Rise to Honour is one of those games that comes out of the blue and surprises. You play Kit Yun, a tough guy on the Hong Kong gang scene. Graciously retaining the Chinese speech, and playing out with English subtitles, this PS2 action romp is masterful. Fans of John Woo take note - this is probably as close to a part in one of his films as you’re ever going to get, and of course, it sports voice over from Jet Li, and fight choreography by director Cory Yuen.

As I’ve said before, some games just jump up and bite you on the arse - I’d never heard of it - and would hate to have missed this action game. The story revolves around gangs, family dishonour, deceit and all the trappings of a Hong Kong fight movie. The dynamic combat system is refreshingly sophisticated - gone are punch and kick buttons - now you use the right analogue stick to perform martial arts moves. The fight action is great - you can fight multiple-enemies through 360 degrees, and no quarter is shown to new players - if you’re no good, you get beat.

The L1 and R1 buttons perform other functions to assist your fighting, either blocking or countering attacks, or grabbing and unleashing great fight sequences. The analogue control did leave me feeling as though I didn’t quite know how to perform each move, but it is fast and beautifully choreographed, so you don’t really need to know. There are also the John Woo classic slow-motion inserts that sometimes slow down your killer punch - just like in an action film and already pinched by the Max Payne games. It’s a great effect, but not too common to annoy.

When it comes to using firearms, again the combat system works very well, allowing you to accurately target individuals or objects to shoot at. Finding the correct pace is the key here, so be calm, take your time and pick off the hoods as they attack. Talking of shooting objects, the game plays out in a semi-destructible environment, so throwing bad guys into tables in a café will send table and glasses flying. You also get the option to pick up some weapons - including bizarrely, what appeared to be a frozen chicken.

Graphically, the cutscenes and in-game scripted sections are very well delivered. Someone has spent some time getting it right, and the final result shows that. The slow-motion sections could have been disruptive, but they work very well. The sound, including the Chinese speech, add to the overall feeling that you are playing a really good game, and you are. As you play through the first few levels, the tutorial runs in the background, advising how to perform different actions, such as how to grab people, or counter enemy attacks. It’s worth reading because I found that once I met a decent fighter, he kicked my ass, repeatedly.

Verdict

I’ve realised that this review could go on and on, and rightly so, I think there is a lot to be said for Rise to Honour. Ok, the name’s a bit cheesy, but just think of the movie genre on which it’s based - A Better Tomorrow and Hard Boiled win no prizes for innovative titling. Overall, it’s a package you can be very happy with. My advice is to put this on the list - it’s a great game.