice actors are here as expected. From the stoic narration to the rage of Kratos, the gentle wisdom and pleading of Athena and the panicked Atlanteans, it feels like a full fledged, big budget God of War game. Death even sounds just a creepy as you would expect. Play this game with headphones if you can, it gets even better when you get towards the end.

The music is just as good as the console versions. The orchestral soundtrack is often in the background, ramping up for intense sequences and setting the stage for emotional moments. The amount of work that goes into these titles never ceases to amaze me.

Ghost of Sparta isn’t just an excellent God of War game, it’s easily the best action game on the PSP as well as the best looking game overall on the system. It isn’t necessary for you to have played any God of War games to enjoy this, as it stands alone nicely with its own self contained story. If you have played the others however, you’ll love the way it ties God of War I and II together along with all the clever little nods to those two titles that pop up throughout the game.

This is one of the few PSP games that I got so immersed in that I ended up playing it long enough to have the battery completely die on me not once or twice but three separate times. If you’re a God of War or action game fan, this is a no brainer. Chains of Olympus was possibly the best PSP game to date and this absolutely blows it out of the water. I can’t recommend it highly enough.


Written by Josh Langford

Josh Langford

Josh has been gaming since 1977 starting with the Atari 2600.
He currently owns 26 different consoles and 6 different handhelds (all hooked up and in working condition) including all consoles from the current generation.

Josh is currently the US PR & Marketing Manager for Fountain Digital Labs and has recused himself from any involvement on PS Nation arising from posting or editing any news or reviews stemming from FDL.

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