torstai 29. marraskuuta 2012

REVIEW - God of War: Ghost of Sparta | PSP | 2010

GENRE(S): Action
RELEASED: November 2, 2010
AVAILABLE ON: PS3 [God of War Collection Volume II / God of War Saga], PSP
DEVELOPER(S): SCE Santa Monica Studio, Ready at Dawn Studios
PUBLISHER(S): Sony Computer Entertainment

God of War III was released in the spring of 2010, and this highly anticipated conclusion to the God of War trilogy was truly that: a conclusion, that left no room for further storyline development, and used up all assets than anyone could think of. By the end of God of War III, Kratos had ended everyone and everything that ever amounted to anything in the Greek mythology. Not long after the game's release, a surprise teaser of a game called God of War: Ghost of Sparta emerged on the official God of War website. This mystery title turned out to be yet another prequel, this time an interquel set between the events of God of War and God of War II, and it was to pick up on the unfinished, but often teased storyline of Kratos and his long-lost brother, which was originally considered as the backdrop for God of War II. To the dismay of many fans, this game was to be yet another PSP exclusive, but just a year after its original release on Sony's handheld, it became free game for PS3 owners upon its inclusion in the second God of War HD collection. It's God of War as we know it - but after so many years, is mere maintenance enough?

Ghost... of... SPAAAAAHTAAAHHH!!!

T.C. Carson : Kratos
Mark Deklin : Deimos / Citizen / Soldier
Arthur Burghardt : Thanatos
Fred Tatasciore : King Midas / Lanaeus / Zeus
Paul Eiding : Gravedigger / Ares Supporter
Gideon Emery : Poseidon / Crazed Soldier / Last Spartan
Erin Torpey : Athena / Daughter of Death / Spartan Harlot #3
Didi Rescher : Thera
Steve Blum : Citizen / Ship Captain / Soldier
Linda Hunt : Narrator / Gaia

After claiming the throne of Ares, Kratos begins to have other visions besides his usual nightmares - ones relating to his childhood as a Spartan upstart. Guided by these visions, Kratos discovers his brother Deimos is still alive after being abducted years ago, and doomed to eternal torture by Thanatos, the god of death. Despite constant, vaguely explained warnings by Athena to not interfere with his brother's fate, the god of war leaves Olympus and enters death's domain to rescue the one ally he can trust, and the one person he cares for besides himself.

Poseidon's little pet gets a makeover. He's
definitely due for it.
After reconnecting the Chains of Olympus and saving the world - against my, or Kratos' actual will - I headed into Ghost of Sparta with an immeasurable esteem, especially after witnessing right off the bat that the game is beautiful to look at, much more visually impressive than its predecessor on the PSP. I'd say it's almost on par with the PS2 games, the main dragpoint being its somewhat dark and stale level design. Kratos doesn't look nearly as weird as he did in God of War II or especially Chains of Olympus, that's a good start in itself. After an hour of scouting the pits Kratos is thrown in this time, I had a lot of thoughts about the game. Not all of them were good. I mean, God of War is one franchise that still thrives on what it was in 2005. Truly thrives - but there's always been something to make it feel fresh. Apart from a journey into Hades, I've never found God of War a repetitive franchise, or one that would stoop into outright recycling. Ghost of Sparta recycles stuff without remorse. The first hour is like a combination of the prologues in God of War and God of War III. You might've not noticed it on the PSP as you were overwhelmed of its technical accomplishments, but you'll surely start to smell a rat once you slap in the HD version.

Also, I was intrigued by the whole brother thing back when it was originally teased in the extras that were unlocked upon completion of the first God of War game - but that was in 2005. Times have changed for the God of War franchise - we need something bigger, more important, more epic. Besides, what hasn't Kratos done already that would blow our minds? He killed a whole bunch of gods and titans in the past. He survived the currents of River Styx on several occasions, solely due to his psychopathic determination. He even bested Charon the ferryman himself. He alone was responsible for the si... oh wait, I was about to give off an important plot point in this game! See, there is something! Now with that in mind, we can focus on the ultimate question. Is God of War: Ghost of Sparta a good game? Yes, but right up there with the franchise's top installments? Not quite. Even if there are good, previously unused ideas and concepts left, they just aren't enough to carry this game. Once again, my expectations for God of War: Ascension went down by a small notch.

Why is it that everywhere this guy goes, there's
From a technical standpoint, God of War: Ghost of Sparta represents the best of the PlayStation Portable. It pretty much sucks it all in, kind of like God of War II did on the PlayStation 2 back in the day. There ain't a lot of new music here, unfortunately - all of the most essential bits of the soundtrack were introduced in some other game. Most voice actors remain, but I'm a bit confused of Mark Deklin taking over for Elijah Wood as Deimos. I guess Wood was just way too expensive for a production of this size. Don't get me wrong, I don't have any special love for the guy, but I guess it would've been kinda cool to have him since he's not done much voiceover work (his stint as Spyro the Dragon can be all but forgotten for all I care).

God of War: Ghost of Sparta sees Kratos on a very personal trip, which kinda makes it different. This time, he's not working for anyone or anything else besides himself. There are no secondary agendas, he's just out to find his brother, actually against the gods' wishes (more like commands). This personal trip takes him through Poseidon's kingdom of Atlantis, the island of Crete, Sparta (finally!), and ultimately, Thanatos' domain of death. When it's all said and done, you should understand God of War, the whole series, a little better. It's no secret we'll be having a lesson in Kratos' origins and finally figure out how he originally got so "comfy" (term used loosely) with the gods. The story's got surprises in store - not many, even less essential ones, but it's entertaining.

Since the beginning, God of War's leaned on more QTE than any other Sony franchise - with the exception of Heavy Rain, of course. Even so, God of War: Ghost of Sparta seems to be stuffed with set pieces more than any other God of War game. (Personally, I dislike the term "set piece" 'cause many critics are throwing it around a little too much nowadays. Just sayin'.) It might be just me, but I find myself less in control of Kratos than in any other installment thus far, especially since there are close to no puzzles in this game. It's more or less a tube run, with the occasional quick button press required. Kind of ironic, thinking about what I said just now about a personal trip. Even the killing's not as fun as it was before, since the weapons besides Kratos' always efficient blades are kinda lame in theory AND practice, and in accordance to tradition, they're variations of old. Once again, exceptionally lame variations. Let me tell ya.

The new sex minigame? Thank heavens, no.
I'll try not to spoil the sources of these weapons, since you can rest assured that you cannot let this game pass if you're a fan. First up, since there's no way the PSP could have a Rage trigger if something else was not sacrificed entirely - you probably noticed that there was no Rage ability in Chains of Olympus either - they came up with "Bane", an artifact that imbues your blades with fire by using a self-replenishing meter. By pressing and holding R1 while you attack, you'll be able to add a little heat to all of your combos. You can increase the maximum of the fire meter with Minotaur Horns, the very same you saught after to increase your yellow item meter in God of War III. The Bane is pretty useful, I just wish it worked consistently. It's very capital that you press R1 down first before starting up a complex combo, else you're fucked against powerful, armored enemies whose armor withstands everything but the Bane's fire. Capital, but hard to remember in a tough fight on a tough difficulty level.

Then there's "Eye". It's pretty much the same as Poseidon's Rage in God of War or Kronos' Rage in God of War II, just that it's a beam instead of an AOE-type of attack; a beam you need to control yourself by using the analog disc/stick, which tells exactly how comfortable it is to use in practice. "Scourge" allows you to create "dark voids", which will do constant, yet minor damage to enemies for a brief while and also - when the game feels like it - they might restore your health. Even a whole bunch of health orbs doesn't do much, by the way, not on Hard at least. "Arms" is your alternative melee weapon this time around, and the most useless one in the history of God of War. Even more useless than the spear or staff in God of War II. You need the spear and the shield of the "Arms" on a few specific occasions, which are pretty much thrown into the game just to make some use of those damn things. Finally, there's "Horn". Yeah, it's just what it sounds like, a horn. You can swing this around to do cold-based damage to enemies and even freeze them - happens very rarely to stronger enemies though, and this cunt of an item drains your whole damn mana meter from 100% to absolute zero in a heartbeat.

So, there they are. A couple of more problems, and I think we're done. I've always thought God of War as one franchise that has truly benefitted off a fixed camera. Well, here the problems that always were, start to flourish; the camera completely obscures certain non-audible attacks made by certain enemies, which renders them completely unpredictable and unblockable. You need either luck or some really cheap tactics, or both, to merely survive many encounters on the higher difficulty levels, while the game overall is once again not that hard. The final boss is a pushover in comparison to every other epic dude and gal we've faced off against, especially since about half of the battle against him is dictated by your success in quick time.

Kratos doesn't like it when someone farts on the
elevator. Even if it's an ancient one, with lots of
space and breathing room.
For the first time, beating the game doesn't actually unlock anything extra - except for the Temple of Zeus, which is like the Krypt or Nekropolis in Mortal Kombat. Every unlockable item is stored in this temple. Sounds like collector's heaven and you'll think that right until you cross the threshold to this house of doom and ridiculous bullshit. First of all, there's just a bunch of concept art and short films there. No, not bad at all, what's the harm, right? Well, it all costs thousands of red orbs, and even if you've played the game right, you won't have more than 4,000-5,000 to spare after one playthrough, which means you'll have to keep hacking through the whole game over and over again to unlock everything here. What's the point, you ask? Well, I asked the same thing, then I found out about a Gold Trophy waiting at the end of the rainbow on the PS3. Ahhhhh!!! ...Not worth it, fuck this shit.

The game truly isn't that difficult at all by the usual God of War, but more challenging than Chains of Olympus - the graphics are better, too, but that's where the line is drawn. I simply found Chains of Olympus a better game. God of War: Ghost of Sparta is a good, enjoyable game, and definitely a worthy PSP title, but it's amazingly stale in storytelling and gameplay. It could even pass for a great game in my books, if it wasn't in such decorated company and be expected to meet a whole variety of standards.

+ The graphics are some of the PSP's best
+ More challenging than Chains of Olympus
+ The sex minigame's never been this over the top, and probably never will be again
+ It's still basically God of War

- It's still basically God of War
- Aside from a few well-placed revelations, the story's placement in the timeline isn't that solid
- Each game takes control away from the player by a larger amount
- No puzzles
- Lame weaponry
- The Temple of Zeus and its price list are ridiculous
- The camera obscures incoming attacks worse than ever, often making them outright impossible to dodge or block
- A few lethal glitches, and occasionally ridiculous checkpoints

< 7.8 >

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