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E3 2010: Hands-on with God of War: Ghost of Sparta

Like its tireless, rage-fueled protagonist, the God of War franchise shows no signs of letting up anytime soon. Just three months after his series seemingly ended with God of War III, angry bald murder machine Kratos is back again for a second PSP side-story, God of War: Ghost of Sparta. An interquel set between the first and second games, Ghost of Sparta follows Kratos after he’s anointed as the new god of war, and will apparently reveal exactly what happened to make him take out his endless fury on the Olympian gods he once served. (Other than, you know, being tricked into killing his own family and then messily betrayed by Zeus.)

The demo we played began, like the first game did, on a ship under attack by a massive sea monster. Apparently, Kratos is trying to get to the city of Atlantis – not yet sunk – and this doesn’t sit well with Scylla, one of Greek mythology’s most iconic sea-horrors. Here, she’s a massive, lizardlike creature with a woman’s body, six breast-like lumps down her front that house giant, ground-slamming tentacles and a head that looks like an uglier version of the Basilisk from the last PSP GoW outing, Chains of Olympus.

It’s not until a few minutes into the demo that Scylla rears her (very) ugly head, however. When it begins, Kratos stands on his ship’s deck during a heavy storm, a scene that packs in a surprising amount of detail for a PSP title. Apart from the heavy wind and rain, the sea visible in the background looks convincingly turbulent, as waves crash over the side of the ship, lightning flashes and a few other, smaller (but still fully modeled) boats get tossed around in the distance. And all this was happening while several trident-wielding fish-men moved in to attack Kratos.

Combat in Ghost of Sparta is more or less the same as it’s ever been, with Kratos’ chained Blades of Athena cutting whiplike arcs through enemies, but there are a few new additions. Most significant right off the bat is the Hyperion Charge, a move that enables Kratos to tackle his enemies, straddle them, beat their faces in, stab them and then either hurl them at their friends, or simply rip off chunks of their bodies.

He’s also able to pull off some impressive throws, like ripping a fish-man’s arm off and stabbing him with his own trident. We’re told the game will also feature new “navigation moves” – which apparently means the ability to climb and/or swing with grappling hooks – that the series has never seen before.

Kratos can also use at least one completely new weapon this time around: a Spartan shield and spear. For the record, this is the first time in God of War history that Kratos, a Spartan, has actually used the equipment that was standard-issue for Spartan warriors. With the shield and spear equipped, Kratos can move (slowly) while blocking, slam enemies with the shield, stab and slash with the spear or hurl it like a javelin into enemies. It’s an unusually versatile weapon, and is kind of a radical shift from the close-quarters secondary weapons Kratos usually carries around. (It’s also more immediately interesting than the big Gauntlet of Zeus he lugged through Chains of Olympus.)

Of course, it wouldn’t be a God of War without magical backup attacks, which Kratos was able to unleash in the demo once he’d found the Eye of Atlantis. A relic associated with Poseidon, the eye can emit chain lightning that leaps between enemies, eventually vaporizing them if you keep it up for long enough.

After graduating from college in 2000 with a BA in journalism, I worked for five years as a copy editor, page designer and videogame-review columnist at a couple of mid-sized newspapers you've never heard of. My column eventually got me a freelancing gig with GMR magazine, which folded a few months later. I was hired on full-time by GamesRadar in late 2005, and have since been paid actual money to write silly articles about lovable blobs.