Rise to Honor Preview

We kick butt, Jet Li style, in Sony’s upcoming third person action game.

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Rise to Honor is Sony's cinematic third-person action game starring Jet Li. The game was first announced at Sony's Gamer's Day last year and has since been shown off a few times at various events here and in Europe. The title has been in development at Sony's internal studio in Foster City, California, for a few years now and aims to capture the look and feel of a Hong Kong action film. While this type of cinematic approach has been attempted before, Rise to Honor has the advantage of some impressive help. In addition to film star Jet Li, who supplies the voice and moves--via motion capture--for the main character Kit Yun, respected martial arts choreographer Cory Yuen is directing the game's fight sequences. The duo's input, coupled with a cinematic look and unique game mechanics, forms an impressive core for the game's foundation. We recently had the opportunity to try out a work-in-progress build of the game to see how its various components were coming together. While still rough around the edges, the game definitely shows some promise.

Play as Jet Li and kick butt in new and exciting ways in Rise to Honor.
Play as Jet Li and kick butt in new and exciting ways in Rise to Honor.

Rise to Honor's story puts you in the role of Kit Yun, the trusted bodyguard of Boss Chiang who is the head of one of Hong Kong's crime syndicates. Sadly, Chiang's position, like that of most crime bosses, has a pretty high turnover rate, thanks to the underworld's pretty liberal assassination policy. However, before the old boy departs for the "big crime ring in the sky," he asks Yun to pass on a message to his estranged daughter Michelle, who lives in San Francisco. Michelle turns out to be a pretty sought-after lady. You'll soon discover that an enthusiastic power-seeker by the name of Kwan, who has anointed himself leader of Chiang's organization following Chiang's demise, is also looking for Michelle. Apparently, Captain Lau, Yun's boss in Hong Kong's Organized Crime Bureau, is looking for Michelle too. Your goal is to deliver Chiang's message and return Michelle to San Francisco. Like any good Hong Kong action film, though, it's not going to be easy to get to Michelle, and it will be even less of a cakewalk getting her safely back to San Francisco.

Rise to Honor's basic structure is pretty standard for its genre. The game's story unfolds in linear fashion via a series of levels set in Hong Kong and San Francisco; these levels feature various types of gameplay that fall in the "stay-alive-and-kill-everyone-else" vein. The action breaks down into three main types--fighting mobs of evildoers, shooting mobs of evildoers, and running away from mobs of evildoers who are in vehicles, like bullet-spewing helicopters. The game has an arcadelike feel, thanks to its simple but flexible combat system, which allows you to attack in a 360-degree arc around Yun. Additionally, there's a shooting system that arms you with guns that fire countless rounds of bullets. In typical Hong Kong fashion, of course, the guns never need to be reloaded.

The sad fact of the matter is that you don't really have much job security as a Hong Kong crime boss in today's competitive market.
The sad fact of the matter is that you don't really have much job security as a Hong Kong crime boss in today's competitive market.

Game control is a mix of old and new elements. You use the left analog stick to move Yun around. The R1 button presents itself as a context-sensitive action button that serves a variety of uses. You use it to block enemy attacks in combat, you use it to interact with the environment by jumping over obstacles or running on walls, and/or you use it to hide behind objects when things get "gun crazy." The L1 button triggers your adrenaline attacks, which let you perform powerful combos in hand to hand combat, or they improve your performance when running-and-gunning your way through the shooting levels. If you hold the two triggers together you can perform counters when being attacked. The most significant feature of the game's controls lie in its use of the right analog stick for physical attacks and gunfire. Pressing the stick in the direction of a nearby enemy causes Yun to perform a strike without actually having to turn around and focus on that enemy. You're able to chain up to five moves to create various combos that can then be chained even further by using the adrenaline attacks. When fists and feet aren't enough--and you don't have a gun nearby--you can use whatever's handy to beat a foe, like a chair or even a duck. The system is unique and is aiming to be very dynamic, although our version of the game was still rough with the implementation.

The visuals in Rise to Honor offer a stylized look that is complemented by a cinematic camera. The character models are made up of a generous amount of polygons, and this is especially true of Yun's model. Animation is still pretty rough, in spots, although the documentation provided with our version of the game highlighted character animation as a key element that is still being fine-tuned. The environments fair a bit better, thanks to nicely detailed areas that offer a fair level of interactivity. The lighting and particle effects on display offer nice highlights that complement the areas you go through. The game uses real-time cutscenes to tell its story, which helps to keep the story's flow constant. Our version featured the same stumbling block faced by most games aiming for a cinematic feel in that the cutscenes popped up pretty often and threw off the game's pacing a bit.

Combat features a unique 360-degree system that uses the right analog stick.
Combat features a unique 360-degree system that uses the right analog stick.

As far as the audio goes, Rise to Honor features a nice mix of music, ambient noise, and sound effects. The game's soundtrack does a solid job of setting the tone for the level action. The assorted background noise you hear, like sound effects and/or people talking, is good, as are the various sound effects used for gunfire and objects breaking. The voice acting is enthusiastic and helps lend a Hong Kong movie feel, thanks to the inclusion of Chinese dialects and subtitles.

Based on what we've seen so far, Rise to Honor is coming along pretty well. The visuals are promising and should shape up nicely if the animation is sorted out properly. The gameplay offers a healthy dose of variety that should easily mesh with the control scheme when it comes together. Overall, we'd say there's a lot of promise here, it just needs a good layer of polish and tightening. Rise to Honor is currently slated to ship early next year for the PlayStation 2.

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