It’s hard to define what makes a great game. Some will argue that graphics are the most important, others will tell you it is control, and some will even say it’s the story, but what really keeps us playing is the enjoyment we get out of taking on the role of someone else. It is the reason we began gaming and it is the reason we will continue. Ubi Soft’s Montreal branch must have taken this to heart as they seem to do no wrong when it comes to making games. They are responsible for Splinter Cell and Rainbow Six 3 and now they deliver their latest masterpiece Prince Of Persia: The Sands of Time. Quite possibly the best adventure game available for the XBox and a pure work of gaming genius. Taking an already established franchise and bringing it into the next generation takes talent, and the boys at Ubi Soft have plenty to spare.
The concept may sound simple, the actions may seem simplistic, but the raw execution of this game is where it shines. Combat is simple yet effective and fun, the level design is typical yet brilliant in scope and layout, and the overall game feels like a giant sandbox just begging you to play in it. Each of the prince’s animations and moves flow so smoothly you sometimes forget you are playing a game. The best part about the game is that no matter how long you play it never grows boring or repetetive regardless of how many jumps or wall runs you must perform. This is how a game should be designed, with the enjoyment of the player in mind.
The story is told as a narrative by the prince himself. The dialogue is excellent, the prince will claim “That’s not how it happened” when you die and it’s definitely a nice approach on story telling. The game begins with you stealing the Dagger of Time from a rival nation. Then you are compelled by your nation’s vizier to use the dagger in the hourglass all hell breaks loose as you release the sands of time. It’s the old tale of Pandora’s Box told in an extremely refreshing fashion. Along your journey you will be aided by a beautiful woman named Farah. She is much more than a “me too” follow character as she will use her bow to aid you in dispensing enemies.
The dagger also allows you to perform some rather nifty tricks such as slowing down time, freezing enemies, or even rewinding time when you make a mistake. You gain these abilities by stabbing enemies with the dagger once they are down. This brings us to the combat, even in it’s simplicity of two button fashion it never ceases to amaze me how deep it becomes. The prince can perform acrobatic maneuvers and gravity defying leaps at the simple press of a button. The animation transition is also some of the smoothest I have ever seen. This leads to some truly cinematic fighting that never seems to wear thin on you. Throughout the game there are upgrades for the dagger scattered, you can also gain more slots for moves by defeating a certain number of enemies. The combat eloquently meshes together with the ravishing graphics to make for one of the best looking games to date.
Combat is not the only tricks the prince has up his sleeve, PoP is also made up of some rather inventive platforming and puzzle elements. None of them ever become too challenging nor do they ever bore you with simplicity. The solid controls make jumping and wall running so graceful you never mind having to do it. This is the engine Tomb Raider should be using and yet PoP does so much more, this is truly one of the best adventure games available on any console to date. The levels are flooded with gorgeous lighting and the story never ceases to keep you interested, especially the ending…spectacular.
It seems that Ubi Soft is defining themselves as one of the top developers on the market today. Taking advantage of the XBox console to deliver a smooth and gorgeous game with lots of bells and whistles PoP never fails to impress. This is one of those games that will be talked about for years to come and go down in history as one of the best of it’s type. Definitely not a game to miss out on no matter which console you own. Do yourself a favor and take this game for a whirl, the ten hours you spend going through it will be some of the best this year!