Voice Module








In Memory
Sean Pettibone



Many titles have attempted to fuse video games with cinematic presentations with varying degrees of success. Sony's ambitious Rise to Honor stars action-hero film star Jet Li in a game that blurs the lines more than most. The game looks fantastic with polished, glossy production values and an interesting plot that will have you reaching for the popcorn. Rise to Honor's simplified controls make for an accessible game, but the downside is a limited move set that limits the player's fighting movements. A lack of variety in enemies and non-interactive cinema sequences also hurt the game's flow. Its fun for a short time, but the novelty of playing a movie wears off quickly and Rise to Honor falls short of its ambition.

Set in the dark underworld of Hong Kong organized crime, Rise to Honor takes players on an exciting adventure. The game stars action-movie hero Jet Li as Kit Yun, an undercover police officer who gets sucked into a dark world after promising revenge to a dying man, early in the game. As you might have guessed, Rise to Honor's presentation is quite cinematic, with numerous cut-scenes and dramatic camera angles used to dramatic effect. The game impresses visually with fantastically detailed environments and great direction that makes Rise to Honor feel like a movie. The game uses motion capture expertly and makes the characters look realistic with fluid movement and animation. As you'd expect, Rise to Honor's voice acting is excellent, with the dialogue in Hong Kong spoken in Mandarin Chinese, and English when the game switches location to America. The overall effect is impressive and Rise to Honor's polish and professionalism are impressive examples at melding traditional film and modern interactive techniques. Adding to the film-like presentation, the game is divided into DVD-style chapters, which the player can select from which serves as a creative and ingenious save system. In addition, there are also numerous extra behind-the-scenes vignettes players can unlock once the complete certain aspects of the game. In order to make the game accessible to the mass-market, Rise to Honor's gameplay is surprisingly simple, streamlining many of the traditional fighting controls.

The intuitive control system is innovative and unique in the fighting genre, making perfoming Jet Li's actions easy to understand. There are two main modes of play during the game: Fighting and Shooting/Hiding sequences. During the fighting sequences, Jet's punching and kicking moves are controlled using the right analog stick, and players can perform special moves, grabs and throws by holding the shift button while moving the character. This is remarkably simple - for example, rotating the D-pad makes the character perform a sweeping kick attack that damages any opponents within a close radius. Players can also pick up various objects such as chairs and tables and use them as weapons, which is a cool idea. In addition to Jet's standard moves, players can perform special moves when "Adrenaline" Meter on the left side of the screen fills up. When you perform these moves, the action switches to slow motion briefly. This works nicely and while it might take some getting used to for players accustomed to standard fighting game controls, Rise to Honor's becomes intuitive after a few levels. The other half of the game involves shooting and hiding, where players can attack foes using firearms and can hide behind objects in order to escape fire. The functionality here is surprisingly simple, almost basic. You target enemies by pointing to them using the Left Analog stick and firing using the shift key, players also have the option of 'hiding' behind objects, which again uses the same context-sensitive shift key to perform the options. However, since the gun automatically fires, it reduces the challenge of aiming your gun and makes these sequences less appealing than they should be. Of the two types of gameplay, the standard fighting seems to control better, and offers players more moves and control over the action, though the system can be a pain to master. While attacking is simple, it's annoying to have to keep moving Jet Li in the right direction in order to make contact with the foes. This makes the player take more damage than they should, but never that much of a problem, given the low level of difficulty and unlimited continues.

While Rise to Honor's controls are intuitive, there are some drawbacks to the system. There are too many areas where you only have to press the button at the right time. This makes you feel more like you're triggering an automatic action in a movie than interacting with the game. It may not seem like a big deal, but the system causes you to feel disconnected from the action. Many of the key points to are surprisingly passive, making for an exciting experience. It reduces the game's visceral thrill significantly, and leads to some aggravating parts of the story where you want to control the action, but can't. This becomes quite frustrating at points since the game feels like it's 'on-rails' at many points. For example, early on there's a sequence where a bike crashes through a window at a restaurant, and Jet kicks the driver off the bike. This is quite cool, but unfortunately, you're can only watch him do this, when it would have been much more satisfying to do it yourself. Making matters worse, the fighting sequences are a bit sluggish, especially when you have multiple opponents rush you simultaneously, where the controls don't offer you the flexibility you need. Unfortunately, while the decision to make the camera static gives Rise to Honor a cinematic flair, it also tends to interfere with the action at too many points, making it difficult to see what's going on. This is especially annoying when you're faced with multiple foes, making things more frustrating than they should have been. Adding to the problems, many of the enemies attack in predictable ways, making their moves easy to anticipate and counter. After you become accustomed to their moves, Rise to Honor loses its challenge and becomes a chore to play. To add insult to injury, the game offers a seemingly endless amount of continues, meaning you can play through the entire game in one sitting.

While the lack of interactivity in some areas and awkward controls in others makes for a frustrating experience, the story and plotline are interesting enough to keep you going. The production values are slick as well and the game does look fantastic and cinematic throughout. However, once you peer through the gloss, there's not enough substance to back up the lavish presentation. The sheer number of fighting sequences in the game, while staying faithful to the traditional kung-fu movie formula, undermines the experience, making it feel more like primitive brawlers like Double Dragon and Final Fight than the Hollywood/Interactive hybrid it aspires to be. By throwing wave after wave of anonymous foes at the player, the game loses its appeal quickly. Rise to Honor's shooting sequences are likewise uninspired and aside from the occasional boss encounter, the action becomes an exercise in tedium with predictable enemies. Unfortunately, Rise to Honor's expansive ambitions are undermined by the many gameplay flaws, not the least of which are the unlimited continues, which kills any challenge. It's interesting for a short time, but the appeal drops dramatically the longer you play. It's a decently entertaining rental, but there's not enough depth or challenge in Rise to Honor to warrant a full-price purchase.

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