Tao Feng is the latest fighting game in a genre chock full of pretenders. What differentiates it from the other games in the pack is the pedigree of having John Tobias as one of the lead designers. (Mr. Tobias was one of the key folk who helped develop Mortal Kombat). Other new features are the ability to damage an enemy’s limbs and the characters’ skin/clothing show damage as the it gets hit.
The game takes place in an alternate universe where China has taken over most of the West coast of the United States. In Metro China (what is now the Seattle area), two factions (the Pale Lotus and the Black Mantis) are fighting it out over an item that will give power over the opposing faction. To be quite honest, there is a decent back story here but it really doesn’t play that much in the game. Basically, you have two groups that want to beat the crap out of each other for control. Each faction has six characters, three male and three female (how PC). Each of these characters has the usual set of strengths and weaknesses (speed versus damage) and they have one complement on the other faction that is the counter to their strengths. It’s a nice balance but it can be frustrating when you walk through five of the characters only to get stuck against one character because the balance is so out of whack. However, at the same time, it does force you to find new ways to utilize the same character.Tao Feng’s
graphics are top notch. You can tell that the developers put many hours into making sure that everything was perfect. The character models are well done and the animation of each character is very fluid. As a fight goes on, the character models will start to show damage from the fight. This is apparent via torn clothing and bruises and cuts on the characters. This is a cool effect except that the damage does not necessarily match up with where a character has been hit. I tested this by just working the upper body during one match and at the end of the game their pants were torn up even though I hadn’t hit them there once. It’s a minor thing but it does distract from the game.
The game features five different modes of play. Versus mode (you take on another human opponent), Quest mode (the single player portion of the game), team battle (you select a group of fighters and battle it out against the computer or another opponent), Survivor mode (you select one character and have to fight your way through a group of opponents), and training mode (practice the moves against a computer dummy). Story mode is probably the deepest of the group featuring 73 missions (six characters against six opponents and one boss mission). While this seems like a lot, it doesn’t really feel it since you face the same six opponents over and over again, just with a different character. The other modes are typical fair and don’t offer anything original but do add some fun when you’re playing with your buddies.
Characters are controlled using either the d-pad or the left stick (you need to turn this on in the options menu). The d-pad is the best method of control, as the left stick just doesn’t seem to get the job done well. You have two punches and two kicks which can be combined into some nice combinations. You can also perform juggles (launChing your foe into the air and then hitting them before they land) but you have to get the timing down. Chi attacks are launched from the white button (this works fairlywell on the S controller but is a little more difficult to pull off on the bigger Xbox controller). The controls are pretty much intuitive and don’t really get in the way.
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