Xbox | GameCube | PC | PlayStation 2[/c]
The clean-shaven Prince of Persia has traded his silky white parachute pants for metal and leather in Prince of Persia: Warrior Within, the follow-up to last year’s incredible Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time. Like the majority of sequels, PoP:WW retains the core formula of its predecessor, but also greatly expands the scope of the original. This new iteration is significantly longer, has more enemies, more moves, and more gore than you can swing a sword at. The Prince’s new Bruce Willis attitude may be hard to swallow, but fans and newcomers will still find a lot to like in this worthy sequel.
Messing with the chain of time has its consequences, as one of the main themes of PoP:WW’s story is that you cannot change your fate. Unfortunately for our Prince, his fate is an early death. It’s been two years since the events of The Sands of Time, and the Prince has been running from the embodiment of imminent death: a dark, demonic creature known as Dahaka. Life on the run has turned our innocent Aladdin-esque hero into a deep, brooding, calloused warrior, who apparently is now a Godsmack fan. The Prince’s newfound "hardcore" attitude may turn off fans of last year’s game, but once you get into the various facets of gameplay, any points of princely overcompensation will be forgiven.
Like Sands of Time, PoP:WW sports intuitive controls that are right on the money. At your disposal are the signature acrobatic moves that make Lara Croft look like she’s standing still. Swinging on ropes, running up and along walls, and performing Olympic gymnast-caliber uneven bar routines are all required to complete the levels.
The levels themselves are impressively engineered playgrounds. Finding out how to get from point A to point B isn’t all that difficult, but as you utilize the Prince’s arsenal of acrobatic skills, you will definitely gain an appreciation for the planning that went into the level design. The flow of your movement is excellent, as you’re often required to chain a few acrobatic moves together. "Stiff" isn’t in PoP:WW’s vocabulary.
Puzzles are a mainstay of the PoP series, and this new installment is no different. Solving puzzles usually involves pushing buttons or turning levers, which may open doors, set platforms in motion, or activate other elements of the environment. The entire game is pretty much a huge puzzle that needs to be analyzed before it is manipulated in order to get the results you want. These brainteasers are cleverly constructed, and better than the ones found in Sands of Time.
Any pacifist ideals are lost on the Prince this time around. Staying true to its title, PoP:WW includes many more opportunities to fight than Sands of Time. The combo system is expansive, with the ability to perform single and double weapon attacks, throws, human shields (or is it "monster shields?"), and disarm moves. Rebounding and attacking off of walls and columns is not only helpful in getting out of tight situations, but also offers a welcome change from hand-to-hand combat. You can get away with button-mashing to a certain extent, but taking advantage of the improved combo system is a much more efficient way to dispatch enemies.
No matter how many moves you have, taking on hordes of evil monsters single-handedly is a daunting task. As the game progresses, you’ll earn weapon upgrades and special abilities to help you overcome the forces of evil. Like the last game, you’re able to rewind your actions a few seconds, in case you want a "do-over." Another time-altering ability is called "Eye of the Storm," which slows down everything except for you, including enemies and environments.
New to PoP:WW is the ability to switch between past and present. We’re not talking about recalling the previous few seconds, but rather going way back into the past when, for example, a certain room may have clean, stone architecture, to the present, when the same room may be in ruins, and overrun by vegetation. Your strategy when navigating these rooms changes with the room’s time frame. While time travel requires you to explore many stages more than once, it is still an interesting new gameplay aspect.
There isn’t much negative to say about PoP:WW’s gameplay, aside from very rare occurrences when the camera angle changes, altering your direction. This can cause the Prince to run headlong into deadly obstacles. Again, this is very rare, and everything else from a mechanics standpoint is excellent.
Visually, PoP:WW looks like a cross between Tomb Raider and Mortal Kombat. Most of the game takes place inside of a huge stone fortress. There are a lot of brown and gray hues, but in spite of this, your surroundings still look quite sharp. Textures are clean for a PS2 game, and there are some nice particle effects with sparking blades and enemies that deteriorate into sand. The large environments are nicely detailed, with convincing masonry and plant overgrowth. There’s a lot of gore in this game, as enemies can be split in half, impaled, decapitated, and so on. Ubisoft definitely sold out to the gore market.
The sounds are mostly typical for an adventure game. Explosions, clashing blades, grinding stones, and the agonized screams of slain monsters are all up to standard. Although the actual sonic quality is good, the music and dialogue are negatively affected by the new "mature" direction of the game. The prince spouts lame one-liners that are worthy of '80s action movies, and a certain Goth bondage chick tries to sound sexy, with laughable results. Authentic Godsmack riffs adorn PoP:WW, but the music doesn’t fit a game with a mystical backdrop. The choices made in the audio department seem completely forced.
There are a lot of platformers on PS2 that PoP:WW has to compete with. You have Sly 2, Jak 3, and Ratchet and Clank: Up Your Arsenal to take into consideration. All these games happen to be excellent, but PoP:WW is the most contrived, leaving gamers thinking, "Prince, dude, just be yourself." Really, the new direction doesn’t affect how fun the game is, as the fighting system and levels are better than the last game, which was excellent in its own right. Also, no other platformer matches the flowing, acrobatic sequences of PoP:WW. Look past the bad-boy façade, and you’ll see that this new iteration is even better than the last.
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