Who was there: Ready at Dawn will be revisiting the God of War franchise on the PSP with Ghost of Sparta, due out this fall. To offer one of the first public showings for Ghost of Sparta, game director Dana Jan was joined on stage by lead programmer Derek Mulder, art director Nathan Phail-Liff, and lead animator Adam Burn.
What they said: God of War: Ghost of Sparta received its big unveil at the 2010 Electronic Entertainment Expo, having been first announced in May. Today's panel, "The World That Is God of War," kicked off by running the E3 trailer (below), before Jan offered a look back at the game's beginnings.
The game director noted that when development started nearly two years ago, the overarching goal was to simply make Ghost of Sparta a bigger, crazier game than 2008's well-regarded Chains of Olympus. After that game, the team felt that it had pushed the PSP to its functional limit. However, with Ghost of Sparta, Jan said that the team has literally pushed the PSP to its absolute capacity, having advanced the gameplay and art well beyond that of Chains of Olympus.
Jan also said that a primary goal for Ghost of Sparta was to offer a more comprehensive look at Kratos' backstory. As such, some of the mysteries surrounding the man--for instance, his iconic scar--will be illuminated in the game.
From there, it was on to gameplay footage. Jan noted that from the very first title screen, the amount of work put in on Ghost of Sparta will be apparent, as Kratos is shown with full facial animation and a tumultuous ocean churns in the background. The title screen transitions seamlessly to a battle sequence upon starting the game, as Kratos is immediately set upon by trident-wielding enemies as he and his armada draw within sight of Atlantis.
Jan said that one of the other technical advancements was cramming more enemies onscreen and Kratos is shown butchering a host of Poseidon's mermen. He also noted that Kratos will have a variety of new ways to dispatch his enemies, including methods to throw enemies into one another. Enemy hit detection will be primarily relevant for a new move, called the hyperion charge. Here, Kratos runs and tackles an enemy, where he can then either pummel that creature to death or toss it at another monster.
The demo then offered a look at Kratos' first boss fight, one that involves Poseidon's underling Scylla. Jan noted that the size of bosses has been dramatically increased in Ghost of Sparta, the smallest of which could fully devour the biggest enemy in Chains of Olympus. The Scylla fight involved Kratos dodging massive tentacles while also fighting off mermen. It ended with the series' hallmark gore, as Kratos manages to mount Scylla and stab her repeatedly in the face.
After Scylla retreats, Kratos continues on his way, reaching Atlantis by way of an underground passage. After dispatching a number of mermen, as well as a minotaur, Jan shows off Kratos' new weapon, the Spartan's iconic spear and shield. The gameplay mechanic involves Kratos hiding behind the shield when he's on the defensive, while the spear provides a 360-degree attack. He can also thrust at enemies from a distance, as well as throw the spear outright, before it magically returns to his hand.
To conclude the demo, Jan skipped ahead to a point in the game when Kratos encounters King Midas in a mountain pass full of flowing lava. The man with the golden touch has been driven mad, and Jan shows how if Midas touches Kratos, the future god of war will turn into a golden statue and it's game over. To avoid being touched, players will need to successfully navigate a quick-time experience, and succeeding involves Kratos pummeling Midas into submission.
Once Midas has been essentially rendered unconscious, Kratos carries him forward for a reason that was not specified. Along the way, players will be harried by dogs, and Kratos will need to drop Midas to dispatch the dogs, occasionally smashing the king's face in (by literally pounding it against the floor) to keep him subdued. The demo ends with Kratos ostensibly tossing Midas into a flowing lavafall.
Quote: "If we said it wasn't possible on the PSP, we foolishly went ahead and tried to do it."--Dana Jan, on Ready at Dawn's mentality for outdoing Chains of Olympus.
Takeaway: Ghost of Sparta certainly maintains the God of War franchise's barbaric sensibilities. Ready at Dawn doesn't appear to be skimping on visual fidelity just because the game is coming out on the PSP, and the studio is looking to craft a bigger, more involved and complex experience than what was available in Chains of Olympus.