Tao Feng: Fist of the Lotus

Tao Feng: Fist of the Lotus

Written by Charles Husemann on 5/5/2003 for Xbox  

Tao Feng is the latest fighting game in a genre chock full of pretenders. What differentiates it from the other games in the pack is the pedigree of having John Tobias as one of the lead designers. (Mr. Tobias was one of the key folk who helped develop Mortal Kombat). Other new features are the ability to damage an enemy’s limbs and the characters’ skin/clothing show damage as the it gets hit.

The game takes place in an alternate universe where China has taken over most of the West coast of the United States. In Metro China (what is now the Seattle area), two factions (the Pale Lotus and the Black Mantis) are fighting it out over an item that will give power over the opposing faction. To be quite honest, there is a decent back story here but it really doesn’t play that much in the game. Basically, you have two groups that want to beat the crap out of each other for control. Each faction has six characters, three male and three female (how PC). Each of these characters has the usual set of strengths and weaknesses (speed versus damage) and they have one complement on the other faction that is the counter to their strengths. It’s a nice balance but it can be frustrating when you walk through five of the characters only to get stuck against one character because the balance is so out of whack. However, at the same time, it does force you to find new ways to utilize the same character.

Tao Feng’s graphics are top notch. You can tell that the developers put many hours into making sure that everything was perfect. The character models are well done and the animation of each character is very fluid. As a fight goes on, the character models will start to show damage from the fight. This is apparent via torn clothing and bruises and cuts on the characters. This is a cool effect except that the damage does not necessarily match up with where a character has been hit. I tested this by just working the upper body during one match and at the end of the game their pants were torn up even though I hadn’t hit them there once. It’s a minor thing but it does distract from the game.

The game features five different modes of play. Versus mode (you take on another human opponent), Quest mode (the single player portion of the game), team battle (you select a group of fighters and battle it out against the computer or another opponent), Survivor mode (you select one character and have to fight your way through a group of opponents), and training mode (practice the moves against a computer dummy). Story mode is probably the deepest of the group featuring 73 missions (six characters against six opponents and one boss mission). While this seems like a lot, it doesn’t really feel it since you face the same six opponents over and over again, just with a different character. The other modes are typical fair and don’t offer anything original but do add some fun when you’re playing with your buddies.

Characters are controlled using either the d-pad or the left stick (you need to turn this on in the options menu). The d-pad is the best method of control, as the left stick just doesn’t seem to get the job done well. You have two punches and two kicks which can be combined into some nice combinations. You can also perform juggles (launChing your foe into the air and then hitting them before they land) but you have to get the timing down. Chi attacks are launched from the white button (this works fairlywell on the S controller but is a little more difficult to pull off on the bigger Xbox controller). The controls are pretty much intuitive and don’t really get in the way.Besides the usual punches, attacks, and combinations the other method of attack is Chi attacks. As you land blows on your opponent, you build up a Chi meter, when the meter is full you can either unleash a Chi attack or you can heal limb damage. Each character has 2-3 different Chi attacks. What’s nice is that you can use these attacks in different ways. Some are straight knock down attacks, and some stun your opponent allowing you to move in and pull a combo. This is nice since different situations allow you to use different attacks.

Tao Feng’s 12 levels in the game are well designed and huge. Each level has smaller side areas, which you can fight in. This is good and bad as it offers some diversity to the game but you can get trapped in them as well. The maps are probably one of the best parts of the game and much effort was put into them and making each one unique. Each environment is equipped with unique objects that the player can interact with, including marble floors that crack when characters are slammed into them, electrical panels that explode when you are tossed into them, or posts that you can leap off of and attack your opponent from. The post idea is pretty cool but it’s a little repetitive and overused. If you don’t turn on the indicator to let you know what is interactive you can miss what’s available to use in the game. It would also have been nice to have some more diversity with these attacks. Something I’m sure is being worked on for a sequel. In the same vein, you have the ability to attack off walls. Once you get close to a wall, you pull the right trigger and your character will leap off the wall and attack your opponent. This is tricky to get used to at first since you have to be properly positioned to pull it off. It’s cool once you get the hang of it,though and is something pretty new to the genre.

The game does have some flaws, which really hurt it in comparison to other games like Mortal Kombat:Deadly Alliance. The first is the lack of depth. There are the standard modes but there is only one unlockable map and one unlockable character. Once you finish the single player mode, there’s really not much to work though. Compared to other current fighters like Mortal Kombat: Dark Alliance (which had a bajillion unlockable items) and the game feels a little shallow. Another nuance is the camera. When the characters get near a wall, the camera will suddenly shift sides, which can be a pain when you are trying to land a combo or perform a juggle. After a while, you can almost predict it but it still distracts from the game.

Another gripe is that whenever you end a round or cause limb damage on a character, the game forces you to watch a cinematic of the character getting up. This is kind of cool the first five to 10 times and then it gets and stays old. You can skip part of it but it still distracts from the flow of the game. Another minor distraction is the absolutely awful dialogue. I think it might be intentional and something of an homage but what starts off kind of funny gets old quickly.

One last minor complaint, if you say you are putting demos on the disc actually put playable demos on the disc and not just videos.

The game is a solid fighter and a lot of fun to play, especially against other people. The game is an evolution over current fighters but the lack of real depth in the single player mode and few unlockable items limit the replay value. If you have someone to play with, then the game is a lot of fun but if not then you may want to rent it first to see if it’s worth your dinero. Hopefully, there will be a Tao Feng 2 that takes the concepts developed in the first one and brings them to the next level.
Tao Feng is beautiful and a lot of fun but it’s flawed and there’s not much depth to the game.

Rating: 8.4 Good

* The product in this article was sent to us by the developer/company for review.


About Author

Hi, my name is Charles Husemann and I've been gaming for longer than I care to admit. For me it's always been about competing and a burning off stress. It started off simply enough with Choplifter and Lode Runner on the Apple //e, then it was the curse of Tank and Yars Revenge on the 2600. The addiction subsided somewhat until I went to college where dramatic decreases in my GPA could be traced to the release of X:Com and Doom.   I have been a Microsoft Xbox MVP since 2009.
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