Prince of Persia 2

"Even before Prince of Persia was finished, we sat down and discussed what needed improving and how we could make this game even better." This is what we were told by Yannis Mallat, producer of Prince of Persia 2, during a recent visit. Three main areas were identified by Ubi Soft's in-house developers and we caught up with the game to see just how those improvements are coming along on Xbox and PS2.

In particular, Ubi Soft highlighted the fighting system, replay value and longevity and, lastly, the lack of bosses. With regard to the last point, Mallat confided that, while there are a number of sub-bosses, the current count of main bosses is three although this could be added to. Not that much is known about the game's potential longevity and replay value beyond the fact that there are bonus incentives for the more thorough gamer.

However, it is on the first area that Ubi Soft wanted to improve, the fighting system, that Mallet concentrated. As much as the POP team are proud of their original game, brutal honesty has them putting their hands up and stating that the fighting in the first game "was too repetitive, lacked variety in the enemies and, above all, the control and feeling of the fighting was taken out of the hands of the player".

Specifically, Mallat is referring to the usual scenario in POP where you would attack and jump over the enemy. At this juncture the game would take over and, as cool as the acrobatic moves looked, make the actual blow. This has been addressed and with some style.

Mallat kicked the game off on Xbox with the opening scene of the Prince and his shipmates fighting ghostly hordes on the deck of their ship. Immediately the Prince is thrown in at the deep end with multiple enemies attacking at once. The fighting system reveals itself as being more player-oriented, as when the Prince rises above the enemy in the fashion we've become accustomed to, a tree of opportunities becomes available to him. By pressing different buttons the Prince now performs various attacks. A particular favourite of ours was the slice-in-two downward slash. Less spectacular lunges and stabs are available and the decapitation slice is only a tad less satisfying than the gloriously bloody slice-in-two.

As pretty as this all was, we had actually witnessed these delightful moves before when we were privy to an . Right on cue, the Prince starts pulling off new moves that have been implemented since our last viewing and were particularly relevant to the multi-enemy attack. First he grabbed an approaching attacker and used him as a human shield, manoeuvred into a more advantageous position, then threw the guard aside and grappled with another foe. After a short tussle the Prince rips the threatening sword out of the enemy's hand and steals for himself a handy secondary weapon.

And here the fun takes a step up. Devastating two-weapon attacks, indulgence in combos and throwing enemy weapons back in their faces ensued until the deck of the ship ran thick with blood and numerous pirate types had been sliced, diced and decapitated. To balance the game, the secondary weapons have a limited life and will disintegrate after a certain amount of usage or time. Thankfully, this isn't so short that it makes the mechanic superfluous.

The new system looks fluid, easy to execute, visually pleasing and does begin to address the repetitive concerns that POP's developers had voiced. We have one word of caution here: even if the moves are satisfyingly nasty, there are only so many decapitations you can watch until they also begin to look a bit jaded. Not that this takes away from the game as a whole but if the team are hoping to firmly quash that feeling of repetition, more moves and combos would need to be available than those we witnessed.