Everyone's favourite scowling personification of anger is back! And he's got some more figures from Ancient Greek mythology to brutally kill!
I'm sure most of you are familiar with the God of War franchise but for those that aren't here's a brief rundown. Kratos was a high ranking warrior in the Spartan army who sold his soul to Ares the God of War in return for the power to defeat all his enemies. Ares agreed and Kratos became the resident bellboy/assassin for Mount Olympus. Then one day as Kratos is out pillaging he accidentally kills his wife and child and their ashes are bound to his skin as eternal torment for his actions: hence his unofficial title, the Ghost of Sparta. He then kills Ares and becomes the new God of War. Every game has so far featured Kratos murdering his way through Greek legend stopping only for sex mini-games and quick time events. I don't think any gamer can deny that they are really fun games and Kratos has been known as possibly the angriest character in videogames ever since.
Ghost of Sparta is no different from any other game in the franchise; frantic action against hordes of legendary creatures, epic boss battles against gargantuan enemies and immersing environments filled with historic architecture, all broken up with well controlled platforming segments and a swirling orchestral soundtrack that fits in perfectly. After four previous games featuring the exact same thing, this could get slightly tedious but the storyline has something that has been missing since the first game: Characterisation. Kratos has always been at his most human when reminded of his previous deeds against his family and this adventure tells the tale of him searching for his long lost brother who was taken by an invading army when they were children. This is the most development that we have ever seen applied to Kratos and he appears at his most humble in this instalment. It is refreshing to see Kratos acting more like a real person as opposed to the caricature that he has become: the wrathful deity with all the emotional maturity of a 15 year old boy throwing a tantrum.
In addition to all this, the game is beautiful. The environments are varied with incredible textures and the graphics are possibly the best I've seen on the PSP thus far. Plus in-game effects such as a roaring ocean and cascades of lava really pull you into the world. The video sequences are also pretty amazing to watch thanks to some really good voice acting and music that is on a par with most blockbuster movies.
Unfortunately the same cannot be said for the puzzles which are simplistic and tend to break up the game-play unnecessarily. Previous God of War games have featured puzzles that involve some serious thought and backtracking through previous areas to unlock new parts and so on. Here they are reduced to moving a block from one side of a courtyard to the other.
New additions to the gameplay include sequences where the ground beneath you will tilt to a 45 degree angle requiring you to jump at the right moment: something that has been done better in other games. There are also some new powers that include a true Spartan spear (which can also be used as a projectile) and a shield that shoots lightning. The latter is every bit as awesome as it sounds.
God of War: Ghost of Sparta isn't going to be to everyone's liking. The game is unbelievably violent and is of morally questionable value. But if you can appreciate that the game is supposed to be relatively tongue-in-cheek, then there is nothing holding you back from what could be considered to be the best game on the system.
9.5 out of 10