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PS2 Review - 'Rise to Honor'

by Hank on March 3, 2004 @ 4:11 a.m. PST

Rise to Honor engrosses gamers in the story of Kit Yun (Jet Li) who is the trusted bodyguard of Boss Chiang, the leader of one of Hong Kong’s notorious crime gangs. As Chiang is assassinated, he whispers his dying wish to Kit…to deliver an important message to Chiang’s estranged daughter Michelle in San Francisco. By fulfilling Chiang’s wish, Kit becomes entangled in a web of alliances and hidden agendas that unveil a great struggle between his sense of duty and honor.

Genre: Action
Publisher: SCEA
Developer: SCEI
Release Date: February 17, 2004

Buy 'RISE TO HONOR': PlayStation 2

In ancient times, many people in China and warriors in particular maintained this ideal: to live for honor. Honor was of such a high value back in the day and is probably still considered so now. However, unlike the past where their everyday lives depended on the honor they built, I believe the importance of honor has lessened. Still, I think it will never disappear from their hearts. Welcome to Sony's new PS2 game, Jet Li's Rise to Honor.

All right, before we go on, I'm going to immediately voice my opinions. True, it's not my standard style, but for this game I just have to get it out. I thoroughly enjoyed the game. This title wasn't really in my high priority games to get, sadly. But I'm glad I broke down and got it. To be honest, I didn't even know about it until out of the blue my local game shop had the demo. Being a Jet Li fan, I may be biased, but having played so many games in this genre I feel I will give it a just review. And to get right to the chase, the system is what people will hate or love about this game. It's not your standard controls using the x, square, triangle, and circle. No, these extraneous controls would actually get in the way.

The controls you will use are the analog sticks and shoulder pads (L and R buttons). A majority of the attack system depends on the right analog stick (well, not a majority, but a significant amount). This is used to attack in the eight different directions surrounding your character -- in a sense, your 360-degree view. In order to combo, you will need to hit the direction button in succession. A faster interval will result in a faster attack and more chances of a longer combo, while a slower rate will execute a more powerful one with lower count. The moves do get repetitive, but you really don't have enough time to be focusing your attention on that. In DMC2, you are rarely surrounded and it is easy to be alert when fighting one character. In ROH, on the other hand, you are always surrounded, forcing you to fight and punch in several directions. If you do it correctly, the attacks will not seem the same, since guys don't always come at you from the front. You will know this if you have watched many Hong Kong flicks, but if you haven't seen any especially the ones Jet Li are in, you probably wouldn't understand this fighting style. Jet Li is most known for his incredibly fast attack speed, blending Wushu and Tai Chi as he takes what he has learned and creates new moves.

Because of Jet Li's talent, Sony decided to use his moves for this game. And to accurately portray Jet Li's moves, the team working on ROH utilized motion capture. In the special features, they include a making of ROH which informs us about the motion capture. And boy, did they make a right choice. The moves in the game look magnificent: crisp, clean and fast-paced. It's as if you are watching a movie rather than playing a game.

To make it seem like a movie, the game has zero load time. Yes, you heard me correctly. They have completely removed the Now Loading feature; in its place, they have cut-scenes to show the upcoming event. I find this to be a wonderful idea because it seems like you are never waiting for anything. From what I have read, Sony has implemented this by having it actually load the data during the scenes. Furthermore, it automatically saves while you are still moving and controlling the character. (Though remember to not turn off the PS2 or hope there is no black out when this occurs)

There are a total of three main characters: Kit Yun, Michelle and one bad boss Kwan. Don't get me wrong - there are others, but these are the main ones, and your entire story will be focused on them. Of course, you can't forget the goons that you will face. I'm definitely not going to go into them because there are just too many, and I do not know the names for all of them, but they all have their own set of attacks. After playing for several hours, you will slowly begin to understand how to counter their moves. Don't get all excited if you learn how to counter one goon, though, because they differ when you change locations.

The Story of ROH takes place in Hong Kong and San Francisco. It begins with you becoming a new bodyguard for Boss Chiang and having your skills tested. Once you have passed the test, the game will progress to the next segment where you will have to do your job as a bodyguard: protecting Boss Chiang from an assassination. You try to you protect him for as long as possible only to be disappointed, and this is where the story starts. As Chiang is dying, he has one final request. He asks that a letter be mailed to his beloved daughter in San Francisco, considering her to be the only thing he did right in his life. But as we all know, nothing ever goes as planned. After finding Michelle at the Metereon and delivering the letter (yeah, Sony is strongly advertising their own stuff), she gets kidnapped. You, as the hero, must try your best to save her. Eventually, you will be heading back to Hong Kong, but it's not going to be a breeze.

You will need to successfully finish off the chapters. The objectives range from stealth killing, running away, and basic combat missions. Running away is probably one of the most interesting aspects in the game. Kit has to constantly flee from gunfire or even bombs, and during this time, his obstacle course isn't a clear circuit. Instead, the path is completely blocked, forcing him to execute jump moves over any barriers. They aren't the standard moves you use in everyday life; no, these are showy jumps just to make the player more excited. My favorite running one is probably the sniper level where you are looking through the enemy's sniper rifle making sure to avoid getting hit; one hit and you are fish food. The other objectives are pretty straightforward, but some of the basic combat missions are incredibly complicated. I personally hate the Boiler Room Brawl 2, and I have no idea how I even passed that level. The enemies just constantly attack.

In Hong Kong flicks, you will often see the hero (in this case, Kit) surrounded by a multitude of enemies. Well, they have taken that idea and put it into practice here, especially in that boiler room level. You are fenced in by eight different guys, requiring you to employ your mad skills in order to defeat them all. However, this level has a trick: all of them attack you at once! Thankfully this is the only battle that you will have eight guys trying to take you on at the same time. The game is usually set up so that there are a bunch of guys surrounding you, but like in the movies, they take turns attacking and make it a lot easier for you to counter. You hit the person who charges first, and then you switch to the next, repeating the process until all enemies are defeated.

You will not always have to rely on hand-to-hand combat for defeating enemies. Sometimes you have weapons that will assist you in victory. The weapons available would range from a variety of guns (going John Woo Style) to items that you may pick up along the way (such as wrenches, pipes, and more). The gun system still needs work, but it functions decently well. You use the right analog stick to aim at the target and the R2 button to fire, and to hit non-human destructible targets, you will hit the L2, right analog, and R2. You can also do double targeting, although I am not too good at it myself; you accomplish this by hitting the R3 button and rotating to the next target. When you are equipped with other weapons, such as the bat, there is one major downside: those attacking methods deplete Adrenaline, which you see on the HUD.

The HUD has three items: the aforementioned Adrenaline, the Guard gauge, and a Health meter. Adrenaline is necessary to bust out some of Kit's impressive attacks like the 360 kick (and a break dance move), his super speed boost when the bar is fully charged, and finally a counter which also requires him to guard. Guarding is really impressive in this game; having heard so many complaints about the simplistic guarding system used in other titles, Sony took into account that guarding in one position is unrealistic. When you hit Guard while playing Kit and the enemy attacks, you will dodge in a manner that makes it look like a choreographed scene. Remember, though, that Guard does run out, so try your best to not use it up. Kit will be stunned for that instant when your Guard is gone, making him vulnerable to attacks. It does rejuvenate quickly, though, so you don't need to worry. Guard is also used for grabbing objects, and it is most impressive when you team up with Michelle, using your grab skill to perform a team attack.

The twin dragon boss actually uses this method against you in their final battle, but it is easily countered. You will probably worry more about the other bosses. Most of the time, boss battles are fought mano to mano, so you can just focus on him. Although the final boss can be annoying, one thing I found out when facing him is that you can counter a counter! Yes, and it looks awesome if you counter enough and hit the max counter limit. You will bust out a bicycle kick. Say 'Hello' to Liu Kang again (a guy from Mortal Kombat).

Rather than screaming like Liu Kang, Kit is actually voiced by Jet Li. Yes, some may hate it, but some will like it. I personally don't mind it, despite what everyone says about his voice. It definitely sounds better when he speaks Cantonese, though. They have kept and used the original language when in Hong Kong, and you have the option to leave it that way or you even change it to English if you like. Not only are the main characters voiced, but even the goons have something to say once in awhile. Depending on the character, the voice would be different, and for some odd reason I never got annoyed with it. This may be the fact that the primary focus is on the music and fighting sounds. The soundtrack consists entirely of instrumentals, ranging from slow tracks to fast and upbeat ones based on the situation. You can even listen to them from the main menu. Another noteworthy sound effect is the loudness of the guns; it just sounds so reassuring that you are really using a handgun or semi-auto and never running out of bullets. But what I really love hearing is the sound of tables and objects on the screen breaking.

Almost everything on the screen is breakable, including glass, vending machines, tables, and chairs. These items are placed all over the stages. All stages are pre-rendered and look pretty good, giving you plenty of areas to hide for cover. The characters' facial expressions are even better, reflecting identical facial features to their respective actors. But what I enjoy the most are the fights - the characters seem to get hit and react to Kit's attacks in a realistic fashion. One sad part is you can't do a 360 rotation around the character when he does an awesome combo, since the camera is set.

Overall, I have to say this game is very solid and a lot of fun. There are a few downsides that many have faced, but the major ones are the facts that the controls aren't the easiest to pick up, the dual targeting system needs work, there is no rolling, and the game can be considered really short. I personally finished it in two days. However, it is still extremely hard, even on normal mode. When you beat the game, it will unlock other character models of Jet Li, some of which are unfamiliar to me. When you unlock them, the attacks are slightly different and are more based on the fighting style of that movie character. I suggest that you give the game a try. Since it is easy to beat, you may want to rent it first and see if you can bear the style. But I say it was worth my purchase.

Score : 9.4 / 10

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