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Prince of Persia: Warrior Within (Xbox) artwork

Prince of Persia: Warrior Within (Xbox) review

"It's this apparently apathetic lack of true care that Prince of Persia: Warrior Within will be remembered for the most. Whereby the original stood out from the crowd with its polished gameplay and abundant good charm, its sequel comes off as a mere rehash, made to order in a paint by numbers fashion for the early Christmas rush."

The Prince is dead, long live the Prince... or so the story went. But when you're fortunate enough to have time on your side, death isn't quite the handicap it used to be. And it was with this powerful new ally in tow that players sprinted through Prince of Persia: the Sands of Time, relishing one of the greatest action/adventures ever made. Fate though can be a fickle bitch, and it was having successfully slapped it on the nose that we were led to believe that all had been set right with the world. Our hero had vanquished the evil Vizier, rescued the princess, and in the end had ridden off into the sunset, closing the book on a fairytale-esque journey that simply cannot be beat. The smooth as silk animations were sublime, the action without equal, and an old franchise was suddenly born anew. So spell binding was it all in fact that UBI Soft soon set to work preparing a successor to its throne. Only this time the Prince would be edgier, more adult, and capable of whopping arse like never before...

... then someone forgot to check their work.

But first things first, we're missing the hook and a little exposition is sorely needed. With the events of the Maharajah's castle now firmly behind him, life should have returned to normal for our fair Prince... but that's never going to work. It's as such that the Prince now finds himself hunted by the Dahaka, a monstrous Guardian of Time and soon to be bane of your life as well. Playing with the continuum has it's consequences you see, and when this balance is upset it's the relentless fury of the Dahaka that sets things straight. And so Prince of Persia: Warrior Within begins with a bang, the Prince on the run, the Dahaka in hot pursuit, and players hoping against hope to evade the machinations of fate just one last time. But how do you side step the inevitable and give yourself a second chance? The answer is clear: we must return to the source of our problems, slay the Empress of Time and destroy those accursed Sands once and for all. So obvious really, it's quite amazing no one thought of it sooner.

As simple as that story may first seem, its real strength comes from how the various time elements have been woven together in the creation of a single, brain twisting paradox. "A" leads to "B" which thusly alters "A" where the time lines diverge and "C" is born. Then just as you think you have it all figured out, the hands on the clock slowly tick and you're right back at square one again. And yes, nothing beats a good paradox! Still, returning players may be disheartened to learn that much of the witty banter that made the original so enjoyable is now missing without leave. Instead, generic witticisms and groan worthy one-liners are delivered at a rapid fire pace, often to the detriment of the grim, almost desperate tale being told. Yes it's darker and perhaps the Prince is hanging on by a thread, but do UBI Soft really need to beat us over the head with it as well? Apparently so it would seem, though I sorely wish they wouldn't. Where is our dear Farrah when we need her? A little light banter now would have served us well.

Other than the ill thought out scripting, Prince of Persia: Warrior Within remains a true and faithful sequel in every way. All the wall running, monster hacking, high flying acrobatics you previously enjoyed are back for another round, only now heavily improved with added whoop arse for extra oommpphh. Of special note is the improved combat system that turns what was once a fun, albeit repetitive, hack'n slash adventure into a heavily strategic ballet of sword swinging death. Surrounded and out numbered, you'll leap to and fro, at times rolling over the backs of your enemies, running up walls and cleaving skulls in nothing but the tightest of fashion. That you'll also be able to dual wield a second sword is kind of nice as well! Slice an enemy through, spin and turn, then throw a dagger at yet another encroaching monster. Time it right and it's off with their head, their body eventually dissolving in a fine mist of brilliant sands and anguished screams. Now strut a little. Pose for the camera, and kick up another blade and get back to work. Tres cool my good Prince, tres cool indeed.

When you're not getting down and dirty you'll be looking to navigate the "scaled-down" labyrinthine environments to the best of your freshly increased ability. Unfortunately however in what is perhaps the biggest misstep, the original's mind warping puzzles have been replaced with a series of straight forward, connect the dot style challenges that do little to tickle the old grey matter. Pull this to open that, run like hell and shift this crate from there to here. It's all so sadly generic though at the very least you'll still find time to get some platforming in as well. Helping to compensate for this shift in focus are the new chase sequences were players must outrun the ever present threat of a rampaging Dahaka. A shift in color to the more sedate sepia tone signals its approach, and with a mighty yelp the chase is on. The camera swings round and you take off, sprinting into the screen through and under, over and around whatever's in your way. Meanwhile... the Dahaka closes in...

So what do you do? Players born of the quick reflex will soon find themselves jumping time lines and fleeing to the past where an overwhelming sense of deja-vu awaits. In a tip of the hat to the been there, done that experience, Prince of Persia: Warrior Within is yet another game divided by yet another two realities. Whereby the here and now is represented by a time scarred castle over-run by weeds, the past has you exploring these very same grounds in all their opulent beauty. Tapestries hang from the ceiling while gold glitters brightly on the wall, and no matter which way you turn there's a vibrant sense of majesty in the air. That being said however, having two time lines means double the legwork, otherwise known as a hell of a lot of back-tracking. And while some attempt has at least been made to conceal such obvious indiscretions, one can't help but get the feeling that UBI Soft were looking to extend the lifespan of their game just that little bit more. Doubly so when you're revisiting an area for the nth bloody time...

But yeah, that sort of thing is tolerable so long as the game is fun. And that's exactly what Prince of Persia: Warrior Within is. From the freshly implemented boss battles to the Prince's recently powered-up time controlling abilities, players are sure to be pleased with the action even while the game continues to disappoint. For instance, the myriad glitches and other assorted "undocumented features" drag things down considerably. Minor bugs like a disappearing soundtrack or a badly timed quip are but a sign of things to come, then a game breaking glitch interrupts the action and you're left to wonder what on earth went wrong. Cinemas sometimes fail to load, switches have no effect, and an impromptu appearance by an altered character model spoils a lot of the story's oh so sweet surprise. If it sounds like a big deal then perhaps it really is, but there's also the slimmest of chances that players will be lucky enough to avoid such monumental uck fups. And if that's the case, then more power to you. Expect the worst and hope for the best, or so we've been led to believe.

It's this apparently apathetic lack of true care that Prince of Persia: Warrior Within will be remembered for the most. Whereby the original stood out from the crowd with its polished gameplay and abundant good charm, its sequel comes off as a mere rehash, made to order in a paint by numbers fashion for the early Christmas rush. Even the music that once drew players in with its dream-like qualities has been made redundant, a heavy mix of power chords and rock-ish rifts being indicative of the new attitude we're supposed to love. And yet underneath all this ill conceived tom-foolery lies the beating heart of a true champion. It may not be up to scratch but the magic of old is still there, even if slightly obscured and leaning a bit to the left. It's easy to dismiss this sequel then as just another game, the truth of the matter however is far more elusive than most. Fans of the original may get their moneys worth while others will invariably lap it up. Next time however we want polish and shine, dropping the attitude for the sake of some class. Good, but not great. Solid, but not excellent. So much then for the Warrior Within...


* A simple yet engrossing story fully utilizes its time bending premise
* Upgraded combat keeps the action lively
* The platforming elements are just as fun now as they were 12 months ago
* An improved camera system helps to maintain fluidity in movement
* The Dahaka chase segments are truly terrifying
* Boss battles, while samely, are indeed good fun
* Dual weapon sword play is a blast
* The graphics and character animations are just as impressive as ever
* It's about twice as long as the original


* A lack of polish and numerous bugs and glitches hamper the action
* The cheesy one-liners and badly scripted dialogue will make you cringe
* Platforming and puzzles have taken a back seat to all the action
* The generic hard rock soundtrack fails to inspire

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Staff review by Michael Scott (February 08, 2005)

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