Inside Pulse 12

Review: Rise To Honor (PS2)

Rise to Honor
Genre: Action
Platform: PS2
Rating: Teen
Developer: SCEA
Release Date: 02/17/04

Games based on movies generally suck. While there are a few exceptions like Goldeneye and a couple of the Lord of the Rings games, on average the games are just rushed half-assed pieces of garbage to make a few extra bucks on the name of the movie. Evil Dead: Hail to the King anyone? While the basic concept is a noble one, trying to let the audience actually play as the main character and interact with the movie, most of the games fail to convey the story or the suspense of the movie. Not to mention that it’s hard to get into the role as the main character when you are fighting the controls throughout most of the game.

SCEA (Sony Computer Entertainment of America) decided to go in a different route. Instead of making a game based on a movie, Rise to Honor has its own story completely unrelated to any movie. The game is a movie by itself. Instead of having a predetermined release date that other movie-games have, they were able to work on Rise to Honor for 3 years. Like any movie, this game needed a star, and who did SCEA get?

Sony hooked us up with the multiple time martial arts champion, the man who has performed in front of leaders from several countries, a man who has been in over 30 movies. Jet Li. Can you tell I’m a fan? As far as I know, this is the first time Jet Li has ever been a part of a video game. So how does his first game do?

Story:

The story opens up with Jet Li as Kit Yun protecting the head of a Hong Kong Crime family, Boss Chaing. That’s all I’m going to tell you because really anymore and it’ll ruin some of the plot. What I will say, and probably get burned for, it that the story of the game is better than the story in many of Jet Li’s American films. Well, at least it’s MUCH better than the plot in Cradle 2 the Grave. That’s not to say the story is very deep, because it’s not. The story doesn’t need to be deep, just interesting and compelling enough to move us in-between the action sequences. With that in mind the story does a great job of keeping the player interested while slowly revealing more details about the characters and the plot through flashbacks and the introduction of new characters.

The best part about all of this is how it accurately captures the feel’ of an action movie. Part of it is how fluid the game plays; there are no loading times from the cut scenes to the action. The game also automatically saves, so you don’t ever have to stop and save the game manually. A small thing, but the flows more smoothly because of the auto save, and it become easier to immerse yourself into the movie aspect of the game since you’re not thinking about where the next save point might be. Another small detail that is in the game that I loved was the homage paid to other Jet Li films in different parts of the game. Just small stuff in the cut scenes like a certain stance he’ll take or how he escapes out of a building by falling from one ledge to another.

SCEA did a great job not only creating a plot that feels like it could have come straight out of an action movie, and creating an atmosphere in the game that many movie games try for and fail at.

9/10

Graphics:

It’s almost scary how realistic Jet Li looks in the game when they show his face. Except for one problem, the character models head for Jet Li is too big. However that’s only noticeable during some of the cut scenes and really isn’t noticeable at all during the times you’re playing the game. All the character models are well done although every stage has its share of repetitive looking enemies. The most detailed characters are the main characters and bosses who all look great.

The environments are well detailed and there is a nice diversity to all of the locations as you make your way through the game. Many of the environments have a nice amount of reflection, but you’ll be wondering why so many places have puddles. Overall even with the amount of details and reflections the levels have, the levels themselves come off as dull.

The best parts of the environments do not come from the background details, but on the amount of interactivity that each level has. When you grab an enemy you can smash their head into almost any surface, and if it’s glass it will break. You can push an enemies head under water if there is any around, or slide them down a table. Chairs and other objects can be thrown, and tables and benches broken.

One of the biggest worries of a third person action, the camera, is never a problem. I was worrying about this at the beginning of the game when I realized that I couldn’t change the camera angle, but I never had a problem with the camera throughout the game. Considering how many action games nowdays have camera issues, that’s pretty freakin’ amazing if you ask me.

The fighting looks good and it animated well. The collision detection is iffy occasionally. Sometimes an enemy will look like he missed you, but you’ll still get hit from the move. The main character not only looks like Jet Li, but moves like him as well through the use of motion capture technology. There is no blood during the game or cut scenes when you shoot someone, which will occasionally look odd when you shoot the hell out of some guy. All of the cut scenes are done with the in game models and background and have a cinematic presentation to them.

The most annoying thing is while you are fighting, occasionally the camera will shift into a close up perspective and show the move you are currently doing in slow motion. This will happen a lot throughout the game and is annoying since you can’t turn it off. Still there were times in an intense fight where it would go into slow motion when I’d be diving forward punching a guy and I would shout What did the five fingers say to the face!’ as the guy I was punching flew into a wall. It’s fun to have in the game, I just wish they had included an option to turn it off.

Speaking of presentation, the main menu of the game looks a lot like something you would expect from a DVD menu. Each level is separated in chapters like on a DVD menu that you can choose from at anytime once you’ve beaten them. You can also choose to play the game in Progressive Scan or wide and fullscreen. Another nice touch.

7/10

Sound:

The voice acting is great. Every now and then you’ll hear a hokey sounding line or two, which to me just adds to the experience that I’m playing part of an action movie. Come on, what action movie doesn’t have a hokey line in it? Jet Li does the voice for the character he plays(in both available languages), which is kind of surreal to see a video game character look, move and sound like the person they’re supposed to be.

The sound effects are only okay. Many of the sounds from the gun shooting to items breaking sound generic and aren’t very good. Whenever you hit an enemy you’ll hear the same smack sound over and over again followed by the assorted grunting of the main character. In the making of video in the extras it shows Jet Li recording those grunts himself which is funny to watch.

There are a couple of audio options including a language option with optional subtitles and the ability to listen to the game in mono, stereo, or surround sound.

6/10

Controls:

Rise to Honor is roughly broken down into three different types of gameplay, Fighting, Shooting, and Stealth. I’ll break each down in a second, but one thing I’d like to mention is that I don’t remember playing any game action game in the last couple years (outside of the GBA) that uses so few buttons. Outside of the joysticks, you only use 3 buttons on the controller, R1, L1, and R2. Part of this is because of the use of a context sensitive button.

That’s right, R1 will be giving you what you need, when you want it. R1 basically controls every action outside of fighting and shooting, and the game will let you know through a gray bar at the top of the screen when to press R1 and what action you will do by pressing it. For example, if you are next to a ladder a gray bar will pop up letting you know that pressing R1 will have you climb the ladder. The game introduces you to this concept right away by having you chase a guy through some alleys and across a roof by jumping over obstacles, climbing ladders, and even running along a wall (Which is becoming THE fad to replace bullet time in action games) all done by pressing the R1 button at the correct moment.

Another reason that you use so few buttons is because of the fighting system that SCEA decided to use for the game. To attack enemies you tap the joystick in the direction that you want to attack. I can understand the reasoning behind this decision since they were trying to emulate the large fight scenes that are in Kung Fu movies with the main character fighting guys rushing in from every direction. It takes a little while to get used to and even when I got used to it I still found myself occasionally having a hard time attacking in the right direction, leaving myself open for an ass whoopin. The R1 button is also used in combat as holding it down will allow Kit Yun to dodge any attack aimed at him while the block meter is full. The block meter fills instantly when you are finished blocking, it is just used as a measure to keep you from constantly blocking. Holding down R1 and attacking an enemy at the same time will grab the enemy and put him in a headlock. From there you can either do a stylish throw on the enemy by flicking the right joystick again, or drag him till a SMASH’ icon lights up at the top of the screen and bash the poor guy into one of the many breakable objects scattered in every level. Holding R1 and L1 together and flicking the right joystick allows Kit to counter attack, which is mostly the same kick for every time you counter but occasionally you’ll do a specific counter like grabbing two guys heads and knocking them together. At later parts of the game you will need to counter effectively in order to defeat some bosses and larger groups of enemies. Running toward the wall and pressing the R1 button will let Kit flip off of the wall. That’s one resourceful little button. Kit also has an adrenaline meter that he can use when flashing. You hold down L1 to use the adrenaline which will speed Kit up and add damage to his moves as well as causing him to do flashier combo moves.

While the fighting gets frustrating sometimes, I kept having flashbacks to the 2D sidescroller beat em up games I used to play in the arcade and at home. Really I think this system is the closest to capturing the feel of those kind of games in 3D.

The shooting parts of the game add the R2 and L2 buttons into the mix. There will be several parts of the game where Kit will manage to get his hands on 2 (and always two) guns. You still push the right joystick in the direction of the enemies you want to attack and press or hold the R2 button down to shoot at them. This leads you to generally moving the right joystick back and forth in the general direction of the guy you’re trying to kill and hope most of the bullets hit. Every time you get to a shooting sequence there will be plenty of objects to hide behind by pressing the R1 button. You can’t shoot around whatever object you’ve chosen for cover, the best you can do is tap the R1 button to quickly get out and back behind your cover. I wouldn’t piss and moan about the fact that you can lean out of your hiding place to shoot the enemies, but at the end of one stage you will fight a boss who CAN shoot you from behind his cover. What the hell?
Anyways, L1 uses the adrenaline meter here are well giving you the bullet time effect to use. L2 lets you to lock onto objects you can blow up, which makes the fact that you can’t lock onto the enemies you’re trying to kill much more noticeable.

The stealth’ parts are one of the most annoying things in the game. You hide like in the shooting parts with the R1 button, and watch for the patterns on the guards you are trying to get past. Then you grab them and knock them out. That’s it. Don’t worry about being silent or anything, unless it’s within their flashlights, these guards are completely oblivious to what’s going on around them. It wouldn’t be so bad, but some of these parts are long.

The fighting parts of the game do successfully capture the look of a large Kung Fu movie fight scene, and the controls simple for anyone to understand and responsive. I can’t say the same about the other parts of the game. The shooting isn’t bad”¦.it just isn’t good, especially in comparison to all the other games with shooting elements in them. I hated the stealth parts of the game. I’m glad that SCEA added different gameplay elements to keep the game from getting overly repetitive; it’s just obvious that the fighting was their main focus and the other parts are just sort of in there.

6/10

Replayability:

Little to none. Once you’ve beaten the game you can up the difficulty, or play wearing different skins from two Jet Li movies, but unless you really love the fighting system or story, there ain’t much of a reason to sit through it again. You can choose a chapter to play over again at any time after you beat it, which means you can skip the damn stealth levels at least.

With the way it reminded me of the old beat em up arcade games I really wish that there had been some kind of high score mode thrown in, but that would’ve really thrown off the whole movie style presentation they were going for.

3/10

Originality:

A movie game that’s not based off of any movie? As I said before there are many games out there that try to put you into the role of the main character of an action movie, SCEA decided to go a different route and put an original movie into a game, and while the end result may not be entirely satisfying, it certainly is unique. The addition of the odd fighting system also sets itself apart from other action games, while Grabbed by Ghoulies used the right joystick in the same way, the system feels more natural in the setting of Rise to Honor.

7/10

Appeal:

This game should appeal to a wide variety of fans, from action game and movie fans, Jet Li fans, and fans of old style beat em ups. Those looking for a game with strategy or depth, why are you looking for those in a Jet Li game? It is an interesting game concept with a good commercial with a well known action star. That alone will draw some people to the game. It worked for me!

7/10

Balance:

The game is easy. Almost the entire game is just figure out the attack pattern of various enemies, block or hide until they’re done with their preset pattern, and then unleash the Touch of Death. Okay, there is no Touch of Death, just the carpal tunnel syndrome of death from rotating the right joystick for a couple of hours. There really isn’t much of a challenge, even the hard mode will not be that difficult for most people because you already know almost all of the enemy patterns by that point which do not change with the difficulty level. The difficulty in the later levels grows more from having multiple waves of enemies gang rape you instead of having smarter enemies which comes off as the game being cheap instead of challenging.

What’s up with the easy action games nowdays?

The game is easy and it’s short. Although like I say on a weekly basis, it’s not the length that counts, it’s the amount of fun you have with it. By it I mean the game. There really isn’t anything that you can experience in the game beyond a rental. That might be okay for a $20 game, but not a $40 game.

5/10

Miscellaneous:

There are a couple of assorted extras in the bonus features menus. You can listen to different soundtracks that are in the game, look at stills of character and environmental artwork, and watch a making of video of the Rise to Honor game. I recommend anyone who rents or buys the game watch the video because it is an interesting view on how they did the motion capture and the reasons as to why Jet Li decided to be in the game. He talks about how he is getting older and wants to have something like this around for whenever he can no longer do the stunts that he can at least still pick up a controller and do them through the game. He also talks about the differences between making the game and making a movie, and how liked not worrying about his facial expression so he could smile while kicking around the stunt guys. I’m still haunted by visions of getting my ass kicked by Jet Li while he has a big smile on his face.

Also in the extras are alternate costumes for you to wear in the game. They don’t just effect your appearance either, it changes how you play the game. One skin makes Kit Yun look like Wong Fei Hung from Once upon a time in China. While wearing the skin, enemies that hit you do more damage than you normally would, but I think you do more damage and your block meter lasts longer. The other costume is from Fist of Legend, enemy damage hurts you even more, and your blocking meter depletes rapidly, but the adrenaline gauge fills really fast. For a Jet Li fan, the extras are appreciated. There are two other videos as well done with the in game character models of Jet Li and a woman just demonstrating different forms.

If you want to learn more about Jet Li and what films he has been in, check out his official website jetli.com.

7/10

Final Scores:
Story: 9/10
Graphics: 7/10
Sound: 6/10
Control: 6/10
Replayability: 3/10
Originality: 7/10
Appeal: 7/10
Balance: 4/10
Misc: 7/10
Overall Score: 5.6/10
Reviewers Tilt: 5.510