Remember When Godsmack Appeared in a Prince of Persia Game?

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Scene:Ubisoft executive suite in a high-rise somewhere in Montreal on a chilly morning in November, 2003.
Soulless Executive 1: “Hey gang, how do we improve upon Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time, one of the most critically-acclaimed games ever and a revolutionary title sure to shape the course of 3D video games for the next decade?”
Soulless Executive 2: “I know! Kids these days like antiheroes with zero personality, right? Let’s make the Prince, our titular protagonist, really dull and brooding.”
Soulless Executive 1: “Good, but we still haven’t quite made things edgy enough.”
Soulless Executive 3: “Got it! We’ll water down the excellent ‘Eastern’ soundtrack with some aggressive radio rock. What do the kids like today?”
All Soulless Executives:Godsmack!

And so it was that Godsmack became the public face of heavy metal in 2004.

Before watering down their successful formula with trite rehashes of the Assassin’s Creed franchise, acclaimed video game publisher Ubisoft created one of the most enthralling gaming experiences ever in the Prince of Persia trilogy for the Xbox/PS2/Gamecube console generation. The first game in that series, 2003’s Sands of Time, set the bar for immersive action-adventure games, blending impossibly tight 3D platforming with sporadic melee combat and environmental puzzle-solving elements to create an engrossing experience that wouldn’t feel out of place in the Shahnameh. Upon its release, critics praised the game’s seamless transition from parkour-inspired wall running to time manipulation riddles to brief fights with rabid sand monsters, all set against a gorgeous backdrop of Persian scenery and a lush, folk-inspired soundtrack. The game was bright and cheery despite its at-times catastrophic story events, and the Prince, the plucky, player-controlled character, was fun and endearing as he sought to undo the wrongs done to his father’s kingdom and to unravel the mystery of the Sands of Time.

____________________

So how did Ubisoft capitalize on the good will generated by their landmark title? By making the most mid-2000s game possible.

You see, the weak link to all that Sands of Time did right was the combat. End-game skirmishes seemed to mostly consist of you vaulting over an enemy’s back and slashing it when its guard was down. It was serviceable, and the ability to slow down or speed up time added a bit of novelty, but it did feel a bit undercooked in an otherwise stellar experience. To compensate for this, Ubisoft, to their credit, recalibrated the entire combat experience for the sequel to Sands of Time, 2004’s Warrior Within. The Prince was given the ability to now wield two different weapons at a time, and players could tailor their combat approach to suit their play-style. If you wanted to focus on speedy stealth skills, you may favor keeping only a dagger in your right hand, freeing the left for choke-holds and arm-bars. If you privileged a more cavalier assault, you could wield twin axes and unleash a devastating stream of combos. Warrior Within‘s combat was frenetic and gory; the Prince could finish his enemies with a variety of fatality moves, spraying sand and viscera across the scene.

However, Ubisoft seemingly decided that the first game’s whimsical, adventurous tone was ill-suited to the increased violence, so they needed something darker, rawer, grittier. And by golly, they committed to earning that M-rated badge of honor to suit the increased violence. Warrior Within takes place seven years after the events of Sands of Time. Hunted by an unstoppable force of nature, the seemingly invincible Dahaka, intent on claiming his life because he was supposed to die during the events of the previous game after unleashing the Sands of Time, the Prince has lost his glib joviality; the man we meet at the beginning of Warrior Within is harried and callous. His constant flight from the Dahaka has transformed him into a stereotypical grim and brooding antihero, one better suited for the grim and brooding violence of the new game. To complement this newfound blandness of character, Ubisoft hired a different voice actor for the Prince, one more capable of capturing that throaty edge so often needed to deliver the full force of childish profanity. And after realizing they now nearly had the edgy hat-trick of violence, swearing, and T&A, Ubisoft’s artistic directors gave the two women in the game absurd proportions and exceptionally skimpy clothing. If the smokey-eyed Prince on the cover didn’t immediately give away the game’s target demographic, the camera’s tight focus on Shahdee’s thonged buttocks within the first few minutes of the game certainly did.

____________________

This was a new Prince, one who liked chasing tail and saying the f*ck word and killing people, so he needed some killer hard-rocking guitar metal as a backdrop.

Enter Godsmack.

You may recall that in 2003 Godsmack released their chart-topping, Grammy-nominated, certified Platinum third album Faceless. Hell, it would be hard for you to forget. It was nearly impossible to listen to the radio or attend sporting events or watch harmless propaganda tapes for American Imperialism in between blocks of 24 without hearing “Re-Align” or “Serenity” or “Straight Out of Line” (or “Awake” from the previous album in the case of that Navy commercial). Perhaps the biggest single, though, was “I Stand Alone;” hell, that song was in Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson’s 2002 film Scorpion King (itself loaded with all manner of early 2000s tomfoolery), and by the time Warrior Within was released in 2004, the track was near ubiquitous as THE heavy riff de rigueur for people who didn’t actually listen to very much metal.

So, the soulless Ubisoft executives must have thought, what better song to capture the grit and danger of an unstoppable monster coming to take your soul than “I Stand Alone?” Every time, every single got dang time that the Dahaka appears in the game, “I Stand Alone” plays in the background, blaring across whatever vaguely eastern music Stuart Chatwood had originally composed for the soundtrack. And believe me, that Dahaka shows up a lot, triggering nail-biting sequences where you have to flee across crumbling, trap-filled infrastructure before the immortal beast can seal your fate. Or, these sequences would be some of the very best in the entire game for forcing you to think on your feet and apply your finely-tuned platforming skills to execute daring leaps, if not for that lame Godsmack song and its incongruous delivery over what was ostensibly a fantasy tale in ancient Babylon. Even as a teen who enjoyed mediocre radio metal, CGI butts, pointless violence, and swearing, Godsmack’s discordant inclusion in the swords and sorcery setting was a bridge too far; it didn’t so much create tension as kill it.

To add insult to injury, the game’s producers also included “Straight Out of Line” during the credits. Two Godsmack tracks from Faceless for the price of one. I guarantee nearly every brooding adolescent who played video games in the early aughts thought of Godsmack as the public face of metal for some time. No wonder people thought metal was dead.

____________________

With all that mope and grit, you’d think Warrior Within would have sold like hot cakes, and you’d be right. The game, although not quite measuring up to the acclaim of its predecessor, shipped a whole bunch of units and earned multiple nominations of its own. It was also critically raked for its absurdly juvenile delivery, although the gameplay itself was warmly (and rightly) received.

Ubisoft, to their credit, course-corrected after the deserved critical roasting they received, and did so in a surprisingly clever way. The trilogy’s third installment, The Two Thrones, actually featured both Prince voice-actors. The Prince’s character was restored to his original gregarious voice actor and cheery demeanor, but due to time travel and magical chicanery, the Prince would periodically transform into the Dark Prince, voiced by the gruff anti-hero from Warrior Within. While that may sound a bit phoned it on paper, it made much more sense within the wacky time travel shenanigans of the series and allowed the developers to implement both the excellent platforming of Sands of Time (the final boss battle that requires you to scale a structure of magical shifting sands to deliver blows to your arch nemesis is a gaming triumph) and the visceral combat of Warrior Within (now featuring absolutely brutal speed kills that reward fast and crafty players). The Two Thrones remains both a high water mark for action-adventure games and one of the most fulfilling climaxes to a trilogy ever. It was so good, in fact, that I was able to overlook the Godsmack sins of its forebear.

Unfortunately, this wouldn’t be the Prince of Persia franchise’s last misstep. No, that dubious award actually goes to the casting of Jake Freaking Gyllenhaal as the PRINCE OF PERSIA. Whitewashing is real, folks!

Thankfully, Godsmack’s involvement in action-adventure video games was mercifully limited. In fact, I can’t think of a single instance of such a jarring inclusion of a licensed track in a game since. For a brief moment in time, Godsmack was on top of the media empire, but metal, much like the world itself, has moved on, mercifully.

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  • Mosh Hoff

    Oh man, the memories. I loved every single one of those games in its own right, even if Sands of Time made the most impact and Warrior Within is 2edgy in hindsight.

    Best 2000s gaming Trilogy

    • Dubby Fresh

      The trilogy was fantastic. It’s probably one reason critics have been so hard on Assassin’s Creed. The climbing/exploration just doesn’t feel as good as it did in PoP.

      • Mosh Hoff

        Sands of Time has a very etheral PG feel I can’t quite describe though, Warrior Within traded blood for sand and yellow colors for dark browns and it just wasn’t the same.

        • Dubby Fresh

          Yah, I didn’t touch on that in this article, but the environment in WW was very gray and brown, as was typical of mid-2000 action games. It was just very drab by comparison.

  • Godsmack’s first LP holds a special place in my heart. Voodoo fucking rules. Good Halloween jam too!

  • Rolderathis

    I remember when I was like 7, my dad had stopped at Cumberland Farms for something and some edgeboiz came up to the car and asked him if he knew where GODSMACK was playing (it was at the Xfinity Center in Mansfield, MA). My pops probably thought that was some sort of brutal slam band by the way he grimaced at these troublemakers.

    • Howard Dean

      Ah, good ol’ Cumby’s. You could randomly pick any Cumberland Farms in existence and have like a 90% chance of buying meth or heroin from someone in the parking lot.

      • Joaquin Stick

        On the rare occasion I bought something from Cumby’s, they kept telling me that whatever I bought came with a free hot dog. I never accepted.

        • Dubby Fresh

          Brah, you always accept the free hot dog. Always.

          • Joaquin Stick

            I was always too confused by the question to even consider it. What you you mean a quart of milk comes with a hot dog? I don’t understand the promotions.

          • Dubby Fresh

            The hot dog is always hot and free, Stick Man.

          • Howard Dean

            When even meth addicts won’t buy your 2 for $0.99 hot dogs, you’ve got to find creative ways to get them out the door.

        • Howard Dean

          Good choice. All assorted meats on rollers are to be avoided at Cumby’s.

    • Elegant Gazing Globe

      So you’re 10 now?

      • Rolderathis

        wat? Maybe it was still called Great Woods back then…the venue has changed names many a time…Great Woods, Tweeter Center, Comcast Center..

        u trolling m8? I’ll have you know I was born in the early 90s!

        • Elegant Gazing Globe

          Whippersnapper! Became Xfinity in 2014. It’s gonna be called Spectrum Center next, just watch.

          • Rolderathis

            Sounds less “Corporate Shill” than Xfinity Center somehow haha

  • God

    That time rewind mechanic tho.

    • Dubby Fresh

      I liked the rando griffin that showed up to kill you.

      • God

        Damn near gave me a heart attack

  • The Mighty Thorange

    My favourite gaming series of that console generation. Sands of Time is a fucking masterpiece. I am glad you gave Wartrior Within credit for it’s combat despite it’s obvious flaws, the change in the Princes personality being unforgivable. And Two Thrones should get more praise than it does. I think that Warrior Within put a lot of people off playing more PoP games but Two Thrones was downright fantastic.

    • Dubby Fresh

      Two Thrones is seriously one of the most satisfying conclusions to a series I’ve ever seen in any medium.

      • Retchin’ Rites ov Karhu

        Very few series, but especially game series, actually come to a conclusion that is both satisfying and in some beyond the threshold of mere “good”.

        • Dubby Fresh

          Agree. I can actually think of several book series that peter out because the author only came up with enough story for a couple of books and didn’t really know how to end things. Television is also notorious for flubbing final seasons.

          • Retchin’ Rites ov Karhu

            I tend to think dragging on is a big part of it, you have a fine ending? Good, but it’s gonna feel a lot more suckier ’cause you ain’t got story for these 3587 pages between book two and final chapter.

          • Mosh Hoff

            See: How I Met Your Mother.

          • Retchin’ Rites ov Karhu

            Man, I’m not saying the preceding few were anything to hoo over, but that last season is some of the worst TV ever.

          • BobLoblaw

            That show was never good.

          • The Mighty Thorange

            Game of Thrones, Wheel of Time, most fucking TV shows. I tend to get really invested in a lot of book series and shows and then never reach the end because If get so bored with all the filler and meandering plots in between. I there is more than 5 books or seasons, then I will probably give up.

          • Retchin’ Rites ov Karhu

            Wheel of Time is one of the few series that managed to re-invigorate my interest in it, after diving down for a while. So I didn’t think the whole thing sucked/dragged ass bad as some others (and all in all I liked it).
            But like, even Breaking bad (which I finished only earlier this year) felt like it was a good season or two too long.

          • The Mighty Thorange

            I stopped watching Breaking Bad in the third season after that mosquito episode. It was such a bad episode that I did not feel any compulsion to watch more. I got part way through the second Wheel of time book and just stopped reading it. My friend keeps telling it does pick up again so I will at some point get back into it.

          • Retchin’ Rites ov Karhu

            “”Fly” has been described as “arguably the most polarizing episode in Breaking Bad history”, differing from most others in its slow pacing and relative lack of action. Some critics have considered it to be one of the greatest episodes of the series.”
            I didn’t love it, no sir, but only the last season was actually bad.

          • The Mighty Thorange

            I will finish Breaking Bad one day too. I think the only TV show I have made it to the end of recently is Mad Men.

          • Retchin’ Rites ov Karhu

            Don’t bother. Also, I’ve never seen a full episode of Mad Men,

          • The Mighty Thorange

            Christina Hendricks being on screen a lot helped. Not going to lie.

      • The Mighty Thorange

        Agreed. Also. I have just found all of the games on Steam for £7.99. And I just got paid and have a week of work. I think I have some nostalgia to catch up on.

        • Dubby Fresh

          Apparently there was a prequel I somehow missed.

          • Mosh Hoff

            Yeah a PSP game I think?

          • Dubby Fresh

            I think it came out on a bunch of different consoles/formats.

          • The Mighty Thorange

            I had the PSP version of Warrior Within called Revelations. It was okay. Had a few extra levels, weapons and combo’s. There was a prequel/soft reboot called Forgotten Sands. It should stay forgotten.

  • Howard Dean
    • TheGranulatingDarkSatanicMilfs

      NEVER UNDERESTIMATE A FATHER OF THREE WHO LISTENS TO GODSMACK

      • Howard Dean

        The best description of Godsmack and related bands I ever heard went something like this:

        “…might appeal to a guy with a wallet chain making out with his pregnant girlfriend while in line for a rollercoaster.”

        • TheGranulatingDarkSatanicMilfs

          “…while wearing a yellowed wifebeater”

  • Howard Dean

    [Obligatory AiC song link]:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hmOSizEukP8

  • Iron Tarkus

    I loved Warrior Within and at the time it came out I also enjoyed Godsmack quite a bit.

  • Janitor Jim Duggan

    Remember the Atari game of Journey? I actually have a copy.

  • ME GORAK™✓ᶜᵃᵛᵉᵐᵃⁿ

    GORAK LIKES WITCHER + VADER BETTER

    https://youtu.be/A3GEPkjNh6k

    • ME GORAK™✓ᶜᵃᵛᵉᵐᵃⁿ

      ME GIVED UP ON SAND OV TIME & NEVER TRY SEQUELS 🙁

      • The Mighty Thorange

        The Witcher >>>>>>>>>>>>> Most game and book series.
        Vader >>>>>>>>>>>>. Most death metal bands.

        If you can though, seriously give Sands of Time another go. You can skip Warrior Within. Two Thrones is epic.

        • ME GORAK™✓ᶜᵃᵛᵉᵐᵃⁿ

          HALFWAY THROUGH “TIME OF CONTEMPT” NOW!!!!!! BOOKS ARE GOOD EVEN WITH BIG WORD CAVEMAN NOT UNDERSTAND!!!!!!!! ME GOT FREE SAND OV TIME FROM UPLAY SO EVENTUALLY MAY GIVE ANOTHER SHOT!!!!!!

          • The Mighty Thorange

            I have the last book around somewhere that I intend to read as soon as I finish the third Dark Tower book.

          • The Mighty Thorange

            And how did you get Sands of Time free from Uplay?

          • ME GORAK™✓ᶜᵃᵛᵉᵐᵃⁿ

            UPLAY WAS GIVE AWAY SOME FREE GAME LAST YEAR LIKE SANDS OF TIME FOR SHORT TIME

  • HessianHunter

    I just had a horrifying flashback to the time me and a couple friends auditioned to our high school’s lip-sync “battle of the bands” with “I Stand Alone”. Teenagers are bad and dumb.

  • JWG

    I still believe that the 2008 installment was (so I guess still is) wildly underrated.

    I just wish the epilogue hadn’t heaped on the Fake Difficulty in an attempt to appease people who didn’t like that the main game appeared impossible to fail.

    • Hans

      The one simply called Prince of Persia? Gave that a go again not long ago. Didn’t hold up to my memory of it, but it’s not a bad one by any means.

      • Dubby Fresh

        I remember the reception to it being lukewarm, and with the graphical change, I just wasn’t interested.

  • David Lee Hrothgar

    Didn’t the unfortunately named Canadian band The Tea Party do the soundtrack to the first Prince of Persia?

    • Dubby Fresh

      Stuart Chatwood is a member of The Tea Party.

  • Elegant Gazing Globe
  • frozengoatsheadupanunsarse

    The movie should’ve had Keanu Reeves.

    • Dubby Fresh

      I’d be alright with that.

  • Rob M

    Know what…I’ll take the hit here. Warrior Within is still my favorite from the trilogy. I liked the darker tone of the story and the more grizzled version of the Prince. Hell, it even made that Godsmack song kind of enjoyable

    • Dubby Fresh

      Man, that’s wild. I actually like the Dark Prince in the context of Two Thrones. Trying to land his speed kills and shredding dudes with his chainblade was a ton of fun.

      • Rob M

        I remember liking Two Thrones well enough, because I enjoyed the whole trilogy, but honestly, it didn’t leave a huge impact on me. I don’t have a lot of specific memories about that one.

        …those moments in Warrior Within though, where you have to haul ass away from the Dahaka and just run the path on pure guesswork, loved those parts

  • Dark Spirit of Cold Ural Mount

    I liked the movie. It was pretty safe and inoffensive.