I was there when Sony unveiled Rise to Honor
to the rest of the world at San Francisco in the fall of 2002. To me and the rest of the gaming press it seemed like a very monumental event as it was one of the first marquee titles to feature a big-time actor that had so much direct input on the game. Forget about watching Jet Li act in the movies, in Rise to Honor you would be Jet Li and you’d experience firsthand just how lethal his craft was. As I watched some of the guys from Sony’s Foster City-based studio demonstrate some of the game’s more cinematic elements I began to drool and salivate over the title. This was a year and a half ago, the gaming world has changed and it seems like Rise to Honor has been left behind. Seeing the game in action is one thing but actually playing it is an entirely different story.
You’re cast as Kit Yun, a character who embellishes every single kung fu movie cliché that you can possibly imagine. He’s an undercover cop who’s taken a role in the Hong Kong underworld to bring down the lifestyle that led to his father’s death. Since Yun has ties to Hong Kong he’s a master of the martial arts who has the ability to take on multiple foes at once while looking like a perpetually worried Jet Li. I’ll concede that the idea of stepping into Jet Li’s shoes is a pretty appetizing invitation and the fact that he’s brought along Corey Yung, his fight choreographer, only helps matters. Then I forgot that all of Li’s Americanized movies have been absolute filth and that he hasn’t shined since his old Hong Kong action days. It’s funny because that’s something that really typifies what Rise to Honor is about, feeling dated and looking way past its prime.
If you’ve seen any Hong Kong action flick in the past decade or so you pretty much have a good idea of how Rise to Honor’s story pans out. Every character is pretty much an archetype that fits into one extreme stereotype. For instance you’ve got the do-good hero in Yun, the ass-kicking heroine in Michelle, the bumbling buddy in Chi and the mysterious superior figure in Lau. From the moment you meet the characters you can pretty much dictate their fate on the account of the unwritten rules of the HK action flicks. So when you see one of the supporting characters take a bullet or see a key character turn on you it’s not too much a surprise because you’ve been sitting around patiently, waiting for it to happen. In fact, you’ll do a lot of sitting around in Rise to Honor because most of the game’s real action takes place during the cutscenes. Most of the cool stuff that happens in the game, including the bad guy’s ultimate comeuppance, takes place via PS2 controlled cutscenes.
In addition to assuming Li’s likeness you’re also assuming his persona. This means that his whole arsenal of jabs, kicks and back fist elbows are at the tips of your fingers. In order to unleash your fury you’ll be utilizing the much touted 360 degree fighting system that Sony’s Foster City studios were proudly touting a year and a half ago. Basically the system calls for a complete deviation from the face buttons and maps out all of the attacks to the right analog stick. All of your attacks are relative to your position on the screen so tapping the right analog stick will cause Kit to attack away from the screen while tapping it to the left will force him to attack to his left. By using rhythmic presses you can unleash combinations that will deal out damage to your foes. This sounds all good in practice but actually getting the damn system to function is a whole ‘nether story.
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