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'WARRIOR WITHIN' PUTS UP A FIGHT.

Byline: Redmond Carolipio Staff Writer

NOTHING SAYS time travel and adventure like Godsmack.

That's the intro music for ``Prince of Persia: Warrior Within,'' an outstanding game that tries too hard to be - well, hard.

It's better than the previous chapter, ``Sands of Time,'' in almost every way - visual appeal, size, gameplay.

But its unwavering mission to be the badder sequel subtracts a little more than it adds.

The new mean streak is best represented in the Prince, the game's hero.

There's nothing wrong with trying to make a lead character edgier, but the Prince's sudden attitude adjustment is unnerving. In ``Sands of Time,'' he was a charming, Aladdin-esque adventurer who pulled in players with his ability to tell a story with charisma.

In this chapter, he's a stubbled sourpuss whose every action seems hellbent on proclaiming to the world, ``Look at how dark I've become! Arrrgggh!''

Now he yells with the swing of a sword, talks a little trash when he unleashes a combo and responds to a slashed face with the words, ``You (female dog)!''

The biggest problem with this potpourri of anger is that it doesn't fit the chemistry of the game. If ``Warrior Within'' had a lot more over-the-top violence or some explosions, perhaps it wouldn't be as distracting.

But the game's essence is built around a sophisticated, elegant gameplay experience. It requires skills at their sharpest, not rage. Playing a game like this angrily only leads to plenty of death.

The premise of the gameplay remains mostly the same. As the Prince, players will be plunged into a world full of intricate environments that asks you to climb cliffs, scale walls and leap from ledge to ledge. Oh, and there are a lot of traps, too.

As with the first game, the Prince's only advantage is the ability to ``rewind'' time to his benefit.

If you flub a jump and fall into a bed of spikes, one press-and-hold of the button dials you back to a moment when you were on solid footing.

Players have a limited number of chances to do this, so don't be careless. You'll need every chance you get, considering what comes after you.

One of the series' new concepts is taken from the survival-horror playbook: Run like hell from an invincible enemy.

In the Prince's case, the enemy is the Dahaka, an armored, hulking creature made of black mist that sounds like a record playing backward when it talks. It has tentacles. You can't stop it.

The Prince was actually supposed to die a long time ago, but his manipulation of the Sands of Time changed that. Fate didn't like that too much - hence, the Dahaka.

The Prince's mission is to stop the Sands from ever being made. If they don't exist, he can't mess with them. Then, maybe, the Dahaka will leave him alone.

Along with the Dahaka comes the requisite horde of zombie-like enemies, but the Prince has an expanded fighting system to back him up.

The most complicated move in ``Sands of Time'' was vaulting over an enemy and slashing him as you came down.

Now the Prince can break necks, toss people off cliffs and use a multitude of kicks and sword moves to cut enemies in half.

He also has the ability to use two weapons at once, bounce off walls and spin around columns like a Hong Kong action star. It truly allows for players to fight any way they want.

Aside from the anger-management issues, the only other problem I had with ``Warrior Within'' was its habit of suddenly switching camera angles at odd times, like in the middle of a complex jump. That can really throw players off and lead to some ``stupid'' deaths.

``Prince of Persia: Warrior Within'' is a worthy sequel to one of the best games of 2003, but it's too bad that Ubisoft felt the need to add the Prince to the overflowing box of mean-spirited heroes.

It's almost enough to make you mad.

PRINCE OF PERSIA: WARRIOR WITHIN - Three stars

Platform: PS2, Xbox, GameCube

Developer/Publisher: Ubisoft

How much: $49.99

Rating: M for Mature

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Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Dec 30, 2004
Words:698
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