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     " Definitely a must play, though more for the innovation than the quality... "

      Title: Jet Li: Rise to Honor by Sony

      Format: PS2 Fighter

      Reviewing Monkey: Dungapult

      The Hype: Though martial artists and sub-titled film fans have known about him for many, many years, most westerners never heard of Jet Li before Lethal Weapon 4-which is a damned shame. Fast, fluid, and famous for redefining wire-work for a new age, Li's dynamic Wushu (that's Kung Fu for the initiated) has made him a living legend in the Hong Kong movie scene. So with the popularity of movies like Crouching Tiger and Drunken Master is it any surprise Sony wants to cash in on Li's ever-growing fame?

      What This Monkey Thought...

      Graphics: A symphony of both the intriguing and the unimpressive, Rise to Honor has both elements that will unquestionably please and contrastingly annoy. Finely detailed and fully motion captured by Li, his team, and one his favorite action coordinators, Corey Yeun, the game can often look like you're actually playing a Hong Kong action flick! In an innovative move Sony has opted to motion capture not just arbitrary character moves but actual melee engagements, so when you go toe to toe with someone his attacks and your responses, and vice versa, are all finely choreographed martial phrases. In practice this means that gone are the days of a static lock animation and an opponent who's kicking you as if you were a living wooden man, instead each attack has a choreographed parry, dodge, or counter, and with the final move of particularly effective combos cutting into a slow motion cinematic close-up of the finisher. It looks fantastic and is quite a bit of fun to watch. So that's the good news.
          The bad is that for all of its upside, unfortunately, Rise suffers almost as much bad. The choreographed fights, while intriguing to watch the first dozen times, are limited by a few simple phrases of choreography and so become repetitive quickly. What's more annoying, and will inevitably occur at the most inconvenient times, is that the finisher close-ups aren't controllable and often allow you to be flanked and thumped by enemies not distracted or who don't have their views changed by the randomly panning camera. The graphics themselves, while nicely detailed, suffer from some serious clipping and spacing issues, some of which can become seriously game effecting. They also, evidently, aren't as tight as they should be and slowdowns and low frame rates are common. 3.75 out of 5

      Playability: More than just your standard combo fighter, Rise was definitely made as a genre breaking title. Forget the face buttons, and the usual mashing combos they bring with them, Rise uses an innovative system that relies almost exclusively on the analog sticks. With one to move and one to fight, it becomes a bit like the fighter equivalent to Robotron, but believe me that's not a bad thing. Push the attack stick in the same direction three or four times and you can put together some pretty sweet combos, change it up and you can effectively make dynamic 360 degree attacks to take on dozens of enemies. It's innovative, easy to learn, and when it works right can be a thing of complete and total beauty. Unfortunately it doesn't always work right and gaming can be frustrated by some pretty significant glitches and errors-as you repeatedly miss attacks because, evidently, the computer thinks you pushed the stick slightly too much to the left or right or because you can't change up your combos once you've committed to them and you're now punching the air in front of you while someone is making Swiss steak of your kidneys.
          But more than just a fancy new control scheme, Rise tries its best to shake up the genre with some other innovations as well…though these with more varying results. Designed to play like a movie, Rise to Honor changes up the mass melees with periodic chase segments and some double pistol run'n'gun. The gunplay, always consisting of two semi-auto pistols with limitless ammo, is fun but not really engaging and gets old quickly. While the chase scenes, often consisting of you running away from roving machine gun fire, suffer painfully from poor camera placement and often have you trying to run and dodge obstacles while looking in the exact opposite direction you should be.
          But how does it play overall? The answer is good but inconsistent. Often suffering from long periods of simply agitating play and containing whole segments you'll desperately wish you could slip, Rise really only comes into its own when you're surrounded by enemies and thumping them five or six at a time. Fortunately, the designers seemed to know that ahead of time and given you plenty of those opportunities. 3.5 out of 5

      Story and Drama: Following the movie theme, the story in Rise is about as amusingly formulaic as you can get. Hong Kong underworld boss is assassinated in hostile coup, but it turns out he was going straight and his right hand man, you, is actually a cop in disguise helping it happen and now you must avenge his death and take down what's left of his organization. Add in a hackneyed love story with the boss' daughter and the classic grudge fests so prevalent in this genre and you'll have the story front to back. Not that all that's a bad thing, however, as it really does play out just like a bad kung fu movie…which is, of course, the idea. 4 out of 5

      Multiplayer and Replayability: No multiplayer's present, which is a shame, because some good co-op action would have rocked, and replayability will be limited by the repetitive nature of the game and the lack of any truly memorable scenes. I played it, and I enjoyed it for the most part, but I don't think I'll be picking it up again. 2 out of 5

      The Verdict:

       All in all Rise to Honor is a fun game kept from being anything amazing by the developer's accurate assessment that some amount of changing up was needed to keep things from getting tedious but the simply reality that they had no good idea on how to do it. Unfortunately suffering from these prolonged moments of agitation separating an otherwise engaging though imperfect fighting environment, I suspect Rise will be remembered more for creating this new control idea (which will, undoubtedly, be replicated) than for actually being a game of considerable interest.

      The Good: Cool new idea for fighting control, great motion capture, nice graphics.

      The Bad: Which are painfully spaced between periods of atrociously designed filler.

      The Overall Ugly: Definitely a must play, though more for the innovation than the quality, Rise to Honor is so close to being a hit that its flying fists of fury grazed the mark…but some simple but drastic issues keep its kung fu from being the best.

      What it's Worth: A good weekend rental.

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