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Rise to Honor (PlayStation 2) artwork

Rise to Honor (PlayStation 2) review

"Itís hard not to become interested in Sonyís latest action-adventure game Rise to Honor (RtH) because of the main character, Kit Yun. ďKit YunĒ may not be a familiar name, but Kitís character is built around the ever popular action-film star Jet Li, who was completely rendered, motion captured, and voiced for the game. Through the gameís introduction, weíre told that Kit is a bodyguard for a notorious leader of a Hong Kong crime syndicate. However, things arenít always so two-dimen..."

Itís hard not to become interested in Sonyís latest action-adventure game Rise to Honor (RtH) because of the main character, Kit Yun. ďKit YunĒ may not be a familiar name, but Kitís character is built around the ever popular action-film star Jet Li, who was completely rendered, motion captured, and voiced for the game. Through the gameís introduction, weíre told that Kit is a bodyguard for a notorious leader of a Hong Kong crime syndicate. However, things arenít always so two-dimensional, and neither is Kit: heís also an undercover cop trying to clean up the streets of Hong Kong. Soon Kit will find that sometimes the only way to clean up a mess is to make a bigger one.

The story is forced to take a backseat to the action throughout most of the game. Youíll get to watch a cinematic after every battle you get in, but they arenít very engaging. After Kitís fatherís death Boss Chiang takes on Kit and helps him along. After that, Kit feels he owes it to Boss Chiang to protect him. As Kit is performing his duties as a bodyguard for Boss Chiang, things go from bad to worse as they are attacked by a rival gang, and soon, the Boss becomes victim to a fatal sniper wound. In his last dying wishes (how many people actually have last-minute, death bed wishes by the way?), he urges Kit to take an important letter to his daughter Michelle, who is living in San Francisco, USA.

As expected, Kit turns his back on his job, lets his emotions get the best of him, and is in the ďCity by the BayĒ the next morning. Unfortunately, there are other people that want to see that letter, and once they discover that Kit has it, theyíre going to throw wave after wave of random thugs at you in order to stop you. Fortunately, Kit is a trained killer, and heís going to put up quite a fight to get that letter delivered. The game is divided up into a series of scenes, much like individual scenes from a movie that you take part in. Essentially, you ďactĒ out a scene by beating the *** out of everyone, and then a cutscene comes up that closes the previous scene and sets up the next one.

There are three types of action in RtH: hand-to-hand combat, gun fighting, and stealth missions. The hand-to-hand combat is the part that Jet Li was motion-captured for. This dominates about 75% of the gameplay, so youíll be spending a lot of time slapping the right analog stick. Yeah, thatís right, the right analog stick: you only use the stick to attack, none of the face buttons like in traditional games. Basically, all you have to do is tap the stick in the desired direction of attack and Kit attacks. This creates a smooth combat system that unfortunately is hampered overall because of the inability to control the attack you perform, be it a punch or a kick (or, if you pick up a melee weapon such as a chair leg, swing). There were times I really wanted to kick in hopes of knocking down more than one enemy but only punched, which annoyed me. But overall, the hand-to-hand combat was wholly satisfying, even if it was a bit weaker than it could have been with some minor tweaking.

Gun fighting is the second biggest aspect of RtH. And I absolutely despised it, more so than any other part of the game. The controls for it arenít nearly as comfortable and workable as the controls for the hand-to-hand combat, and itís just uninteresting and bland. Itís very repetitive too, most of the time youíre running down a corridor or an ally, and some enemies pop out. You hide behind something, wait for the shooting to stop, point your right analog stick in the direction of them and then tap the R2 button to shoot them. You can also target objects in the environment to create random explosions or cause things to fall onto enemies, but by then youíre pushing half the shoulder buttons and pointing the analog stick and still getting shot atÖitís a bit disjointed to say the least.

Then, the final portion is stealth missions. These I actually didnít mind as much, because they were really, really simplified. Theyíre pretty self-explanatory, but they provided a nice break from the relentless action of the game. Thereís lots of hiding and sneaking around, which works well for the game. These only encompass a small chunk of the game, but I think anymore time spent with them would have probably made me hate them more.

I think I may have lied when I said that there were only three types of action in RtH. In a category of their own are the boss battles that take place. These battles are frustrating and annoying. I think the only other games that have managed to annoy me more (but keep me playing) were Mega Man 3 on the NES and Midnight Club 2 on the Xbox. Most of the battles have you resorting to taking a bunch of damage to figure out what the boss is going to do, dying, continuing, and then trying again. They really hurt the overall pacing of the game by demanding that you redo the same segment over and over again, which doesnít really flow well in a game with such a cinematic design.

Expect to spend about six hours to beat RtH, but after 2 hours, prepare to be frustrated with the game. While it may all sound really fun, every aspect of the gameplay becomes frustrating at some point or another. The hand-to-hand combat is a lot of fun, except when the game decides to throw a dozen different enemies at you and you canít really do anything at all. The gun fighting isnít really fun at all, but it gets frustrating when bosses can do whatever the hell they want and shoot you where ever you are while you have to wait for them to stop moving in order to hit them. And the stealth portions get frustrating when you canít accurately judge your distance from a guard because of the fixed cameras. FRUSTRATION!

At least the games graphics go along with the cinematic style. Kit looks remarkably similar to Jet Li (as he should), and the motion capturing is phenomenal. The different fighting moves looks so swift and fluid that at times they do in fact seem right out of a movie. The other characterís moves and models (with the exception of the other lead characters), are repetitive, but they arenít too noticeably distracting.

Aiding the cinematic feel are the areas you fight in throughout the game. Theyíre fairly small, but their size works to their advantage, in that they feel like a set from a movie instead of a confined area. And thereís a good amount of environmental destruction to go around too: pick up a chair and toss it at a baddie, and he may just go flying into the table behind him. You fight on both the streets of Hong Kong and San Francisco and also in dozens of locations, including Sonyís own Metreon entertainment complex.

Jet Li lends his voice to the game as I previously mentioned, and the half Cantonese, half English dialogue (depending on your location) featured in the game is actually pretty solid. The broken English of the actors reminds me a lot of the old Jet Li movies that I used to watch when I was younger (Once Upon a Time in China was an old favorite) with terrible dubbing. The music isnít too terrible either, but the orchestrated pieces get a bit outshined by the action and youíll only find yourself realizing their even playing when you arenít fighting, which isnít very often.

Overall, the package isnít too terrible, but this is definitely a game youíll want to rent. Itís simply too short and too frustrating to warrant a purchase, unless of course youíre a diehard Jet Li fan and want everything of his that you can get your hands on. There are a couple of unlockables worth mentioning, such as a chapter selection that allows you to replay any scene in the game, some concept art, a couple of videos, and a higher difficulty, but theyíre not as satisfying as they could be, much like the actual game itself.

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Community review by asherdeus (April 15, 2004)

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