The story behind the creation of Rise of Honor was shown at E3 last year during Sony’s Press Conference. If we are to believe the story, Jet Li called up Sony and said he was interested in doing a game and Sony thought it would be awesome to make a game with Jet Li in it. Thus, Rise to Honor was born. Developed in Sony’s California studio and using tons of motion capture from Jet Li himself it seemed the game had quite a bit going for it.

Jet Li plays Kit Yun, a bodyguard for a local Hong Kong boss named Chiang. You start the game in Hong Kong and the game moves to San Francisco for most of the game. This game is a fighter at heart, but is also a cinematic experience in itself.

My biggest apprehension going into this game was that the right analog stick would be used for the fighting and no face buttons would be used. It is an innovative approach, something that Rare tried with Grabbed by the Ghoulies on the Xbox. I never played that game, so this is my first experience with the controls. Let’s see if I liked the game or not.

This game isn’t necessarily graphically spectacular or on the same level as recent Sony releases Jak II and Ratchet and Clank: Going Commando, but it does a serviceable job with what it has. This game was obviously built on the motion capturing Jet Li and other people did for the game. It is also obvious that this game was built with a cinematic feel in mind. You will have your action sections, but a lot of the cool action scenes only happen in cutscenes where you actually have no control over Kit at all.

There certainly is a gritty style to the streets of Hong Kong and San Francisco and I think the environment graphics are really good, but the character graphics and animations are the problem. You see, it’s cool to see Kit’s moves right off the bat, but as you are going through the 64 sections of the game all you see are the same moves over and over again. The same can be said for the hordes of enemies, save for the bosses that have their own animations.

A lot of the graphical coolness in this game comes from the ton of cuscenes contained within. They do a great job with creating a good story around the game and the graphics within them are pretty good. They aren’t the highest polygon graphics ever seen, but they do a pretty good job.

This game also allows for 480p and 16:9 widescreen.

Overall the sound and music are pretty good in the game. To be honest I don’t remember much about the music, but the overall sound and voices are simply excellent. Jet Li provides his own voice along with a myriad of other voices. You have the option to listen to Hong Kong speech in the native Cantonese or English, a pretty nice option for those that like the choice. Once the game gets to San Francisco every line is spoken in English though.

The overall fighting sounds are excellent as well. When you get the chance to pick up a chair or other weapon they sound like their real-life counterpart on impact with an enemy. The overall sound, presented in Dolby Pro-Logic II, is simply great.

In many ways this game plays like Dragon’s Lair in that there is a certain linear path you take where you have to do such things as jumps and climbs (where you do it is clearly spelled out to you with the words “JUMP” and “CLIMB”). Once you get into one of the myriad of fighting sections you are then constantly blocking/dodging (R1), countering (R1+L1) or just beating on the enemies. This is all well and good, but it gets old real fast. I was always trying to get through the section just so I can get into another one of those action cutscenes that turn into a run and dodge section.

There are also gun-based sections as well, obviously trying to make Rise to Honor somewhat like True Crime: Streets of LA. The controls are rather easy. You use the right analog stick to aim at someone and press R2 to fire at the enemy. There is a rather cool section where Jet Li does a Woo-ish Hard Boiled move of going down a hospital hallway on a gurney while firing at the bad guys.

This is unfortunately where the game takes a tumble and the main reason is simply the control. You basically use the two analog sticks and the shoulder buttons during the game. You do not use the face buttons at all. The right analog stick is where the problems lie because this is the stick you use to direct your attacks and do your fighting moves. It does give you control over where and who you’re doing moves on and it can work pretty well when multiple enemies are fighting you at once. However, your right thumb is not likely to last very long in this game. You have to constantly press toward an enemy in order to do combos and moves on them, this means pressing left 2+ times in a row.

The biggest problem with Rise to Honor was the developer totally disregarding the face buttons. Relying totally on the right analog stick for fighting was a mistake in my opinion. There should have been some camera controls that the right analog stick could have been used for because there were sections where they chose the entirely wrong camera angle to shoot a scene from. I know they were trying to be innovative with the right analog stick, but all they did was hurt my right hand. I think this game could have been so much more enjoyable if the controls were different or you had the option to customize the controls.

Another problem is the cheap-ass bosses. The boss fights are easily the hardest part of the game and they have a very old-school game feel to them. You have to let them do their moves and then find the time to go in and deliver major damage on them. It would be cool if you could fight them all the time, but it’s best to just be patient and wait for the opening.

This game is of course sold for the Sony first-party price of $39.99, so it’s cheaper than your regular games out there. Another huge strike on this game is that it is very short and you can probably beat it in just a few days. There are unlockables such as video background on the game and other things, but I think once you’ve gone through the game the first time you probably won’t want to play it again.

Much like modern-day John Woo films, this game seems to have come out a lot less promising than the whole idea that spawned it.