There are angry video game characters, and then there’s Kratos. This man is consumed by so much rage he actually makes everyone else look like they’ve stepped out of Happy Feet. Born and bred to become a killing machine, Kratos is a one man army that’s been brutalizing various aspects of Greek mythology ever since he became the God of War nearly five years ago (which in case you didn’t remember was when the first game came out for the PS2). Even though we bade good bye to this angry, angry man through God of War III, Kratos is back for one final blood soaked adventure you cannot afford to miss out on.

Made by Ready at Dawn studios, the same guys behind the most excellent Chains of Olympus, Ghost of Sparta (GoS) takes place right after Kratos violently inherits the “God of War” moniker. The plot attempts to shed some light on Kratos’ turbulent past, his family, and more importantly his brother, Deimos, who was taken away from him as a child. Now blind with revenge against those responsible, Kratos scours the Earth (and a bit of the after-life) not fearing man, beast or God. The story may get a bit confusing for those who’ve missed out on previous games but it still offers a compelling narrative even to those new to the series. And best of all, it also answers the one question that’s on your mind since day one; why is he so f*****g angry all the time?

Midas is about to lose his touch

Midas is about to lose his touch

The God of War series has made a name for itself through three distinct aspects – presentation, extremely violent gameplay and a twisted take on Greek mythology. And thankfully GoS nails all three aspects down to the tee. Even though it is a handheld game, it has some lofty ambitions and delivers them with much aplomb without comprising on scale or performance. This game has some insane set pieces that will absolutely blow your mind. And watching all this run on the PSP at a stable and smooth frame rate is nothing short of a Herculean task. All this is possible thanks to the near perfect camera that pans out and zooms in at the appropriate time allowing players to fully soak up some truly breathtaking vistas, without taking them out of the action. There were probably two or three instances when the camera kind of boxed me in during combat obstructing my view but other than that, it was smooth sailing all the way.

Gameplay is similar to previous GoW games with the only thing missing being the second analogue stick (which really isn’t the game’s fault as it is the limitation of the hardware it’s running on). It’s not a deal breaker per say, but it can get a bit annoying when trying to dodge a flurry of incoming attacks using the left and right bumpers. Anyway, that being said, combat in GoS is as robust as it would be in any of Kratos’ previous adventures. By default he’s armed with his trusty Blades that can be upgraded using the red orbs earned by killing enemies and rummaging through red crates spread out through all the levels. Besides this you’ll even come across his spear and shield that he used as a Spartan warrior. It isn’t as awesome as the blades but it definitely is a boon as the spear doubles up as a powerful ranged weapon. Surprisingly these are all the weapons you’ll come across in this game. For any GoW game this is kind of a low weapon count but it really doesn’t matter as you’ll probably end up sticking to the blades anyway.

Yes, this is a PSP game.

Yes, this is a PSP game.

Harry Potter isn’t the only one with some mad magic skills as Kratos can reign down some serious pain on his enemies using various forms of magic, all obtained after the gruesome demise of a boss. Even though this game is a bit stringy on the boss fights, the few ones that are present are truly epic and will give some of the boss fights from previous GoW games a run for their money. Brutality and over-the-top violence have been a trademark of this series and GoS lives up to that pedigree. If the thought of stabbing a Cyclops in the eye and then ripping the entire eyeball out makes you feel a bit queasy, please stay as far away from this game as possible. Besides all the maiming and the eviscerating you’ll also have to indulge in a fair bit of platforming, most of which is your basic ‘move crate or push level’ fare. It’s not very taxing on the grey matter and allows players to catch their breath after an intense battle.

The campaign itself is nearly seven hours long after which you can indulge in a bunch of extras that will push your combat skills to the test. First up is the Challenge of the Gods where you try and fulfill a bunch of challenges laid out by various Gods. While all of them are heavily combat based, some of them will have certain terms to fulfill like “Open an x amount of creates without dying” and so on. If you find these challenges a bit daunting, you even create a fully customizable combat arena choosing anything from the arena to the enemies you face.

Ship-wrecking

Ship-wrecking

Orbs earned through the above mentioned modes and the campaign can be used to unlock concept art, videos and in-game cut-scenes. This doesn’t really make sense to me as (a) you never really know what you’re going to unlock as there are no descriptions available and (b) why the hell do they not get unlocked upon completing the game? Besides that, the only other thing about this game that did annoy me a bit were the few sections that just dragged on towards the end. It felt like the developers were just throwing enemies at me in a bid to increase the game’s length, which like I said earlier, is pretty good for a PSP game.

Other than these minor issues, Ghost of Sparta delivers on all fronts. In case you haven’t touched your PSP for a while, now would be the perfect time to bring it back to your life. If you’ve always contemplated picking one up, Ghost of Sparta may just be the push you require. It’s beautiful, brutal and thoroughly entertaining.

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