A great big fat hint of next-gen development. A curtailed E3 2012 reveal. Another boggling direction for another reboot of my beloved Prince of Persia. The theoretical building blocks of this story are Ubisoft-by-numbers, which is why, as weird and tenuous as it is, I tend to suspect it might be true.
The story itself? That Ubisoft is giving the Prince of Persia franchise its fifth reboot, following Prince of Persia 3D, the Sands of Time trilogy, Prince of Persia 2008, and The Forgotten Sands' 'deboot' back to the Sands of Time timeline. Not only that, but it looks like - at least going off this one supposed screenshot, labelled 'POP_ZERO_2' - a more radical departure than the series has ever taken.
In short, it looks a bit like Prince of Persia meets Assassin's Creed 1 meets ancient Egypt, meets a hulking great shaven-headed, blonde haired, black protagonist.
Ladies and gentlemen, I am as intrigued as all hell.
Who is this new Prince? What's with the heavily-populated town setting? Are we looking at an Assassin's-style lived-in open-world here? Are we even looking at a completely new gameplay-style, given our new hero's distinctly less lithe and gymnastic gait? Is 'POP_ZERO_2' a reference to Ubi's aborted last-gen, modern-set Prince of Persia spin-off? Personally I have no idea (though that last one is probable), but I'm very interested indeed to find out.
As for that next-gen hint I was talking about, look closely at the bottom of the screenshot. See that DirectX 11 reference? That very probably means that this is a pretty recent screen, given that DX11 graphical effects only started rolling out in PC games in 2009, and obviously aren't accessible to the Xbox 360 or PS3. If that note is as descriptive as I think it might be, then it could mean that we're looking at an early build of another secret next-gen game from Ubisoft, or at the very least a beefed-up PC version of a current-gen one. Let's not forget that following Ubi's highly suspicious reveal of the highly suspiciously pretty Watch Dogs at E3 2012, the smart money is on an aborted next-gen console reveal having curtailed the full extent of the French publisher's forward-thinking press conference plans at the show.Anything is possible.
Want more (admittedly cobbled-together) evidence? Try throwing into the mix the fact that images from a mystery Ubisoft trailer (which never appeared at the show) turned up just before E3, and that they look suspiciously similar in aesthetic to the POP_ZERO_2 screenshot.
Above: Suspiciously similar in aesthetic
My guess? Ubi might have had a new next-gen Prince of Persia ready for a limited trailer-reveal at E3, but had to pull it at the last minute when next-gen consoles were removed from the platform holders' conferences. Big leap based on a couple of leaked screens, I know, but considering the context I wouldn't be surprised at all. In fact if you want to get ultra-Sherlock about it, the fact that the in-game screen looks very early indeed - see the floating crowd and 13 FPS frame-rate - would be a good explanation for the pre-rendered look of the trailer screens.
But that's my speculating done, but what do you reckon? Plausible guess? Schizophrenic madness? And just how different would you want a new PoP reboot to be, if this thing turns out to be real?