Rise to Honor
Lovers of straight-to-video, kung-fu movies understand and appreciate the central core: a thin plot and lovely shown action-scenes, with a lot of special effects, following each other in a super-fast pace. Since Quentin Tarantino put the genre back in the spotlights, I gather that the timing for the release of “Rise To Honour” is exquisite. Another game that plays like a movie but will it be able to compete with the grandmaster in its genre (James Bond: EoN) or are there a few flaws that spoil the fun? The answer and more in this review.
And so the story goes: Kit Yun (Jet Li) follows his late father in his footsteps as a bodyguard for a Chinese mob boss. When this powerful man is dying he trusts in Kit to deliver a letter to his daughter in San Francisco. But who else is interested in that letter? (Let me assure you that it aren’t the people that were flowers in their hair.)
This review will be broken into three major parts: almost all negative issues about the gameplay, nothing but credit for graphics, sound and concept and finally a conclusion where I personally say which factors are of greater importance, but of course that is to be read critically.
THE NEGATIVE PART
Although the gameplay doesn’t constrain itself to button-bashing there are quite a few disturbing issues. To fight you have to use the right analogue stick and with the left one you control the movement. Immediately things start to go wrong because you can not walk and fight simultaneously. If you do Jet Li will behave like a stupid asshole whom you prefer to see get beaten up instead of fighting with him. When you finally discovered only to use one stick at a time your controller will last at least as long as it is supposed to. I only realised the previous fact after forty-five minutes and I can guarantee that my glue-gun sure came in handy.
I like to see developers try to create or use a not-every-day button-bashing control system, but here it is replaced with something I can describe as stick-sweeping. The only thing you have to do is move the right stick into the direction of an opponent. It is not possible to decide whether you want to punch someone in the face or kick him in the groin. Some of the levels are simply one giant fight and it keeps on going and going and going. Literally an astronomic amount of enemies. They are not hard to kill at all, like they aren’t in the movies, but as they keep coming and coming and coming you could die because of a lack of concentration or simply turn off the console out of pure boredom.
A try to make to surrounding feel alive with some interaction fails miserably. Suppose you would have to jump over a box, climb up on a ladder or pick up a chair to throw it at an enemy the only thing for you to do is push the R1 button and Jet Li is put on auto-pilot. It is a pity, but that is simply to straightforward to be interesting.
One last disappointment for you to get over is the system used for firing weapons. It offers nothing new and sometimes leads to frustration. Aim with the right stick en shoot with R2. Once a target is selected a marker appears that possibly need some aiming-refinements in order to make it light up green which is the signal for letting him eat lead. No real problems so far, but suppose you want a motorbike to explode and in that way clear a whole bunch of enemies at once. You will then need to select the object with L2 and in hectic situations you could lose precious time scanning the area for these exploding or falling objects. Especially when there isn’t a single one to hit, that will kill you since you can’t shoot enemies while doing so but believe me they can hit you.
When the adrenaline-bar is full one can initiate a “Max Payne slow-motion” but those only last for a second (stays true to the movies) while it could take minutes to refill it again.
If things get out of hand you could hide behind a wall or bench but that is of little use. Unlike I expected, there is no possibility to shoot around the corner or above your head and that leaves you with no other possibility than to get out of your hiding position and rush back in. It is almost impossible to do that without losing a great deal of health so there is little use in hiding.
All those things combined with a camera that can be a pain in the butt make things feel as if some actions were forgotten to be realised. As a result you can sometimes rush through an area and not be able to succeed the next five tries. Fun for gamers like me who can enjoy iterative gameplay to some extend.
THE POSITIVE PART
The graphic’s quality lies above space and beyond. One moment I was simply starring at the pool being stunned with the water that reflected the light so magical it felt like a spell. I lost attention to the boss who was at the moment showing of with his martial art skills and made use of the occasion to hit me black and blue. As I began to fight with Jet Li against an “Ichi The Killer” looking kind of guy I fell from one astonishing aspect to another. Jet Li moves surprisingly realistic as far as he moves realistically in his movies of course. That last part is of course irrelevant besides his face looks so real you do get a feeling of playing a movie.
Half an hour later I got sick of it all again after I started the motor-sequence and died to soon once more. It was still fifteen minutes before I had to leave so I decided to take a look around the menu and found some extra features (unlockable). After seeing the first “documentary” I knew why it all was that good-looking. A lot of motion capturing is used to make the characters move in a natural way. Other interesting issues are discussed too but unfortunately one American simply had to mention that is was oh so great to be working with one another and it was such a dynamic process in which we learned so much from each other and so on.
You can choose for a Dolby Surround mode instead of stereo and of course that is how I like it. Excellent music and Jet Li’s own voice make everything complete.
A pity, but there is no use in denying: gameplay is a major bummer. The sound-effects and music, the graphics and the concept are terrific. Personally, I can appreciate this game although sometimes frustrations rose above normal level (the word euphemism is in place here). No pain no gain fits more than ever because you get twice the satisfaction if you complete a level which had to be played over fifteen times. The game certainly plays like a martial-arts movie and that is definitely so if you know your way around the kung-fu classics. It feels wrong to praise this up into the sky because of some gameplay issues but besides those this martial-art/stealth-action/blast-them-all-to-hell episode has something of a forgiving innocence that forces me to enjoy it. Perhaps you could wait a few months until it becomes cheaper, I would definitely buy it then.