God of War: Ghost of Sparta Review

By David Wolinsky - Posted Oct 25, 2010

Kratos is back, and guess what? He's still angry. Filling in the blanks between the first two God Of War games, and dipping back slightly into the ex-Spartan warrior's childhood, Ghost Of Sparta shows his brief rule as a god and all the gory boss battles, sex mini-games, and box puzzles that any self-respecting GOW game must have.

The Pros
  • Knee-weakening gorgeous graphics.
  • The epic game has been seamlessly converted to spot-and-start portable sessions.
  • Though a little short, the game does not overstay its welcome.
The Cons
  • Very little replay value.
  • The great visuals can't hide the repetitive action.
  • Story really adds very little to the series' lore.

Generally speaking, origin stories added after the fact are boring and unnecessary. Works of fiction aren’t complicated math equations—being shown the author’s work afterwards doesn’t necessarily make it any better. In fact, bogging a narrative’s creative juices down with thorough explanations usually dishes out far more disappointment than satisfaction: remember the Star Wars prequels?

Clearly, God Of War is not Star Wars. Kratos isn’t a complex character—throughout the series he and his unstoppable Sam Kinison-like rage have always been on display in full force. That’s who he is. Who really cares why? The new Ghost Of Sparta, billed as fleshing out his backstory, only does so sparingly with veiled glimpses into his childhood and earliest days as the new God of War, and largely sticks to connecting the dots between the first and second console outing. Hope you’re sitting down: turns out Kratos was freakin’ angry as a wee lad.

Spartans, Prepare For Glory! Yes, Yet Again!

There’s no denying that God Of War III was an incredible powerhouse achievement for the series and the PS3: nearly every game critic showered it, deservedly, in praise on par with every film Peter Travers reviews. Given that it’s meant to be the big finale, though, it seems like there isn’t really much for the God Of War franchise to offer. Admittedly, for all its technical achievements, the parting shot’s biggest accomplishment as far as the game itself is concerned was refining all the hallmark combo-racking traits established long ago. With the story drawn to a close and the formula arguably perfected, really, what else could Ghost Of Sparta really offer when Kratos has shown us everything he’s capable of?

Well, Ghost Of Sparta proves that the same astonishing visuals, the scope and depth of environments like Atlantis and Hades, every vein on Kratos’ hulking biceps, can all be delivered flawlessly on the PSP—without any loading. That alone is an amazing feat, but Sparta is more than a tech demo. There isn’t much in the way of epiphanies, as the biggest addition to Kratos’ arsenal is he can now make a mad dash for his unlucky prey, pin them to the ground and then proceed to pummel them into something resembling spoiled borscht. Everything else from the God Of War checklist is represented in full: the Gods testing your mortal might with lame box-shoving puzzles, the silly sex mini-game, and the copious amounts of gore.

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This Is Where We Fight

Ghost Of Sparta weighs in as a respectable six-hour journey, and like its predecessors, it’s a fully linear quest from point A to B, with plenty of button mashing in between. Again, that’s what the series is—either you lost interest long ago or you’re salivating at the consistency. Still, given that this is a portable God Of War, Sparta noticeably feels condensed and tailor-made to shorter sessions. For one thing, you’re absolutely pelted with red-energy orbs from start to finish, both from enemies and from left-in-the-open “secret” chests overflowing with the stuff. After you beat the game, the excess not used on spell and weapon upgrades can be spent at Zeus’ temple, a makeshift palatial shop where you can unlock extra cinematic sequences and the obligatory concept-art sketches.

And though Sparta’s a short ride, it has variety and impressive locales to spare. Kratos only briefly confronts his past, with QTE-laden childhood flashbacks, naturally, in his overarching quest to liberate his brother Deimos from the underworld, but the barebones story leaps back and forward only when necessary. Otherwise, since Sparta adheres to the established blueprints, the biggest highlights are a chance encounter with King Midas (who inadvertently crystallizes the inside of a volcano you’re navigating—and he can kill you with one touch if you get too close) and reuniting with Deimos for a boss battle that has you controlling both siblings.


Looks Like Someone Needs Anger Management

In the end, Ghost Of Sparta plays it just a little too safe to truly live up to its most recent predecessor, but then again perhaps it has to as the likely last entry for the five-year-old series. It’s solid and reliable, but completely predictable—though in a way that doesn’t rob the experience of one iota of fun. God Of War III might be the encore, but Sparta is a respectable curtain call.

Still want to play it? Why not rent it at Gamefly?