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Prince of Persia: Still the king of the swingers?

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That fluffiness is compounded by the simplification of some of the platforming mechanics. Building swing momentum on a pole to make a long jump now isn't necessary, or even possible. Instead, a canned swing animation kicks in when the jump button is pressed, which always leads to a standard length leap. There's no need to balance on planks and narrow platforms either. When landing on one, the Prince now comes to a dead stop, frozen and unable to do anything but jump ahead to the next one when the button is pressed again. And with significantly long timing windows for control inputs, jumps can be pre-loaded in mid-air before the next platform is even reached.

While smoothing the flow of the game and showing off the Prince's animations beautifully, this does all rather lend the feel that the game is playing itself a good portion of the time. In fact sometimes it even feels like it's all just a case of pointing the Prince in the desired direction and hammering A until he gets where you want him.

The new combat system is a more welcome change, but definitely an acquired taste. Now based entirely around one-on-one duels, Ubisoft's claims that it harks back to the original 2D game's fighting are entirely accurate. You'll circle your opponent in 3D space, but dealing damage is all about edging forward while maintaining a defensive stance, and waiting for an attack window to open up before starting a combo. Enemies are very defensive, and a blocked hit will often leave the Prince wide open to attack. Fortunately, parrying is fairly easy to pick up once you learn the timing, and leads to a nicely tactical to-and-fro dynamic in battle.

There's a slow, deliberate pace to fighting this time around, and that's something that's going to take some players a while to accept, especially after the dynamic freeform combat of Warrior Within. But it's worth sticking with, as although it never provides the same kind of frantic thrills, when played with skill and practice it can be really rather satisfying. But again, thanks to some very generous attack input windows, the longer battles sometimes have a tendency to feel like extended QTEs. The fixed camera angle for combos doesn't help the interactive cutscene feel either.

At the moment it's tricky to know who Ubisoft is aiming the new Prince of Persia at. The simplified controls and platforming mechanics imply the expanded casual market, but the fact that everything is still based around the traditionally hardcore PoP model is likely to scare away the Wii Sports brigade regardless. Similarly, the occasional difficulty spike around boss fights is a little at odds with that philosophy.

The levels we've played so far have been relatively simple affairs, mostly consisting of moving in a single direction via wall-runs and swing jumps. We've been told that the finished game will include PoP's more complex, indoor platforming conundrums, and that can only be welcome news to hardcore players. But will those epic feats prove off-putting to casual players regardless of the new controls?

Right now, the game could go either way. With stunning production design and refreshed gameplay, it could be end up bringing the Prince of Persia magic to hardcore and casual camp alike. And for that, we could only praise it. But depending on how well balanced its approach turns out to be, it may fail through trying to please everybody at the same time. We're quietly hopeful, but we need to play more. Watch, as ever, this space.

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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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