Then there’s Kratos’s long-overdue encounter with the Furies, the revenge goddesses infamous in Greek myth for hounding those who’ve committed crimes against nature or the gods. Here, they’re condensed into a single character – named Erinys – who seems less interested in avenging Kratos’s many, many crimes than she is in simply keeping him from ever finding his brother. Whatever her reasons, the fight against her is one of Ghost of Sparta’s high points.
Ghost also brings a few original touches to the gameplay, the biggest being the Arms of Sparta, a shield-and-spear combo that’s surprisingly versatile compared to Kratos’s usual arsenal. Not only can Kratos fight at close range with it, but he can hurl the spear at distant targets (something that’s also key to solving a few of the game’s puzzles) and ward off various environmental hazards – like a massive wall of flame – with the shield. Ultimately, the Arms aren’t as effective in combat as the trusty old Blades of Athena, but it’s still nice to have a secondary weapon that feels like an important part of the game, instead of something we can just ignore.
Other additions include the new Hyperion Charge, a dash move that enables Kratos to tackle his enemies and punch their faces in while they’re on the ground. And again, Ghost of Sparta also grabs a few ideas from God of War III, like an added “fire” meter that lets Kratos charge up his blades to punch through armor and some walls, and a slightly modified approach to quick time scenes that moves the button prompts off to the sides, leaving the action unobscured.
Ghost of Sparta also features the now-customary secrets and power-ups to unlock once you’ve finished the game, as well as a handful of challenge modes and a new endless combat arena for which you can set the parameters. But otherwise, it doesn’t hold too many surprises, especially not if you’re a longtime fan of the series – and that’s the bulk of its problem. The gameplay is stellar and the visuals are beautiful, but the ships, dungeons and snowy mountains Kratos explores all feel just a little too familiar.
Granted, this is a handheld interquel, so the developers don’t have a whole lot of room to introduce anything too earth-shaking. But after the last four God of War games, earth-shaking is what we’ve come to expect. And while Ghost of Sparta is still better than most other games (especially on the increasingly bone-dry PSP), it’s a strangely by-the-numbers outing for one of gaming’s most inventively brutal anti-heroes.
Oct 27, 2010