Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon Preview

We check out Ubi Soft's upcoming PlayStation 2 action game based on the Ang Lee film.

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Games based on films are, more often than not, hit or miss affairs. The best ones find some way of capturing the appeal of the source material, while the worst butcher the films they're based on by cramming them into uninspired, generic games. Ubi Soft's upcoming game based on the hit movie Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon will attempt to forgo any butchery and instead offer an engaging experience that manages to retain the film's appeal. We recently had a chance to check out an early build of the game and were pleased to find a promising mix of solid graphics and slick gameplay.

In Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, you play as one of the four main characters and attempt to exact revenge on the evil Jade Fox.
In Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, you play as one of the four main characters and attempt to exact revenge on the evil Jade Fox.

For those unfamiliar with Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, the movie focused on four characters--Li Mu Bai, Yu Shu Lien, Jen Yu, and Lo--whose lives intertwined in a rich story of love, revenge, and some good old-fashioned ass kicking. Japanese developer Genki, best known for the Tokyo Extreme Racer series, has chosen to focus on the winning combination of revenge and ass kicking--two great tastes that taste great together in a game. You'll play as one of the four main characters and attempt to exact revenge on the evil Jade Fox, who is quite possibly one of the meanest old broads ever seen in the genre. To bring Grandma Evil to justice, you'll do battle with a variety of enemies through a series of locales in an adventure that stays true to the film's narrative. The game takes the expected third-person-action-game route, but it manages to add some nice flourishes that give it a distinct feel.

Some of the key elements of the film's appeal were the amazing, well-choreographed fight sequences handled by acclaimed action choreographer Wo Ping Yuen. Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon manages to incorporate some solid re-creations of those fights and provide you with ample opportunity to engage in some compelling battles of your own. Genki has made an admirable effort to marry the tight control needed for a solid martial-arts game with the impressive and fluid freedom you'd expect from a game based on the film. The system--which involves a simple four-button system, broken down into two unarmed attacks and two armed attacks that you can chain together for combos--is flexible and handles pretty well, even in its unfinished state.

Genki has made an effort to marry the control needed for a solid martial-arts game with the freedom you'd expect from a game based on the film.
Genki has made an effort to marry the control needed for a solid martial-arts game with the freedom you'd expect from a game based on the film.

However, some of the most eye-catching aspects of the combat system are its blocking mechanics. While holding down R1 when you're attacked will block, it's a pretty boring and ultimately inefficient way to fight in the game--simply blocking with R1 will incur some damage and make it difficult to fight. What you'll want to do is press R1 just as an attack comes at you. If you're successful, you'll perform some fancy martial-arts evasions and escape unharmed. An added flourish to the blocking mechanics is the fact that you'll have two distinct sets of blocks based on whether you're armed or not.

Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon is more than just an enormous evasion simulator, though. You'll have ample opportunity to kick some ass and take some names via the game's combo system, which features a solid assortment of moves, ranging from normal attacks to flashy supermoves. As far as arms go, you'll have access to a variety of weapons on your quest, including those you've knocked away from enemies. In addition, you'll find some RPG elements that let your character evolve based on your play style.

The graphics in Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon are coming together nicely on the PlayStation 2, with solid re-creations of the game's cast. The character animation is smooth, but it's a touch choppy in some places at the moment. The environments in the game are large and feature places where you'll have to engage in some light platform jumping to progress. The audio was still coming together in the build we saw, but what we heard managed to complement the action nicely while making use of some tunes from the flick. Another nice touch is the fact that the game's voice work is in Mandarin.

Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon seems to be shaping up into an engaging and stylish experience. The game's combat is flashy and relatively deep, and the ability to evolve your character as you play is a nice touch. Fans of the film and anyone looking for an action game with cool fighting mechanics will want to keep an eye out for the game when it ships later this year. Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon is currently slated to ship for the PlayStation 2 this fall.

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