I got Prince of Persia: TFS as a free game with my xbox console bundle and put off playing it in favour of Batman: Arkham Asylum. Having completed that game (and played a few others in the interim), I finally sat down with TFS last night, after finding 2008's Prince of Persia devoid of any real incentive to carry on. I'm a huge fan of third person action/platformers, but didn't quite dare to hope that Ubisoft's fifth outing would (in my opinion) better their first.
Make no mistake, this is Prince of Persia for those of us who played (and/or completed) Sands of Time, Warrior Within and The Two Thrones. This is Prince of Perisa returning to its original xbox roots whilst redefining everything that made me enjoy Sands of Time to begin with. It's almost as though this is the game Ubisoft wanted to make first time around, but couldn't due to certain hardware limitations.
Take the opening level, your brother's palace is under attack from invaders and it's up to you to reach him. Except how you go about doing it is such a refined, enjoyable, seamless platforming experience, that I didn't mind playing through a rehash of the original game's opening level. At least not when it looks this good, it's obvious right from the off that you're in the midst of absolute chaos, and things only get better once King Solomon's (fabled) army has been released.
The Prince can now wall run from the left or right-hand side of a ledge he's already grabbed onto, as well as having the ability to climb up cobbled walls. Both are a welcome addition to the standard acrobatic move set of pole swinging, column grabbing and wall leaping. I'm also glad that now you have to run over activated floor spikes instead of walking very slowly (this change was first introduced in Warrior Within).
This brings me to the combat, which despite comments lamenting its 'simplistic, mundane' nature, is anything but simplistic or mundane. Fans of Batman: Arkham Asylum should be lapping up the free-flow combat since there's no actual block button. Instead the Prince can use his acrobatic moves (by pressing A), to leap into the air before coming down on an enemy with a sword attack. There are different finishing moves, which can be used to defeat 'vulnerable' enemies, as well as chained combos and a new shove attack (used to stun shielded enemies). The Prince can also dispose of enemies over low walls, which for a game of this type makes absolute sense.
XP is awarded for the disposal of large groups of enemies and a separate upgrade menu soon becomes available. According to the story you appear to acquire powers of a race known as the Djinn, in effect you're given access to new magical abilities. Personally, I think these abilities add variety to combat, especially given that I acquired the 'stone armour' ability (it makes you impervious to attack for a short time) before any others. However, early on it's more than possible to be killed by hordes of enemies, unless you plan your attack before they actually close in. Easy or not, it's still hugely satisfying to dispense large groups of attackers at once. I remember the combat in Sands of Time as being difficult and frustrating, whilst the difficulty might be amiss, at least it's a lot more fun here. And The Forgotten Sands is all about having as much fun as you possibly could from a single player adventure.
The level design is absolutely flawless (once again), as each area seamlessly flows into the next with no loading times. Commendable. Although your progression is largely linear, it never feels linear in the traditional sense, due to the scope, variety and sheer fun of what's on offer. Large puzzle rooms are not only breath-taking to look at and navigate, but they also require a certain degree of lateral thinking, and this is where The Forgotten Sands absolutely excels itself. Each puzzle can be solved in a logical manner and therefore made sense of without ever becoming laborious, frustrating, boring or overly complicated. And it's for this reason that the game constantly flows devoid of any slowdown of movement, except for some cinematic cutscenes. (Incidentally, having the original voice actor return to voice the Prince is like meeting up with an old friend you haven't spoken to for a long time).
That's as much as I can write from what I've played so far, but if you've still got any doubts after reading what I've written, you probably wouldn't take heed of any further comments anyway. Sometimes you want to experience a game instead of just 'playing it' and much like Batman: Arkham Asylum, Prince of Persia: The Forgotten Sands delivers in spades.