Prince of Persia - 360 - Review
At first glance, Prince of Persia is easily the most eye-catching game of 2008. There were games with more anticipation – Metal Gear Solid 4, Gears of War 2 or Grand Theft Auto IV - but they had a built-in fan base with characters that are recognizable the instant that you see them.
Having scrapped the look of the previous Prince of Persia games, and having disappointed fans with a few weak sequels, this is not a franchise that can survive on name alone. But with graphics like these, it doesn’t need to – just one look and you will be curious to know what this game is, how it plays, and if the overall experience can match the awe-inspiring artwork.
That is a power not possessed by many games, not even those touting a big name. Prince of Persia does not abuse that power – quite the contrary. Its developers set out to create a journey that is as magnificent and as inspired as the graphics that attracted us while delivering a quest that’s mainstream enough for the average Joe but tough enough to keep the hardcore from being bored.
Many things have changed in the land of Prince of Persia, but two primary elements remain intact: almost every level has been designed like a giant puzzle and the battles are very much a spin-off of the enemy-targeted, action/RPG gameplay Zelda 64 introduced 10 years ago.
However, just because the combat was well received did not mean it didn’t need to evolve. Taking cues from Hollywood and games that love to slow down the action for cinematic effect, Prince of Persia is an exciting mixture of intensity, cinematography and fight scene choreography. Playing as a man nicknamed the Prince, you’ll attack with just a few different buttons. When a strike is missed or deflected, the game slows down – not cheaply but cinematically – to give the player a chance to react (you should block after a missed strike and immediately counter-attack after deflecting a blow). Specific camera angles are used – again for cinematic effect, not to the game’s detriment – over the course of each boss battle. The attack animations also change with different battle scenarios.
When it all comes together, it looks and plays great but feels choreographed. This could have turned the game into a nightmare or simply took away the player’s interactivity. If certain events have to occur in a way the developer envisioned, how much freedom could the player possibly have?
And yet, it doesn’t feel restrictive; it doesn’t feel like you’re watching or merely influencing the game – instead, you are truly a part of the developer’s vision. They have created a wonderful display of pre-determined moments without taking away our ability to actually play the game. These moments extend to the level design. Scripted events occur right before your eyes without feeling scripted. You know they were planned because…well, an explanation would spoil the surprise. But know that they are worth experiencing.
A New Connection
The Prince is accompanied by a female companion, Elika, who not only can fly but will prevent the Prince from dying (she catches him when he falls), help him in battle, and give him the ability to fly, grapple, jump farther and run straight up walls and ceilings. You’ll use these abilities, which can only be used at certain points in the game (you’ll know where by the colored circles conspicuously placed throughout each area) to access certain levels.
These powers are not half as cool as the growing relationship and subtle interactions between the Prince and Elika. The two are seamlessly joined together at every turn. When climbing up a vine, Elika will jump on the Prince’s back. When he jumps down, Elika will hang onto the vine; when he lands, he’ll hold his arms open to catch her when she falls.
If walking across a narrow platform, the Prince will not simply push Elika aside; if she is standing in front of him, he’ll grab her hands and swing her around, almost as if they were dancing, allowing the two to switch places.
Technically, this does not do anything for the gameplay outside of removing an annoying character blocker (don’t you hate it when you want to go somewhere in a game but can’t because an AI teammate won’t move out of the way?). But as we’re all aware, games are slowly becoming more than the straightforward medium they once were. Prince of Persia wants the player to care about the Prince and Elika – it wants us to believe in them, support them and think of them as significant characters.
Their unique animations – together with some of the most impressive voice acting since Metal Gear Solid 4 – help achieve that goal. I’m not one to watch in-game cinematics. The “skip scene” button (when there is one) often prevents me from having to endure the game industry’s lousy interpretation of storytelling. Prince of Persia isn’t like that. These characters are actually cool and likable. It’s a sequel that shows that game makers are not only listening to our complaints but really care what we think. And not just because of the bottom line – though that surely had something to do with it – more than likely, these developers are entertainment fans themselves. No matter how much I wanted to get back to the gameplay, I couldn’t bring myself to skip a scene.
Review Scoring Details for Prince of Persia
Featuring the most seamless climbing, swinging and platform-hopping controls of any game, Prince of Persia is an outstanding sequel.
Breathtaking. Like a painting come to life yet vastly different from other cel-shaded games (Okami, Zelda: The Wind Waker), Prince of Persia will astonish any eyes that gaze upon its beauty.
Do my ears deceive me? Not only is the music deep and inspired, but the voice acting actually sounds like, well, acting!? It's hard to believe, I know. But Prince of Persia achieves what few games have.
Mostly a fair challenge with a few puzzles that might drive you crazy (assuming you don't defeat them by guessing, as I did for one of them).
I can't help but feel like the newest Prince of Persia was partially born out of ICO elements that most of the world has never experienced. Assassin's Creed fans will notice a few control similarities. And the new powers, whether you like them or loathe them, do not enhance the game beyond creating level barriers for the player to overcome.
But while this may not be a wholly unique experience, Prince of Persia offers some of the best level designs of the year (and of this console generation), near-perfect controls, and a combat system that stays fun till the end despite being repetitive.
A must-play for everyone; a must-own for fans of the original PS2/Xbox Prince of Persia.