Chi has hit the proverbial nail on the head with his review of Rise to Honor, and I'm not sure what's really left to say other than, "Yeah, what he said!" However, since GameCritics actually wants me to talk about the game, I will.
Rise to Honor is best described as a "high concept piece". While playing it, I couldn't help but think of Hollywood pitch meetings, wherein screenwriters and executives sit around snowballing outlandish ideas until they come up with a "sure-fire hit". I could see a group of game developers trying to come up with new ideas…
"Hey, let's make an action game."
"Yeah, with kung-fu! And guns…you gotta have guns!"
"Oh! And stealth! The kids love the stealth."
"Yeah! And we could make it like a Hong Kong action film!"
"Great idea! We could even get Jet Li to star in it! The kids will go nuts for Jet Li!"
And as such, Rise to Honor was born. However, like most high-concept pieces, the idea looks a lot better on paper than it does as a finished videogame.
Chi does a fantastic job of pointing out the gameplay's most glaring flaw-it never feels organic. There's no real logic for why Jet needs to use stealth in some instances and why he fights in others, or … why he doesn't just shoot everyone he comes across. Because of this, the game feels like a "game" instead of an immersive experience.
The combat is the highlight of this title, and while I personally find Jet Li to be about as charismatic as a piece of wet cardboard (I like my Hong Kong films to feature actors like Anthony Wong and Simon Yam), the game takes advantage of his one great trait as an actor-his ass-kicking ability. Beating up guys in Rise to Honor is fun. The combat system is unique and engaging, and honestly, it's the only thing that saves the game from complete mediocrity. Yet, like just about everything else in this title, with a little more tweaking and fine-tuning, it could have been much better.
Ultimately, though, what really intrigues me about Rise to Honor is how it's managed to further blur the line between games and cinema. There has been no shortage of games based on movies, or games that featured Hollywood actors in them. However, Rise to Honor has the distinction of being the first game wherein the presence of the Hollywood actor overshadows the game itself. The ads for this title focused more on Jet Li than the gameplay-and while that probably sold copies, it also sets a disturbing precedent.
Games have always been immune to the whole "star syndrome" thing that plagues Hollywood films. Let's hope games like Rise to Honor aren't going to change that. The last thing the gaming industry needs is a bunch of titles getting by on star power and not game mechanics… Anyone remember Dana Plato, Corey Haim, and the Sega CD?
A film critic by trade, specializing in Euro-horror, cult exploitation, and Asian action cinema, Mike has written reviews for a diverse group of print and online publications. He covers horror news, movies, books, and games at TheHorrorGeek.com and Horrorsquad.com and spent two seasons as The Horror Geek on Comedy Central's pop-culture game show, Beat the Geeks.
Mike's childhood was spent playing videogames any time he got a chance. His parents had a Pong console and his grandmother had an Atari 2600, where Mike cultivated his skills by playing hour upon hour of games like Space Invaders, Berserk, and Asteroids. From those early experiences Mike learned one thing: he loved games.
In 1999, Mike became a staff reviewer at Cinescape Magazine's website where he spent a year learning the craft of game criticism. After internal changes led to Mike leaving Cinescape in late 2000, he joined up with RPGFan in 2001 and spent several years writing reviews for them. Happy, but looking for an opportunity to expound on a wider variety of titles, Mike joined GameCritics.com and hopes to help Chi, Dale, and the rest of the GC staff bring a higher level of respect to the field of game criticism.