Also available on PlayStation Portable
Review written by Stephen Deck; originally published 01/05/2021 on Teacher by Day, Gamer by Night
Just as the second PS2 game did after the first, this second PSP God of War game took what made the first one on PSP good and improved that. God of War: Ghost of Sparta takes place between God of War and God of War II, after Kratos has killed Ares but before he took on Zeus. As with Chains of Olympus, it shows its roots as a PSP game in a few ways, but the PS3 HD remaster makes it look and feel like any other console release.
The core of the story is that Kratos is looking for his brother Deimos, whom Ares had kidnapped when they were children and whom he’d been led to believe was dead all these years. His journey takes him to the city of Atlantis and then into the depths of the realm of the dead ruled by Thanatos, a place neither god nor mortal dare to venture. In terms of mood-building and setting up a solid sense of gravitas, Ghost of Sparta honestly does a better job than Chains of Olympus or either of the PS2 games in my opinion.
Ghost of Sparta is still shorter than its console brethren, but it’s a couple of hours longer than Chains of Olympus. Not only is the length an improvement over Chains of Olympus, but I found that the time I spent with the game was just overall more enjoyable. The storytelling felt smoother and more cohesive this time, and the level design was superb. We’ve seen Hades’s underworld realm before, but Thanatos’s realm of the dead unique. Darker. More hopeless. Crueler. With the mythological distinction between the god of the underworld and the god of death easy to conflate, it was great to see their realms look and feel distinct and truly separate. It was also great to get a glimpse at how things changed since Ares was slain and Kratos became the new god of war in the couple of levels that took place in Sparta.
If you’d waited until after I finished Ghost of Sparta to tell me this was originally a PSP game, I might not have believed you. The remaster on PS3 really does look phenomenal. Part of that is because the game looks really good for the platform on the PSP, so they had good base material to work with, but even with that, Kratos’s character model and even most of the enemy models truly do look good. The only place you can really notice the low-resolution roots of the game is with a few stretched out textures on floors, walls, and huge enemies like bosses, but even then, it’s only a handful of instances where the textures look a bit off. One of my big complaints with the HD remaster of the first game was that the cutscenes looked like garbage. Either they put in the work to spruce up the cutscenes or they were just higher quality to start with, but they don’t look bad at all in Ghost of Sparta. They certainly don’t look as good as a cutscene in a game made specifically for the PS3, but they’re certainly not the muddied mess that we got with the first game’s HD remaster.
When I praised God of War: Chains of Olympus, a lot of that was because I was truly impressed at how true to the console originals the first handheld God of War game was. Ghost of Sparta definitely has that, but it’s just a genuinely great game on its own. I honestly think it’s the best of the four games I’ve played so far (the two PS2 titles and the two PSP titles). The environments, the mood of the game, the way the story is told, the interactions between Kratos and the gods; everything felt like the previous games but more refined and more polished. I enjoyed the other three, but Ghost of Sparta is definitely my favorite thus far.