previews\ Jan 12, 2004 at 7:00 pm

Jet Li Rise to Honor - PS2 - Preview 3

Kung-fu hasn't been the most appealing aspect of a video game.  Sure, many of us love fighting games, but few of us can stand the awful single-player titles that have hit the market.  They "dared to be different" and caused us to dare our friends to see who passes out first from playing them.  Names do not need to be mentioned; these unmemorable games left a bad taste that will last a lifetime.


Thanks to an ambitious developer and one martial arts movie star that may finally change.


Coming to PlayStation 2 this February is Jet Li: Rise to Honor.  It's a game that's practically a movie, but if it were a movie it'd be too interactive for conventional theaters.  Packed with Jet Li's precise moves, a unique control scheme, and a superb polygon representation of Li, Rise to Honor could be the game that makes this sub-genre seem worthwhile again.


Although I'm not yet sure how the final version will begin, the demo of Rise to Honor started with the typical kung-fu movie setting: a small restaurant, men eating, angry guy standing in the doorway.  Bullets are fired, [innocent?] bystanders fall, and Jet Li takes charge by telling his people to get out of there.  Who his people are was not revealed, nor was it revealed why there's an angry man with a gun just waiting to kill them all.  The full version should answer all questions, but until that time the important thing is that, after the intro movie is over, Jet Li gets the chance to kick some butt.  And since you play as Jet Li, technically you are the one who gets to kick some butt.


Five guys just surrounded me, what do I do?  I move around and furiously tap the square and triangle buttons!  What, you mean that's not what I'm supposed to do?  You mean to tell me that Jet Li: Rise to Honor doesn't use any of the four face buttons?  How is this possible?


It's all due to the game's interesting take on multi-character fighting.  The right analog stick is being used in an entirely new way.  Since it can be moved in any direction, or spun around 360 degrees, the developers thought it was the perfect fit for an attacking device.  Thus, when an enemy from the top left corner of the screen approaches, press the right stick in that direction to attack.  Consecutively pushing the stick in that direction will unleash one of Jet Li's many combos.  Only a few were present in the demo, but hundreds of moves are promised for the final version.  Granted, most of them will be performed by doing the same analog functions, but at least it'll give you something new and exciting to watch.


Jet Li uses attacks that correspond with his position to the enemy.  If an enemy is in front he'll obviously attack in that direction, using everything he's got.  But from behind Li will send a quick backhand-fist flying toward the enemy's head.  Li can pick up chairs and throw them; doing so when an enemy is weak triggers a slow-motion sequence that intensifies the hit.  Li can also pick up other objects and use them as weapons, including a chicken.  Why he'd want to use a chicken as a weapon is unknown, but it was fun to play around with in the demo.  I couldn't figure out how to throw the chicken, though I'm certain there's got to be a way to dispose of it.  Otherwise Li would be fighting with dinner till the end of the game.


Like a movie with real interaction, the game shifts quickly from fistfights to movie sequences and then to more fist fights.  Along the way you'll encounter interactive bullet-dodging sequences, and near the end of the demo (which is presumably the game's first level), you'll run down a dark alley, hide behind boxes and return fire in a simple (but exciting) gunfight.


The demo concluded with an evil lure.  Li sees one of his foes climbing up a building.  Being the hero and all, Li must follow.  On the roof he sees that his foe has a twin, or at least someone who looks very similar (a clone, perhaps?).  The demo ends, tells you the game is "coming soon" and walks off into the sunset.  Okay, so the demo didn't really walk off into the sunset, but it did leave me salivating like a dog underneath the table during Thanksgiving dinner.  It was over too quick – I want more!


Never in my wildest dreams did I think I'd become so excited about this game.  But one play test can change everything.  It changed my mind, and it'll change yours when it's released this February.

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