Pre-E3 2005 Prince of Persia 3 (working title) First Look

Ubisoft shows off the third entry in the revitalized Prince of Persia franchise.

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Ubisoft has been working steadily to mature its reinvention of the Prince of Persia series into a solid franchise ever since the first Prince of Persia debuted in 2003. The third-person platformer offered a fresh take on the old 2D rotoscoped adventure game that challenged you to navigate all manner of hazards on your way to rescue a fair maiden. The latest 3D update of the classic series has sprung from Ubisoft's Montreal studio, which has reenvisioned the prince as a swashbuckling action hero with mystic-fueled time powers. To date, there have been two entries starring this new prince--The Sands of Time and Warrior Within--that have made strides to establish and evolve the budding action hero. While The Sands of Time was universally embraced, Warrior Within actually polarized fans, who either loved or hated the new game's direction. For the prince's third outing, tentatively called Prince of Persia 3, Ubisoft is aiming to blend elements from both games into a new adventure (set to release this fall) that continues the tale of the agile hero. We got an early look at the game at a pre-E3 press event, wherein Ubisoft walked us through a work-in-progress version of the upcoming platformer.

Welcome home to Babylon. But before you get too relaxed, you've just got to save the city.
Welcome home to Babylon. But before you get too relaxed, you've just got to save the city.

Like its predecessors, Prince of Persia 3 continues the narrative that began in The Sands of Time by once again messing with your head through the employment of time travel. It seems our boy still isn't out of the woods yet, even after having altered time and space to set things right. The game opens up shortly after the finale of Warrior Within, where it finds the prince returning home abuzz from his victory. For about half a second, it appears as if Prince of Persia 3 may end up focusing on the prince's happy home life with his main squeeze Kaileena. However, upon arriving home to the magnificent city of Babylon, the prince finds all-new trouble. The once grand kingdom is ravaged by war, and for some odd reason, all his people have turned against him. With the prince captured, Kaileena does the only thing she can do to help: She unleashes the sands of time to save the prince by sacrificing herself. (D'oh!) The good news is that Kaileena's sacrifice does the trick, and the prince escapes his captors. The bad news is that the prince discovers he has a dark twin who's been created because of all his mucking about with time. Unsurprisingly, the pair doesn't get along. But like any good buddy movie starring Mel Gibson and Danny Glover, the two have no choice but to work together to stay alive.

The rich story helps set up the new gameplay mechanics in Prince of Persia 3 that let you play as the prince (whom we all know and love) and his grumpier twin. Though the core elements that have made the series popular are all here (you'll still solve puzzles, control time, perform all manner of athletic feats, and battle many foes), they're being given a new twist courtesy of the two playable characters. Each incarnation of the prince will now have his own specialty gameplay you'll have to use to make it through the game alive. The prince we all know handles almost exactly as he previously has, although his balance has been changed up. In Prince of Persia 3, you'll rely on him more for his acrobatics than for his combat skills, although he can still hold his own in a fight. The dark prince, on the other hand, is your go-to guy for murdering, especially when performing the stealthy kind. The shadowy avatar comes packing a wicked hook blade, called a "daggertail," that offers some stealth options that are key to getting around Babylon.

However, don't think Ubi has stapled Splinter Cell gameplay onto the standard Prince of Persia formula. The dark prince still has an action feel to him. You'll still have to slow down a bit when lining up a kill, such as when you're balanced on a chain directly above your prey and are about to drop on him. However, combat still has a good feel to it that improves on the direction Warrior Within started heading in. Your time powers have been tweaked some--allowing for some new surprises that Ubi will reveal later on--which will also complement the new gameplay mechanics. As far as structure goes, Prince of Persia 3 will feature more of a free-roaming mechanic than the previous games in the series. You'll be able to explore the streets of Babylon or run across rooftops, depending on the situation and who you're playing as. From the sounds of it, the normal prince is tailor-made for roof hopping, while the dark prince is the guy you want on the streets. To switch between the two, you'll have to walk in fire to get your dark side on, and you'll have to take a dip in some life-restoring water to lighten up.

Chariot races are just one of the many new features in the game, apparently.
Chariot races are just one of the many new features in the game, apparently.

The game's presentation, while still being pieced together, is coming along well. The visuals are sticking to the ambitious precedent set by the previous entries in the series, presenting the keen eye for scale that has always been a high point of the franchise. We were only able to see a bit of the war-ravaged Babylon, but, as a once-epic kingdom that was brought down by war, it was looking good. The rooftops let you see far off into the distance, where fires and smoke are visible. The streets were in ruin, but they were the perfect places to sneak around for killing. The audio in the work in progress was still coming together, but Ubi reps on hand noted that in keeping with the goal of melding the best aspects of the previous games, Prince of Persia 3 will attempt to walk the delicate line between Warrior Within's Hoobastank-fueled rock and The Sands of Time's more ethereal soundtrack.

Based on our early look, Prince of Persia 3 seems to be aiming for a middle ground that should appeal to fans of both games. The new gameplay options open to both princes, as well as their unique feels, should provide good amounts of depth to mine while playing. The story is, once again, a powerful draw that will no doubt suck you in as you try to unravel what the heck went wrong this time. The visuals that are currently being cooked up to frame both the narrative and varied action are looking epic, thus wrapping the whole package up nicely. Prince of Persia 3 is slated to ship this fall for the GameCube, PC, PlayStation 2, and Xbox , so look for more on the game from the E3 show floor and in the coming months.

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