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Prince of Persia: Still the king of the swingers?

Prince of Persia was always going to be a tricky series to reboot for the current gen. Any game franchise so cultishly loved and specific in approach to its genre automatically sets off alarm bells whenever changes need to be made. But three games down, PoP did indeed need renovating in order to avoid the onset of staleness. Such a fate would be a tragedy for such a fresh and individual set of games. But has Ubisoft made the right decisions along the way? Weeeeeell...

First things first. Those gorgeous 'hand-painted' graphics you've seen? They look fantastic in-game. Often these things have a habit of falling short once they're implemented into actual, controllable, moving gameplay, but PoP's visual overhaul consistently, abjectly refuses to not look great. The animation is as slick as ever, especially during the Prince's interactions with new co-op NPC Elika. Seeing her jump in to throw our acrobatic hero over wide crevasses and assist him during seamless combat combos is like watching the finest circus trapeze act you could possibly imagine.

And it's not just the obvious set-piece moves that impress. The little incidental animations that Ubi Montreal have included whenever the two characters, for example, pass each other when hanging from a ledge or climbing a cliff face are impressive, subtle and functional all at the same time. For once, we have a co-op character we won't be screaming at to get out of the way every five minutes. Or at all, in fact.

As for Elika herself, she's a great addition to the PoP gameplay mechanics. Her implementation is a carefully planned tightrope walk, doing a great job of freshening up the gameplay we all love without ever breaking the winning formula. Although a separate character from the Prince, she essentially works as an extension of him. Her trapeze throw operates just like a double-jump. Throwing her magical attacks into battle is just like using an extra weapon button. And her ability to save the Prince from two-dimensionalising plummeting deaths is basically just an automatic version of the old Sands of Time rewind function.

So far then, good times all round. But you're intelligent people. You know there's a "But" coming, so let's just get on with it, shall we?

The fact is, in trying to make PoP more accessible to new players, it seems that Ubi might have muddied the game's identity somewhat. For starters, while all the running, jumping, flipping, swinging gameplay is here in swathes, the newly simplified controls don't necessarily do it any favours. By making things context sensitive, Ubi might have made the gameplay a little less daunting for casuals, but we can't shake the nagging feeling that some of the precision and finesse of the earlier games' control is now missing.

Wall runs now kick in automatically when the Prince jumps towards a vertical surface. Aim dead on and he'll run straight up; go in at an angle and he'll run along it. The problem with context sensitive controls is that however well used they are, the game is still essentially guessing what you want it to do. In a game requiring the kind of precise control that PoP does, although not the car crash it could have been, the approach definitely leads to running and jumping in undesirable random directions from time to time. It's not game-breaking, but it does feel fluffy and uncomfortable after playing the previous games.

22 comments

  • scottjamesholland - October 27, 2008 11:45 a.m.

    some of you on here make me laugh. you really have. I want to know where you have played it as release is just over a month away. I also want to know why you never played the ORIGINAL games and why some of you think SOT, WW and TTT are 1 2 and 3
  • shadowless92 - October 26, 2008 3:49 p.m.

    IT suks i played it omfg i walked away from it. ok the graphics are gd and story is gd music is gd but all else suks
  • Defguru7777 - October 23, 2008 12:28 a.m.

    The graphics look good, but the gameplay sounds easy. Wow.
  • TheTrooper424 - October 22, 2008 12:46 a.m.

    Prince of Persia: the sands of time, was by far one of the most challenging but fun games for the PS2. I dont think this one will be that great though : ( lol
  • Z-man427 - October 21, 2008 8:12 a.m.

    I see this being great or being crap. i hope it's great though. the big question is though, is he still a whiny little prat?
  • gorilla325 - October 21, 2008 2:25 a.m.

    i think this hands on preview is really good. this is the only preview that mentioned this contextual stuff... also i am wondering if the previewer were using mouse/keyboard to play it, or an analogue controller? i'd prefer to see a previewer played with M/K... since playing with analogue controller really is not different from playing a console...
  • Samael - October 21, 2008 1:09 a.m.

    I dunno...that second screenshot with the windmills looks very un-PoP. And the new jump system sounds terrible. I don't like this, I think I'll pass.
  • derringer83 - October 21, 2008 12:41 a.m.

    Screw the casual players, they have no need to play these kinda games anyway. Make it brutally hard for all I care, that'll make it worth playing. Gotta say, the new art style is kinda growing on me. Looks pretty sweet.
  • Jimmyjammy - October 20, 2008 11:28 p.m.

    I was never a big fan of PoP, and to me this looks very similar.I don't like the whole 'if you can't make a jump you can't progress'. I know time reversal made this easier but I was always very good at not making said jump 4 or so times in a row. Whilst I applaud the new art style, the female character looks irritating and the Final Fantasy style CG clips we've seen so far failed to impress me. Roll on Assassin's Creed 2, which I'll be playing on a reliable system (read console), though some may look down on this (read snooty comment above).
  • DeadGirls - October 20, 2008 10:16 p.m.

    It sounds very much like they took the game mechanics straight from Assassin's creed. I know AC wasn't a very deep game but (using the keyboard and mouse) I found getting around the environment to be pretty satisfying (if only a little easy). Though I heard many people put it down, I liked the combat system in AC also and from the description here it sounds pretty similar. I'm usually vehemently against "dumbing-down" games for the casual (read console) crowds, but having never played any of the prior PoPs, I'll have nothing to compare this one to. I also think the art style is pretty neat. I will probably get this game when it becomes available on STEAM.
  • NelosAngelos - October 20, 2008 10 p.m.

    I hope this game is good, I really do. It looks beautiful with its new cel-shaded look, and knowing it flows well in-game is great news. I'm also glad about the co-op with Elika and that its ally you won't be yelling at to get out of the way or for their faulty AI. Well, all I can do is just wait and see how things go.
  • shadowless92 - October 20, 2008 5:41 p.m.

    naa 3 was worse but i hope its nout like any of them which is wat iv seen so far woop
  • krisy_kyyd - October 28, 2008 3:02 p.m.

    i played the ova 3 games and they got boring cause they were just the same. at least this 1 is a bit different.
  • FancyRat - October 25, 2008 12:47 a.m.

    @NelosAngelos Well damn, you sort of took the words from my mouth.
  • Landior - October 24, 2008 10:54 a.m.

    like the previous pop games, maybe rent it first before makin the decision to part with cash.
  • ycsm570 - October 22, 2008 9:31 p.m.

    Looks great, I've already got it pre-ordered. I've been a fan of the series since Sands of Time, and I have high hopes for this one.
  • jimsondanet - October 21, 2008 12:26 a.m.

    somethin that always bugs me is blatant drawing lines on characters but lacking in enviroment it corrupts the reality both or neither! and as for the casual lamers gettin in on the pie ...well its cool with me. this seems like the best way to convert em to proper games, increasing the customer base hence growth in productivity and development(so stop moaning). economics 101 people!
  • TeragRunner - October 20, 2008 11:39 p.m.

    Though I don't see how a console(other than the Wii which is slipping toward it) is casual, I think this is going to a disappointment. I was really looking forward to it but now that everything is context sensitive I can see that becoming a hassle. I know I'm one found himself doing the wrong move while I actually had some control over what I did and this isn't going to help any.
  • thor0997 - October 20, 2008 7:55 p.m.

    Its always a problem with bringing core gamers in and at the same time bringing in the casuals.
  • jamboy199three - October 20, 2008 6:34 p.m.

    this keeps getting wors and worse i used 2 love pop

Showing 1-20 of 22 comments

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