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Prince of Persia

 

Prince of Persia

ESRB: Teen - T
Platform: Xbox 360
Category: Action Games
 
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Developer: Ubisoft Montreal
Publisher: Ubisoft Entertainment

Features

Players: 1
300KB to Game Save
HDTV 720p/1080i/1080p

My first exposure to Prince of Persia came earlier this year at E3. I still recall being blown away by the slick looking visuals when I had my first glimpse. The game had an original look about it and the demo I was treated to was impressive to say the least. Being the natural skeptic that I am I wanted to hold off my judgement until the final version was released this holiday season. Well the game is now in stores and after some playtime with the Xbox 360 version my emotions are mixed. On one hand it is a great looking game, but on the other hand I found myself a tad under-whelmed and far too, dare I say it, bored after only a couple of hours into the game.

Graphics

Visually, Prince of Persia is a great looking title which comes as no surprise considering much of the hoopla leading up to the games release centered on its’ overall look. The style, animation, and overall presentation are definitely innovative. The art direction is simply stunning as the characters and environments come to life. I had my concerns regarding some of the cell shading but after playing the game I have come to the realization that the effect is stunning. The detail that went into every aspect is incredible.

The majority of Prince of Persia takes place in desert lands, temples, cavernous ruins and large caves. The games environments are truly breathtaking. The only drawback would be many of the areas can seem similar to others. For instance, I found that the large cavernous regions are hard to differentiate from one to another. If it was not for the map and some of the banter between the Prince and Elika (the games two main characters) I would have no clue where I was. Nevertheless, the detail is stunning and once a region is healed the effect is awesome. More specifically, when Elika heals a corrupted land, everything moves from a cold grey look to a bright lush region. The transition is slick and you can’t help but have an overwhelming sense of relief once you hit that stage of a level.

In terms of the character animations, Prince of Persia is strong and scores top marks in giving gamers original and innovative characters. The Prince and Elika are arguably two of the sexiest characters we have seen in a video game this year. The design is something out of comic book and slapped right into a video game. The character movements are fluid and react quite naturally to their environments. Also worth noting is that the transition from cut-scene to in-game play is seamless.

Technically speaking, Prince of Persia is very smooth and I did not experience any major slow down. There are some long load times on occasion, but for the most part it is not a major problem. I should also mention the draw distance of the game is simply spectacular and Prince of Persia is game that should only be experienced in high definition.

Sound

In terms of the sound, Prince of Persia also scores high marks. From the Prince’s claw scraping the side of a ledge to corrupted creatures grumbling from a distance, all of the included sound really does put you into the middle of the action. Bottomline, Prince of Persia is top-notch in the sound effects department. Additionally the game’s soundtrack is equally effective. It is nothing incredibly innovative, and it is typical of games from a similar ilk, but it suits the game and sounds decent in 5.1 surround sound.

The voice work is also very good and incredibly deep. The amount of dialog that went into the game is beyond belief. I was often taken back by how much original dialog the development team included. Every time I pressed the left trigger button the Prince and Elika would engage is some sort of dialog and very rarely did they repeat themselves. Their voices were a little over the top and cheesy at times, however they were clear and engaging. At the end of the day Prince of Persia is very solid in the audio department.

Gameplay

Prince of Persia marks the return of the popular franchise and its first appearance on next-generation consoles. This latest entry into the series was developed by the people who created the Prince of Persia: Sands of Time trilogy and it has been in development for approximately three years. So to say there has been some anticipation for this one would be an understatement.

Prince of Persia is set in a land rooted in ancient Persian mythology. Our hero, the Prince, finds himself in the middle of a battle between good and evil or more specifically light and darkness. In this case it is the God of Light (Ormazd) who has waged war against his destructive brother the God of Darkness (Ahriman). The beginning of the game has the Prince witness the destruction of the legendary Tree of Life. The clear cutting of this tree threatens to put the world in the hands of the God of Darkness. Manifested in the form of the black sludge-like goo, Evil Corrpution contaminates the land and the skies. The Prince, along with the sexy Elika, must embark on a journey to save the world.

The story provides a decent premise for the game but I had a difficult time staying incredibly interested in what was happening to the world and the regions. It is classic story of good versus evil and overall I found the story somewhat linear. On one hand it seems very deep as evidenced by Elika’s dialog who has you believing she is an encyclopaedia of knowledge when it comes to her familiarity of the all the regions and their subsequent demise. However, the pace of the story is painfully slow, which is one of the main reasons that the story lost me. You end up caring more for Elika than you do the Prince as the game does a less than satisfactory job explaining who the Prince is and where he is from. In fact, I am still a little puzzled as to why is he is “The Chosen One” to solve all that ails the world.

So how does Prince of Persia play? Well, Prince of Persia is a bit of mixed bag when it comes down to the actual gameplay mechanics. For starters, Prince of Persia is very repetitive as many of the levels all seemingly play out the same as the previous ones. Unfortunately the repetitive nature takes away from the games fun factor; that being the Prince and Elika’s acrobatics and the way you can move around the games cavernous regions. Running along walls, leaping over ledges, leaping from one end to the other, and pulling off perfectly timed acrobatic combinations can be enjoyable, but it can also be a deal-breaker. In other words, if you don’t like controlling the Prince then you probably won’t enjoy the game. Pulling off incredible acrobatic moves is pleasing at times but the satisfaction was not lasting, and going back through levels was aggravating. Unfortunately the game forces you to go back and replay levels. The Prince’s main duty is to find light seeds for Elika to get the powers she needs to grow fertile lands. These light seeds are not available until you complete a level for the first time. Granted, it is nice to go back and play the areas which are now rich in color, but doing this for every area is just filler in my view.

The controls in Prince of Persia are easy to pick up. Clearly the game was not aimed at hardcore gamers as the control seems to be designed for anyone to pick-up and play with relative ease. So in that sense, Prince of Persia is far too forgiving. For starters, you never die. That’s right; Prince of Persia features a ‘save me’ function. If the Prince is about to die then Elika will save him. This function is automatic and works in both acrobatic and fighting situations. Overall it works very well and is great feature. I could only imagine how frustrating it would be if every time you died the game put you back to a long loading screen. However, on the flip side it makes the game a little too forgiving as pulling off those acrobatic moves are not as difficult as one would imagine. There is no punishment for messing up a move, slipping over a ledge, or jumping in the wrong direction. So I never really cared when I messed up. I guess this is not a bad thing, but it does take away from your sense of accomplishment.

In terms of the combat system found in Prince of Persia, it feels somewhat unnatural and not as satisfying as it could. Boss fights end rather quickly and pulling off different combinations does not necessarily give you any advantage. The game features a number of combinations but I found I used only one or two combos with great success. I just did not see the point in using different combos when one or two worked consistently. I also had issue with the responsiveness of the some of the controls. Far too often during combat the Prince would remain still as I hammered away at the controls. The game registered the move but the Prince’s response in pulling off the move was quite delayed. Again, it felt unnatural and took me away from the game, not to mention it was frustrating as heck.

In terms of replay value, the game features 1000 light seeds littered all throughout the game. Getting all 1000 will take some time and careful planning. Some people might even need a guide or walkthrough. Collecting them can be rewarding and does offer up some replay value. Prince of Persia has 50 Xbox 360 achievements. The first 200 points will be attainable in a couple of hours however the rest will take some work. There is no online multiplayer component and no cooperative mode. A cooperative mode would have been fantastic but sadly such a mode is absent. So in a sense, you are stuck with a single player campaign when it comes to Prince of Persia for the Xbox 360.


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