The beat-'em-up treatment is certainly among the most logical to apply to a Bruce Lee game, and this is the route that Novato, California-based Ronin Entertainment has taken. Its upcoming game, Bruce Lee: Quest of the Dragon, is built on the foundation of a classic beat-'em-up, with some modern fighting mechanics worked in for good measure. Universal Interactive, the game's publisher, brought by a pre-beta build of the game to our offices earlier today, and we got a good feel for what the team at Ronin is shooting for.
Universal and Ronin have worked intensively with Bruce Lee's estate to secure the rights to render his likeness in 3D, as well as to gain access to certain bits of minutiae that will make the project just that much more legitimate. All the motion-capture data, for instance, was provided by Lee's last living student, and this has allowed the team to most accurately re-create the late master's legendary motions. The estate also provided a list of unpublished quotes straight from the teachings of Lee, which you'll find smattered throughout the game's interface screens. We get the feeling that Universal is taking the task of digitizing the tenets of Jeet Kune Do very seriously, which should make Bruce Lee's fans and followers pretty pleased.
That's provided they find the game itself compelling, of course. From what we've seen, the game is a fairly linear 3D beat-'em-up, albeit one that's uncharacteristically deep, from a mechanical standpoint. You start the game with access to around 125 different moves and combinations. You can purchase around 25 more as you progress through the game. If you've played a martial arts-based fighter, you'll know what to expect--Bruce Lee's move list is composed of punches, kicks, throws, and counters. You can link punches with kicks, and vice versa, to create combos, just like you would in a fighting game. The main clincher, though, is that many enemies will engage you at once, so you'll have to make smart use of the game's lock-on feature to be successful. Using it is fairly straightforward--simply attack any enemy, and you'll automatically be locked on to him or her. Conversely, you can hit L (lock on) before engaging enemies and attack them after you're facing them. If you find the need to attack someone else, you simply have to hit the L button to scroll through your possible targets. You release the lock by hitting R, which comes in handy when you need to change who is on the receiving end of your blows. You're also able to attack enemies behind you and at your flanks by means of the right analog stick. You can do this whether or not you're locked on to a certain enemy; you simply point the right stick in the direction of the enemy you want to attack, and you'll shoot a quick blow in his or her direction.
In any event, the pre-beta that we got to play was feature-complete and currently in the process of mass tweaking and optimization. There are some issues with the controls in that they aren't entirely responsive and seem to drop orientation during particularly heated moments. Stringing combos also felt a little rough. But in the end, these are the sorts of things that extended tweak sessions iron out, and we look forward to seeing a cleaned-up build. Visually speaking, the game's animation looked very nice, especially Bruce's own moves, though the enemy models didn't look too hot--their textures were a little on the low-res side and they seemed sort of low-poly. Hopefully they'll be touched up a bit before release.
We'll have more on this one for you as soon as we see a new build. Bruce Lee: Quest of the Dragon is scheduled for release in Q3 2002.