Prince of Persia: The Warrior Within
Game Info
Platform(s)
GC, PS2, XBox
Publisher
Ubisoft
Developer
Ubisoft Montreal
Genre
Action/Adventure
Official Website
ESRB Rating
Blood and Gore, Intense Violence, Sexual Themes
 
Grade
The Good

• Superb gameplay & control
• Solid visuals

The Bad

• Unlikable story and central cast of characters
• Piss poor audio

 
Grade
B+

Once upon a time, the Prince of Persia series saw its majestic protagonist through fairy tale inspired adventures. Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time broke new ground last year as the Prince left his 2D roots in a silky smooth transition to 3D. Despite the critical acclaim the title garnered, fanfare remained modest. The prince has returned in Ubisoft’s latest attempt to capture the public eye, and this time… he’s mad.

While there is something inexplicably alluring about a ‘good- guy-gone-bad’ theme, the prince's recently depleted serotonin levels leave me more worried than anything. In short, the stories darkened theme comes off a little over the top. The good news is, that underneath its superficial exterior, this title offers an extended quest and a deep new fighting system worthy of a wrathful prince. Warrior Within remains the dark cloud amidst its colorful successors, but it still proves to be a worthy addition to the ongoing saga.

The change in attitude of the central character is attributed to a story that places him in dire straits. After unleashing the sands of time in his last adventure, the prince finds himself tormented by a vengeful beast called Dahaka. With Dahaka fast on his heals, the prince's impending demise is as inevitable as the word the beast embodies, ‘fate‘. This prompts the frenetic hero to go back in time to stop the cursed sands from being created in an attempt to undo what ‘fate’ has in store for him.

Ironically, the sands that remain the source of the prince's anguish, also aid him in his quest to be rid of them. The sands are collected throughout the game and allow the prince the uncanny ability to manipulate time in his favor. This is a continuation of last years thought-provoking concept that proved useful in helping the player avoid an untimely death of one sort or another. Platforming segments of the game are not as common this time out, but still make up a hefty chunk of the action.

With the new focus on combat, it comes as a surprise that Warrior Within moves at a slower pace than last years entry. The Sands of Time featured linear levels that made for a run-and-gun style of gameplay. The latest edition features a more open ended approach to its level design, giving it a slightly more explorative feel. Unfortunately, the map screen is vague and won’t be much help if you happen to get lost amidst the games large environments. The levels remain well designed and highly interactive, allowing for the same pole-jaunting, wall-climbing antics that made last years adventure so entertaining. This game is clearly more battle focused than its predecessors, and its also more difficult. You have a wide array weaponry at your disposal. Weapons enforce a multitude of different fighting styles that will have you stringing together combos meant to bring terrible harm to your opposition. You will also have the ability to either single handedly or dual wield weapons. Single handed wielding offers less in the way of swordsmanship, but allows for a free arm to perform various throws or grapples. One complaint about last year’s attempt was the shallow combat scenarios that became monotonous as the game wore on. The new free-form fighting system will allow you to construct your own combos, and unique new fighting styles of your own creation. At some points in the game, you may find it easier to rely on basic combat tactics. This undermines the complexity of the games fighting engine somewhat, but overall, you’ll be glad that your offensive abilities have been upgraded. You will need to take any means necessary to survive, because enemies come in droves, and blood baths are sure to ensue

In terms of visuals, Warrior Within is a dramatic departure from its lush forbear. The graphics remain on par with last year’s valiant effort, but they inspire a much darker feel. The artistically driven environments are beautifully rendered and highly detailed. The meticulously crafted architecture constructed within the games vast landscapes conveys a distinctly gothic appeal. The use of dust particles and dynamic lighting add a striking sense of atmosphere to the overall presentation. Problems with camera still arise from time to time, and the view point can become awkward as a result of it, but this is just nitpicking. The frame rate is consistently impressive, and the animation remains liquid fluid throughout the action. Character models are now sharper, and seemingly less blocky. Enemies are nearly as sinister in appearance as the brooding prince himself. Right down to his cruel snarl , he has been rid entirely of the whimsical warmth he once conveyed. In terms of visuals, the PS2 version of the game lags slightly behind its console competitors due to a frame rate that’s less than brisk.

It is uncommon for one aspect of a game to fall so woefully short of the mark that it actually tarnishes an otherwise enjoyable experience. Let the god awful ‘noise’ featured in Warrior Within be the exception. To its credit, the game features well orchestrated ethnic tracks and ambient melodies, but they are unfortunately brief between the shrill segments of poorly amplified guitars. After all, nothing sets the mood for the ancient middle east like modern day thrash-metal-sensation Godsmack (insert: biting sarcasm). The sound effects are continually grating, no thanks to enemies that scream out in pain like tormented hyenas. During the cut scene segments of the game, the voice acting is often out of sync with the cinematography, this is most common in the Xbox version of the game. While the dialogue is both well acted and scripted during cut scenes, it becomes a problem during combat. The unlikable prince taunts his opposition in battle with all of the cunning of a grade-three bully. Listening to him spit out the same ridiculous rhetoric over-and-over again is a head splitting experience that is sure to unleash the Warrior Within you. For instance, I felt like putting my fist through my television. Your best bet is to turn down the volume...low.

Thanks to the games easy to learn controls, you will be performing feats of death defying agility with-all-the-skill of an acrobat in no time. Firing off explosive combinations during the games hack & slash segments is also accomplished with relative ease. The button sequencing that you will use to accomplish these attacks is provided in a tutorial brought up by your start menu. Everything is well laid out, and highly responsive. The games user friendly controls are ingenious in design, and allow for easy access to a deep gameplay experience.

Warrior Within is more difficult than last years entry, and provides a lengthier quest that lasts nearly twenty hours in duration with the added incentive of unlockables. The open ended landscapes will offer more in the way of exploration should you decide to revisit them. Recent additions to the gameplay are sure to have you coming back to master each of the deadly arts the game features. Xbox users will be privy to the option of XBL support, but you will not be competing with or against actual people in battle. The addition is simply a competition to see who can amass the highest- score-posted through various runs in a single player effort.

Warrior Within succeeds in improving on a brilliant gameplay formula, and remains a worthy purchase for that reason. However, it was the lovable story that truly set last years Sands of Time apart. Prince of Persia: Warrior Within builds on the weaknesses of its predecessor, but at the same time falls short of its strengths. All in all, this is a great title that offers something entirely new to a series that didn’t really need it.

- - Shawn Cooper

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