Rise to Honor Review

Rise to Honor attempts to bring the Hong Kong action film experience to the video game world. With extensive cutscenes, a cool DVD-like chapter/level menu, and the presence of Jet Li, the game makes a good effort at it. While I’m all for interactive movie experiences, I prefer to have plenty of interaction in my interactive movies and this is where Rise to Honor ultimately falls short.

In Rise to Honor you play as Jet Li’s character Kit Yun.  Kit is a police officer who goes undercover to infiltrate the Hong Kong mafia, both in the name of justice and to avenge his father's murder.  He spends so long underground that he begins to lose himself somewhere between law and loyalty at a time when a gang war threatens to explode on the streets of Hong Kong.  Overall the story is a bit thin and consists of sporadic plot points surrounded by many scenes of scary goons ordering lesser goons to attack you, but that’s pretty much how it is with the films that inspired the game. The problem though is that you spend a lot of your game time triggering and watching cutscenes, which makes the game very linear and gives you the feeling that the game is controlling you more than the other way around.

Jet contemplates his next move.

This feeling is further reinforced by the game’s control scheme. When not fighting all of your actions are controlled by the R1 button, and the actions can only be performed when the game tells you to do them. Run up to some crates blocking your way and the word “JUMP” appears at the top of the screen indicating that you should press the R1 button. Your timing and position don’t matter – just press the button when told and you’ll make the jump every time, often triggering a mini-cutscene showing you performing an acrobatic move over which you have no control. If you want to go jumping down the road or want to jump on something else in a room, you’re out of luck. When not fighting, your control of the game consists of running along your designated path until you become stuck, and then pressing R1 when “JUMP”, “CLIMB”, or “OPEN DOOR” appears at the top of the screen. It’s a bit like playing the old Dragon’s Lair game, but in this case timing is not as critical and there is only one button to press.

Thankfully the hand to hand combat provides you with a greater degree of freedom, although it is also restrictive compared to other fighting or action games. Rise to Honor features an innovative control scheme that forgoes use of any of the face buttons for the right analog stick. Attacks are initiated by tapping the stick in the direction of your enemy which makes it possible to take on multiple foes attacking from different directions. A couple of taps at the foe in front of you followed by one at the bad guy behind you will unleash a few punches forward and then one back swing. Combos are unleashed by several taps in a row in the same direction, but the game decides which attack to unleash. In fact, the game makes all of the decisions when it comes to choosing whether to punch, kick, aim high or low, etc. You get a little extra control from the shoulder buttons that let you block, and occasionally grab and throw opponents or counter an attack, but don’t expect the degree of control or number of options that you get when playing other fighting games.

Successfully striking opponents or blocking their attacks rewards you with adrenaline. When your adrenaline meter is full, you can use the L2 button to launch special attacks while your enemies slow down in a bit of a The Matrix effect. Adrenaline attacks do more damage than normal ones and their animation looks good, but they’re controlled in the same way as all other attacks – tap the stick at an enemy and see what happens.