Thursday, October 7, 2010

God of War: Ghost of Sparta Hands-On

If any developer has truly mastered crafting games for the PSP, it's Santa Ana-based Ready at Dawn. Their upcoming game for the handheld, God of War: Ghost of Sparta is not only one of the (if not the) best-looking game on the system, it's one with gameplay that more than equals the stunning visuals. I got the great opportunity to play through the introduction and part of a later level from the soon to be released game and can safely report that this could possibly be the best PSP action game of 2010, hands-down.

As soon as it kicks off, everything about Kratos' new adventure impresses, from the introductory movie flowing right into gameplay, the stellar, console-quality visuals, dynamic audio and fluid controls. What's really amazing about the game from a technical perspective is the fact that there are NO loading screens and the game runs from the UMD without the need for any installation. Game Designer Michael Deneen was rightly proud of all the team has done for this installment, noting that not only will GoS be even longer than Chains of Olympus, the first boss in the game (can eat the biggest boss from the last game," something I found true enough when I finally got to fight her. This particular fight was only a little tricky thanks to the super effective block button, some careful observation and a lot of quick attacks.

After about two minutes or so of wailing away at its nose, the beast let out a roar and dropped back under the waves, only to reemerge to Kratos' left where I got to see just how large it actually was. This time out, the thing spat out small crablike creatures that needed to be dealt with before the she-beast was able to splat Kratos with a few well-placed hits. After getting in a few well-placed hits of his own, Kratos got to do a bit more damage to the sea creature using a certain handy object in the environment I won't spoil just because I'm such a nice guy. Deneen noted after I'd sent the beast packing that this wasn't the last players would see of her... then he quit out of the level and proceeded to set up the next portion of the demo.

I wasn't sore about being left hanging at all, but the next portion of the game I got to play dropped Kratos off near the end of his encounter with King Midas (he of the touch of gold and muffler replacement franchise tycoon). In this stage, Kratos is faced with a particularly pesky lava river he needs to cross and requires the "assistance" of the poor little rich guy. Midas just wants to be left to his sorrows (hell, you'd be that gloomy if everything you touched turned to gold - think about it for a second, folks), but Kratos has no time for others' pain at all. Hell, he'd rather Midas' pain take care of his problem. This part of the demo began with a quick time event that needed to be nailed perfectly or Kratos would be turned into a burly golden showpiece straight out of Las Vegas. In case you haven't seen the gameplay movie yet, let's just say that Kratos gets his way and you'll probably be laughing out loud and maybe feeling a bit sorry for ol' Midas (maybe).

After that bit of fun, I also got to see a few of Kratos' new skills in action such as the ability to throw spears and block while moving with a huge shield. He'll also be able to add flame to some weapons and use other elemental powers to shock or freeze enemies before doing them in the best way he knows how to. As for the presentation, it's absolutely stellar in every respect. If you have a PSP AV cable, I'm highly recommending you use it to run the game on your HDTV just to see how amazing it looks. The dev team has really gone above and beyond the call here with GOS right down to the amazing sound production. If I'm not mistaken they've done stuff with the audio that's to date, never been done on the PSP.

In case you're wondering, yes, the game is longer than Chains of Olympus was, particularly if you plan on unlocking all of the hidden content. Even if you're a casual player who enjoyed Kratos' first PSP adventure but found it too brief, you can expect to be seeing a lot more of him and the places he ends up this time out. On the other hand, length is a very poor barometer of judging any game if you think about it. If you're sucked in enough to play through anything in one sitting, it's probably safe to say that it's a good game. GOS looks to be one of those games that pulls you into its world right from the start, but Deneen noted that this time out, players can expect quite a bit more in the way of content.

Of course, Sony is supporting the release with the brand new PSP bundle pictured above that's packed not only with a sweet black/red PSP and GOS, but it also comes with a download code for God of War: Chains of Olympus, a PSN movie download code for Kick-Ass, a 2GB Memory Stick PRO Duo, AC power cord/adapter and a PSP battery pack. Expect to see some incredible trailers and I'd imagine a few commercials for the game and bundle. I'd say Sony and RaD have a massive hit even without all the hype, but on the other hand, with some still disrespecting the PSP for any number of insane reasons, this will be the one game to show the naysayers that should shut them down for a bit. We'll have more on God of War: Ghost of Sparta shortly - stay tuned...

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