With the electrifying combat prowess of Jet Li at your fingertips, and the ostentatious fight choreography of Cory Yuen fueling your every move, Rise to Honor successfully captures the cinematic flair and rip-roaring excitement of a Hong Kong action film. Jet Li's superlative fighting style has been replicated perfectly through motion capture technology. As you catapult off of a wall into a spin kick, and exchange countering attacks with a foe in a lengthy choreographed sequence that can best be described as poetry in motion, you really do get the feeling that you've stepped into the shoes of the almighty Jet Li.
To successfully bring Li's signature fighting style to the video game front, Sony Computer Entertainment America's Foster City studio developed an innovative combat system that allows gamers to assail multiple enemies at once. With context-specific moves assigned to the right analog stick, you can seamlessly transfer attacks from one foe to the next. For instance, if you find yourself in a situation where two enemies are advancing from opposite sides, tapping to the right will throw a jab at the enemy on the right, then hitting left will send a back kick to the enemy on the left.
Assuredly, the combat system feels a little awkward at first, but once you understand its intricacies, you'll love it. Taking down 30 enemies without getting hit truly is a remarkable feeling. The only area where this unique formula comes up a little short is in countering attacks. To dodge a move, you simply need to hold the counter button and tap the analog stick in the direction of the foe when an attack is thrown. Rather than pushing gamers to hone their reflexes, the timing of your counter doesn't have to be precise. In fact, you can simply jam in the direction of the foe without penalty – which results in uncontested retaliatory strikes.
To offset the martial arts and inject variety into the mix, Sony has incorporated run and gun and stealth sequences. These stage-specific gameplay styles appear frequently, but neither matches the quality of the hand-to-hand combat. As clunky as the shootout controls can be, and as odd as it is that you never once have to reload, I actually enjoy the simplicity and epic explosiveness of mowing down dozens of enemies in no time flat. As for the stealth exercises, let's just say that you're basically playing the children's game "Red Light, Green Light" with a bunch of dimwitted security guards with flashlights. In other words, they couldn't be more dreadful.
As is the case with most brawlers, Rise to Honor is as linear as linear can get, and does little to invite gamers back for a second time. The entire game can be completed in roughly five to eight hours. As rewarding as the hand-to-hand combat is, Rise to Honor's thrills are short lived. It's an enjoyable play, but much like Jet Li's films, is nothing more than a lazy afternoon of fun.
Jet Li stars in a beat ‘em up with motion-captured, choreographed sequences and unique analog fighting
Other than the awkward running animation, this game's visuals scream "big budget." It looks great.
The soundtrack is hit or miss, but I absolutely love the fact that the characters speak Cantonese in Hong Kong and English in the U.S.
The analog combat system works incredibly well
Highly enjoyable, yet far too linear and way too short
Rated: 7 out of 10
Editor: Andrew Reiner
Issue: March 2004