While first-party fighting games normally do pretty well on their respective systems, Microsoft Game Studios has seemed to have a problem with their batch of games they've put out. KAKUTO CHOJIN wasn't very good and was pulled off store shelves a little while back and KUNG FU CHAOS was decent at best. But, luckily for Microsoft, one of the pioneers of fighting games went to work on a good quality fighting title for the Xbox.
Publicized visibly on the game box, TAO FENG: FIST OF THE LOTUS is created by John Tobias, co-creator of the MORTAL KOMBAT series (for more on this, check out the April issue). With Tobias' expert knowledge of the way fighting games should be done, TAO FENG does a few things that other fighting games haven't.
While TAO FENG obviously still plays like a fighting game, some things have been changed. No longer is the round system incorporated into the fight - instead, each character has three life bars. When one of these bars run out, you get a brief cut-scene that shows your character weakening and showing what has happened to him during the fight. Bruises, cuts, and torn clothing show what has happened to your character. With the lack of the round system, this means that there is also no timer, which basically means you have to win by fighting, not trying to run around or block until the time runs out. And the fights will get really intense too. You know the feeling of having a little life left and your opponent has about two times as much. Imagine having one bar of life to your opponent's three. Also, think about extending the matches from 30-45 seconds or so to a few minutes. The game gets intense and your hands will be sweaty.
TAO FENG is a combo-heavy game. Let me repeat that in case you missed it: TAO FENG is a combo-heavy game. Just keep that in mind. While you can get by with new players by just doing the basic moves, you won't be able to get anywhere with expert players. And one of my problems with this game is with some of the serious combos that can be pulled off in the game. If you take a hit that will start a combo (if you for some reason forget to block or something), you can have up to 25-hit combos pulled off on you, and this is extremely frustrating. I mean, watching your character get the living crap beaten out of him for close to 20 seconds or so is enough to make you walk away. What this means is, beginning players will likely get their butts handed to them by anyone who has actually played the game a few times. If your buddy has played the game and you haven't, be prepared to become irate after a few matches.
One of the coolest things about TAO FENG is the ability to swing off poles and jump off walls and such. The only bad thing about swinging off poles is that occasionally you will miss and leave yourself open for one of the above stated 25-hit combos. Not fun. The wall jump is basically to keep you away from being pounded in a corner like every other fighting game out there allows.
Do you ever get tired of those people you play in arcades who do nothing but block, then pull off this huge combo on you and somehow win the game? Well, luckily for you (and not for them) this isn't possible in TAO FENG. The more you block, the more susceptible you are to limb damage. Block too much and your opponent will be able to give you one good hit and damage a limb, which in turn will only allow you to do 50% of the damage you normally would. Also, by throwing your opponent into the many destructible environments will cause limb damage. Almost everything in the room you can destroy, even the floor. I do have a problem with the environments though. At certain times, the camera will just switch sides. For example, say you're on the right, blocking, and your opponent is coming at you from the left. The camera will sometimes switch, and you'll be going towards your opponent, open for one of those above mentioned 25-hit combos which can be utter hell.
The characters are pretty balanced in the game, as the bigger characters are slower but stronger, and the smaller characters are faster and weaker, but they really average out in the end. You can win with any character, though, so it isn't one sided or anything. And I haven't mentioned it much, but TAO FENG is a beautiful fighter, although it will suffer from the occasionally slowdown and some framerate issues will come into play during certain levels.
While TAO FENG doesn't revolutionize the fighting games genre like MORTAL KOMBAT did, it certainly is on the right track. The game is the best fighting game currently out for the Xbox and fighting game fans should pick the title up.