The Ghost of Sparta

Well, I’m finally back at college for yet another semester, but at least I won’t be going back after finals for a few months, which will certainly be pleasant. Over winter break, I snagged quite a few things, including God of War Collection for PS3. I was, to put it quite simply, not TOO interested in the GoW series, having played the PSP prequel Chains of Olympus and finding it not quite good enough to earn a permanent place in my collection. The main games, on the other hand?

Excellent. The games are fantastic, much better than expected, and definitely worth the money if you haven’t picked them up yet. The price is more than acceptable ($39.99 for the collection, basically $20 per game). The enhancements are really the selling point of the game though, as both now run in HD (1280×720 native resolution) with 2xAA for smoother and crisper graphics. Textures are upscaled so nothing looks particularly blurry, and there’s also the fact that it runs at 60 frames per second, for perfect fluidity. Trophies are icing on the cake, with two Platinum trophies on one disc. To begin with, the two games were released nearer to the end of the PlayStation 2’s life cycle, so they already looked good, but these games look damn good all considered. It’s…actually kind of sad, because a couple next gen games look like crap compared to these games.

For those not familiar with the plot of the games (they are wholly single player): you play as Kratos, a Spartan warrior who is out to defeat Ares, the God of War. That’s really all the basic plot of the first game that can be summed up without spoiling things. The second is even crazier; the first you have three or four bosses and that’s basically it (but plenty of miniboss fights), and the second takes the story and then pumps it full of fights. There are four trophies for killing bosses, and three of them have you killing 3-4 bosses each! The story is also surprisingly nothing to shrug at, despite what naysayers may think; it’s particularly well written and draws on incredibly detailed facets of Greek mythology. I was already intimately familiar with Greek myth and this game was basically like myth porn: everything cool you could possibly imagine is thrown in, from Perseus to Pandora’s Box to the Hydra to the Fates. The plot of the first game is somewhat lackluster in terms of length and scale (which isn’t really a detraction, just a comment on it); Kratos encounters a few mythological deities like the Hydra, Sirens, Medusa, and so forth but doesn’t deal with much else. The second is absolutely insane and references things the average person wouldn’t be familiar with, like Typhon or Euryale, and does it with style and flair. Plotwise it is superior by far.

Gameplay was something I already anticipated since I’d played the prequel but it felt smoother: you essentially get combotastic hack and slash, apparently in the vein of Devil May Cry (which for the record I couldn’t stand and returned after ten minutes, so I can’t really compare and am going off of what others say). There is also a liberal amount of puzzle solving. And by liberal amount I mean half the game. You will be dragging blocks, turning levers, and opening doors like no one’s business, because the Ghost of Sparta is way too busy puzzling to kill people. It’s kind of aggravating because the puzzles have a tendency of being pathetically easy, or ridiculously convoluted. Half the game is one gigantic puzzle, really. The second game is a bit better in this regard with puzzle and battle spacing, but some of the puzzles felt a little random to me (y halo thar Prometheus). Still, that shouldn’t dissuade a potential purchaser from snagging this set.

The first game has you gain powers primarily from gods, meaning they’re pretty strong, potentially even overpowered. Army of Hades and Zeus’s Fury, for example, will let you summon undead souls which automatically damage enemies or throw lightning bolts, respectively. The sequel has a much better set of powerups, which almost feel as if they aren’t powerups at all, but core gameplay mechanics, which is the best way to do things. The mechanics/powerups from God of War II carry over to the God of War III demo, which I’ll cover at the end of the review (assuming you don’t care about the rest).

There’s no multiplayer of any kind, but that should be common knowledge considering this is technically a double reprint, and multi would be both hard to do and heavily advertised if it had been added to the game. Other than the main story on various difficulties, there isn’t much to do, except for the Challenge of the Gods/Titans (first and second games, respectively) which are a punishingly difficult series of…well, challenges. Each one is ten challenges, consecutively, with no chance to break or save other than dying and restarting checkpoints. Most of them aren’t too bad, like kill x enemies without harming the others, or kill all enemies without being hit, but some can be downright cruel, like CotG #8, which has you fighting a seemingly never ending amount of Gorgons and undead soldiers. The soldiers are no big deal, but the Gorgons can freeze you into stone, and then instantly kill you, making the match that much harder.

Sound is something I haven’t touched upon in this review yet, and I need to badly. The God of War games are absolutely lush and rich with sound. The music is always fitting, be it epic battle themes with chanting choruses, or low strumming instrumentals, or simple silence as you solve a difficult puzzle. God of War II had a slightly better soundtrack in that it was more varied, and with additional enemy types and bosses, the development team had a lot more audio cues to use and work with, so naturally it sounds a lot better than the first game. Some stuff is recycled (namely Kratos’s voice, some of the monsters like the Gorgons, the Blades of Chaos, etc), but you hardly notice and it really fits together anyway, seeing as how the two games represent the first and second parts of single story.

The last thing I’ll mention is the voucher for the God of War III E3 2009 demo (what a mouthful). It comes on a little sheet and then lets you…well, download it. Simple code redeeming, as with multiplayer betas. The problem is that the demo is enormous, staggeringly so. It’s a whopping 2.67 gigabytes. Yes, that much for a demo that lasts tops 20 minutes. I will say it is a perfect example of what a demo should be, with lots of action, showcasing of new mechanics, and maintaining the same level of quality as the previous games. One of the Titans (perhaps Atlas?) is assaulting a city, and Helios is fighting him; Kratos rips through quite a few hordes to get to them, fires an arrow to fell Helios, and later rips off his head to illuminate his passage further. He is met with a collapsing tunnel he must rapidly fly through, only to meet the Titan on the other side, who is quite hostile, and as the two prepare to fight the demo ends. It’s quite exhilarating and not at all what I expected from the demo, having seen the end of God of War II. It feels a little odd in that the game doesn’t look quite as good as the PS2 games in terms of aliasing; the demo is much more jaggy and lacks some of the polish of the older games, but no doubt will look even better in the final version, considering the demo was made months and months ago.

Overall, I would highly recommend the games if you happen to like Greek mythology, intelligent but not brutal puzzles, and exciting combat. If you don’t, then this isn’t for you, at all. And a word of warning for those squeamish: the games are very bloody, and both feature nudity (female breasts, much more prominent in God of War II but clearly not meant for titillation, if you’ll excuse the pun). Enjoy it, for the glory of Sparta!


~ by Vaikyuko on January 12, 2010.

One Response to “The Ghost of Sparta”

  1. I liked the first game when I played the PS2 version last year, but thought it was nothing special. I really liked the action and being able to do combos, but I thought the puzzles left a lot to be desired. I despised any puzzle that involved rope walking and spinning blades. Those can go die in a fire.

    I`m glad to hear a lot of the problems I had with the first game got fixed in the second.

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