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Prince of Persia: The Forgotten Sands

 

Prince of Persia: The Forgotten Sands

ESRB: Mature - M
Platform: Xbox 360
Category: Action Games
 
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Developer: Ubisoft Montreal
Publisher: Ubisoft Entertainment

Features

Players: 1
2MB to Game Save
HDTV 720p/1080i/1080p
In-Game Dolby Digital

When Prince of Persia (PoP) arrived on next generation consoles two years ago, many enjoyed the artistic style of the game and the engaging storyline. Also, let’s not forget the enjoyable death defying moments which not only satisfied fans of the franchise but also captured a whole new generation of PoP fans. The series has come a long way since its debut in 1989 with over 12 different games and it is about to hit the big screen for the first time on May 28, 2010 in a major motion picture staring Jake Gyllenhaal. Just in time for the movie, Ubisoft has released another installment of the videogame franchise, Prince of Persia: The Forgotten Sands. Much to my surprise, Forgotten Sands is not based on the movie but rather is an interquel which takes place in the seven year gap between ‘The Sands of Time’ and ‘Warrior Within’. The Forgotten Sands arrives with very little hoopla which certainly has many fans of the franchise a tad concerned. Is there any merit to those concerns?

Graphics

Visually, Forgotten Sands is a good looking game but many will be disappointed Ubisoft has parted ways with the cel-shaded and stylish look from the 2008 game. Don’t get me wrong, Forgotten Sands style, animation, and overall presentation is certainly above average; however, the games overall look just does not leave us with that same lasting impression the previous game did.

In terms of character design, our main hero “The Prince” is nicely rendered. The Prince once again has a detailed look about him and his movements are very fluid and natural. He reacts naturally to his environments and nothing seems too out of place during combat or when wall running. The games other main characters are also very slick looking. From the sexy Queen Razia to the evil Ratash, all the games characters look sharp. Overall, no real complaints surface from that end of things. Also worth noting is that the transition from cut-scene to in-game play is seamless.

The majority of Forgotten Sands takes place in gigantic temples, cavernous ruins, and large ‘Lord of the Rings-like’ landscapes. The games environments are breathtaking. The only drawback would be many of the areas can seem similar to others. Many walkways and tunnels seem repetitive and seem like they were only added as “filler”; merely for the sake of having our hero do a few more wall runs and acrobatic leaps. In any event, the detail is stunning and only looks better during some the games extended cut-scenes.

Technically speaking, Forgotten Sands is very smooth and I did not experience any major slow-down. Even when hordes of enemies were collapsing in on me and massive button mashing was the name of the game, I never experienced any major framerate issues. 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 Forgotten Sands is game that should only be experienced in high definition.

Sound

In terms of the games sound, Forgotten Sands scores high marks. From the Prince’s claw scraping along the side of a ledge to a corrupted skeleton creature grumbling from a distance, all of the included sound really does put you into the middle of the action. Bottom line, Forgotten Sands 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 in Forgotten Sands is also solid but not as deep as the 2008 entry in the series which contained an incredible amount of dialogue and where interacting with the various characters played a major role in the game. Forgotten Sands has done away with that and instead you get your typical character dialogue which is predominantly featured in the cut-scenes. Again, it’s decent and all the characters deliver their lines with conviction; however, it certainly lacks the depth of its predecessor. At the end of the day however, Forgotten Sands is very solid in the audio department.

Gameplay

Forgotten Sands marks the return of the popular franchise and its second 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. Although Forgotten Sands does not come with the same amount of hubbub the 2008 game did, fans of the franchise will still embrace many aspects of this game.

Forgotten Sands is set in a land rooted in ancient Persian mythology. Our hero, the Prince, has travelled across Persia, having been sent to visit his brother Malik, who has taken command of the contested kingdom at the edge of their father’s territory. It is their father’s wish for the Prince to learn leadership and battle skills from his brother. Yet when the Prince arrives, the kingdom is already on the verge of being overwhelmed by a much stronger enemy force. Malik releases a legendary magical army that was said to belong to King Solomon. He hopes it will stop invaders, but instead the army turns against Malik subsequently changing his remaining people into statues, and causing a storm that threatens to overwhelm the palace. The Prince and his brother are separated, but he finds help in Razia, the queen of the Djinn, who remembers the army’s creation from another time and knows how to stop it. With her aid, the Prince must find a way to defeat the army and save the kingdom before sand covers everything.

The story provides a decent premise for the game but I had a difficult time staying incredibly interested in what was happening after the Kingdom turned into chaos and the army was running amok. It is not a bad storyline at all, but unfortunately Forgotten Sands has a “been there and done that” feel to the storyline. Nothing is incredibly original about this classic tale of good versus evil. I also found the story somewhat linear. It merely provides a decent backdrop for the real entertainment of the game which is the games acrobatic gameplay.

While the games acrobatic wall climbs, wall runs, leaps, flips and jumps are enjoyable; Forgotten Sands is a bit of mixed bag when it comes down to the actual gameplay mechanics. For starters, Forgotten Sands 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’s acrobatics and the way you can move around the games temples. 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 areas which looked similar to other levels was aggravating at times.

The controls in Forgotten Sands are easy to pick up as the game features a progressive in game tutorial for pulling off the various moves. Clearly Forgotten Sands was not aimed at hardcore gamers as the control seems to be designed for anyone to pick-up and play with relative ease. Timing jumps and gauging distances can be difficult at times; however, gamers will quickly begin to catch on after the first few levels.

The save system has also undergone some changes since the 2008 game which featured a far too forgiving save system where any false move resulted in Erika (your sidekick in the 2008 game) picking you up and essentially saving your ass. This time when you die you return to the previous checkpoint. This makes the game a bit more challenging but also a bit more frustrating, mainly because you have to sit through the games cut-scenes all over again. Why you cannot skip these cut-scenes is beyond me. Fortunately early-on in the game you are introduced to a rewind button which works quite well especially when you screw-up some of those leaps. Once your character starts falling down a large cliff, simply hit the right bumper and you can now control the power of time. Each time you use this power it uses up the power in one of your energy slots, so it is not unlimited. 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.

The combat system on the other hand was simply not satisfying at all. It just feels somewhat unnatural and the camera controls were troublesome to say the least. Fighting off hordes of enemies turns into a button mashing affair at times 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. The camera also seemed to take on a life of its own at times giving you just horrible angles from which to fight from. There were times in the game I had complete control of the camera and other times when I did not. All in all, the combat system and camera controls could have used some more tweaking.

In terms of replay value, the game does not feature an online multiplayer component or 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 Forgotten Sands for the Xbox 360. There is a challenge mode where you can test your skills in various battle arenas; however, it is hardly worth hanging onto this game after you have completed it for the challenge mode alone.


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