marino's Prince of Persia: Warrior Within (Xbox) review

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A New Direction Alienates Fans of the Sands of Time

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Last year, Ubisoft's Montreal studio unleashed a grand surprise on the gaming world with Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time.  It was an incredible reinvention of a classic series and was nominated for a slew of Game of the Year awards, winning several of them.  Although the game was critically acclaimed for its design, the game didn't sell so well.  Ubisoft even bundled it with Splinter Cell to try and get it off the shelves faster.  So when it came time for a sequel, Ubisoft Montreal decided they wanted to make the game edgier and mass marketable.  The game now features and "M" rating and the Prince definitely has a new attitude.  The main attraction in the sequel is the new combat system, which allows for all sorts of new combos and much deeper gameplay overall.  Did Ubisoft give fans what they wanted in a sequel to last year's masterpiece, or did they alienate their relatively small fanbase by trying to push the sequel on a larger audience? 
Due to constantly disrupting time in the first game, the Prince has gained the attention of Dahaka.  Dahaka, for all intents and purposes, is the god of time.  The Prince was supposed to die in the last game, and since he didn't, Dahaka is out to set things straight.  You cannot kill Dahaka, so you are going to die...there's no getting around it.  The Prince's only option is to sail to the Island of Time and go back in time to destroy the Sands of Time before they were even made.  Confused?  Well it's like Back to the Future, but with swords and acrobatics.     
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The art design is still gorgeous.  The architecture throughout the game is worthy of just stopping to look around in first person view.  The cutscenes are done very well, but they don't mesh with the in-game models very well.  There's no question as to whether a scene is prerendered or if it's the in-game models.  The lighting is still good and although the game isn't the epitome of great graphics on the Xbox, it's one of the most beautiful games available on the system.     
Addictive and a blast to play.  That's how I would describe Sands of Time.  The sequel is more of the same for the most part.  The new combat system is the main difference, and a good one.  You start out with just a right-hand weapon, but you can pick up off-hand weapons throughout the game.  Not only can you pick them up off the ground, but you can steal them right out of enemy's hands and use it against them.  The combos that you can perform are dependent upon which type of weapons you're wielding.  There are some elaborate combinations as you get further in the game, but you won't really use them much since the harder enemies and bosses block or reverse them.  So you end up sticking with the 3 and 4-hit combos to wittle away at the baddies.  Your off-hand weapon degrades as you use it, so you're always on the lookout for a replacement, which isn't hard to find given the amount of baddies that charge you.  You can also throw your off-hand weapon in an attempt to instantly kill an enemy from a distance.  The only down side is that getting the perfect angle to a wall to do what you want (run up it or along side it) is still a little cumbersome.  The plus to that is that the Prince is so acrobatic that even if you mess up, he usually hangs on to a ledge, and if he doesn't, you can just rewind time and start over.  Overall the acrobatic gameplay and puzzle design are still as good as last year, and with the new combat system it only adds more depth to the gameplay.     
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This is where the sequel fails.  In Ubisoft's attempt to make the game more appealing to random Maddenite type gamers, Warrior Within now features licensed rock music.  The music is integrated fairly well into the highs and lows of the action, but it just doesn't fit the environment.  Another downer is the Prince himself.  He seems to have become an asshole.  He now randomly shouts absurd taunts at enemies for no apparent reason other than to sound like a hardass.  He's definitely not the same unfortunate nobleman of the first game.  I can understand why he'd be pissed off and grittier than before, but they went too far with it.  Honestly he's not even a likable character anymore.  The only great thing about the sound is the voice acting in the cutscenes which is excellent.     
Replay Value 
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One of the only complaints about Sands of Time was its length.  Well, get happy because Warrior Within is considerably longer.  It's probably around 15-20 hours depending on your skill level and if you want to find all the hidden stuff.  The Xbox version also has a couple Xbox Live features that are worth mentioning, although they don't add too much to the lasting appeal.  There's an arena combat mode and a time attack mode that you can play in and post your high scores.  Other than that, the Replay Value is what you would expect from an action adventure game.     
The change in direction to a darker theme was a good idea but Ubisoft has gone overboard with it.  Despite that, the game is still a blast to play.  The acrobatic style of the Prince combined with the incredible level design make for one of the best games this season (even if the average score doesn't show it).  When Sands of Time came out, no one had any expectations for the game and it shocked everyone.  I think that people, including myself, may have expected too much from Warrior Within and even though it's a good game, the freshness has worn off a bit since last year.  Again, even with Ubisoft's best attempt to ruin it, Warrior Within is still one of the most enjoyable games this holiday season and definitely worth picking up.     
*** This review was written for shortly after the release of the game. ***

Other reviews for Prince of Persia: Warrior Within (Xbox)

    Not quite perfect but a good sequel to Sands of Time. 0

    In shortGraphicsVery detailed, and in some places, varied, despite the large amount of grey and brown shades used. - 4/5MusicContains a variety of music, which isn't bad, and is mainly a more rock oriented soundtrack than the first game. - 4/5GameplayGreatly improved combat, but still filled with platforming oriented puzzles like the first one. However, the difficulty curve can skyrocket at times (particularly during the Dahaka chase sections) and the camera isn't great either - 4/5Replay ValueA...

    1 out of 1 found this review helpful.

    Warrior Within could've—no, should've—been so much better 0

    Ubisoft proved that it was serious about bringing the Prince of Persia series back in full force when it released The Sands of Time in 2003. The game had inventive level design, solid combat mechanics, and best of all a genuine storybook feel that made it something really special. For the first time in a long time, here was an action game that not only had great action, but a story and characters that gamers actually cared about. A year later Ubisoft released the sequel, Warrior Within, and game...

    1 out of 2 found this review helpful.

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