Tao Feng: Rist Of The Lotus
The timeless cliche of not judging a book by its cover pulls double duty with Tao Feng because 1) the cover is laugh-out-loud ugly while the game looks quite swanky, and 2) although the graphics look fantastic, the accompanying gameplay is fundamentally busted. Your initial foray into the game world will leave you amazed--each of the gorgeous fighting arenas oozes with subtle interactive details. For example, you can grab a support beam, swing around it, and launch into your opponent, knocking him into a birdcage that smashes open and releases a fluttering flock into the air. Sounds awesome, right? Well, it would be if the fighting engine didn't feel shoddy and broken. A combination of Mortal Kombat-style diated-in combos, cheap one-button special attacks, and the fighting genre's least effective blocking system render Tao Feng miserably unfun in the long run. Oh, I shouldn't forget the painfully obtuse Practice mode that features no visual reminder of the long-ass combo you're attempting. Or the hokey, overlong voiceover that precedes every match in the singleplayer Quest mode. Or the laughable enemy A.I. (try simply jump kicking the sword-wielding final boss repeatedly--it worked for me). Overall, it's a beautiful but brainless fighter not worth your money or time.
Tao Feng seems to fill a wish list of fighter features, but its piecemeal approach results in schizophrenic gameplay. Case in point: Why put welfare-cheese Chi attacks (acid regurgitation, anyone?) in a game inspired by more elegant fighters--namely Virtua Fighter 4? You won't want to bother setting up juggles when one-button Chi blasts deal more damage. And why pair such expansive arenas with confining controls tailored more toward fighting on a track? Tao Feng isn't a turd, though. With more eye candy than an art museum and many borrowed bits from the genre's best, it's fun in short sessions. I just can't see experienced pugilists sticking around.
Playing Too Feng is a lot like diarrhea; the longer it lasts, the more irritated you get. The various bits simply don't come together: Awkward animations, poor collision detection, a lackluster combo system, and hopelessly generic character designs do not a quality game make. Matches dispatch elegance in favor of sheer brutality, resulting in awkward, lumbering fights with all the grace of a weeping stool pigeon. The few laudable innovations (interactive environments, limb damage) are rendered void due to the game's many inherent flaws. Too Feng serves as a reminder that Microsoft needs to do a much better job choosing its horses. Wait for Soul Calibur 2.