Rise to Honor Updated Impressions

We check out Sony's third-person action game starring Jet Li.

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At Sony's press event today we had the chance to try out a new version of Rise to Honor, Sony's internally developed third-person action game featuring martial arts superstar Jet Li. The game was first shown off at last year's Gamers' Day and at this year's E3, then again at this year's PlayStation Experience in London. Sony showed off a new version of the game that showed off a variety of environments as well as the game's flexible combo system.

The first level of the game we tried introduced Jet Li's character, Kit Yun, and served as a general tutorial on the game mechanics. Following an opening cutscene that sets the stage for the level, you take control of Yun as he chases a man through back alleys and up across rooftops. The primary function of the first part of the chase seemed to be to familiarize you with the R1 button, which serves as a context-sensitive "action" button. Pressing it as we neared an obstacle in our path would let Yun leap over it. At the end of an alley, pressing the button allowed Yun to jump off a wall to his left and reach a higher ledge on his right. When the chase shifted to the rooftops, the level began introducing the combat elements into the game, and enemies appeared to try to impede our progress.

The game's combat system is modeled after Jet Li's own fighting style and benefits from the input of Li and martial arts choreographer Cory Yuen (who is directing the game's fights). In order to capture the feel of Li's movements, the game will implement a unique 30-degree fighting system. The main attack input will actually be the right analog stick, which will offer a variety of attack options. Pressing the stick in the direction of a nearby enemy will cause Yun to perform a strike without actually having to turn around and focus on that enemy. You'll be able to chain up to five moves to create various combos. In addition, Yun will have an adrenaline meter that, when fully charged, can be used by pressing the L1 button. When the adrenaline mechanic is engaged, everything will slow down around you and attacks will become more dramatic, and during an adrenaline combo, you will be able to string together up to eight moves. Yun will also be able to perform numerous counterattacks that can be triggered by holding down the R1 button. Tapping the R1 button near an object will let Yun pick it up and either hit an enemy with it or throw it at the enemy. Rise to Honor will also feature a collaborative fighting mechanism that lets you team up with a female character in the game. The two of you can fight separately, or, if you press the R1 button while your character is standing next to her, you may link up with one another, performing some fantastically acrobatic moves. A demo of the mechanic, set in the San Francisco Metreon level, showed quite a bit of promise.

In addition to the hand-to-hand combat, Rise to Honor will also let you engage in gunplay that is reminiscent of both Hong Kong cinema and old-school games where ammo was never an issue. Yun can not only use slow motion to dive through the air, as characters do in The Matrix and Remedy Entertainment's 2001 game Max Payne, he can also aim anywhere as he dives. The hospital level that was being used to demo the gun mechanics also showed off how you can use objects in the environment to your advantage. The level contained oxygen tanks that were just asking to be detonated around enemies. But the best interactive element we saw was an innocuous gurney in a hallway, which, when shoved, could be ridden down the hallway--this would switch the gameplay to a very cool scrolling shootout sequence.

In terms of graphics, the game is looking pretty good. The character models seem well done, and the environments feature a great deal of interactivity. The only hitch to the visuals is the animation. While there are more than 3,000 motion-captured moves in the game, the version we played seemed in need of some transitional animation, since the combat seemed a bit too jerky. Hopefully the developer will smooth out the animations in the final game.

Based on what we've seen so far, Rise to Honor is looking like a slick action game that could use a little polish. The combat system is coming together nicely, and the visuals seem quite strong. Rise to Honor is currently scheduled to ship next year. Look for more details on the game in the coming months.

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