As Superman can attest, it’s not a good idea to release the game based on your movie too long after the movie comes out. Though as Luke Skywalker and his fellow Jedi can agree, all is forgiven when your game is as good, or even better than, your movie. Which might be the saving grace for Kung Fu Hustle, Sony Online’s action MMO for the PC. Though the movie came out more than five years ago, and the game’s release date is still to be determined, it still looks like it’ll be a good one. At least that was our impression when we played the game at a SOE event in Los Angeles last week.
At its core, Kung Fu Hustle is a 2D side-scrolling beat-’em-up, though one where you can move up and down as well as side-to-side. Though it’s not picky about it, you don’t need to perfect aligned with someone horizontally to hit them.
Once you create your own character, you pick a fighting style, which include both long-range attacks and melee ones. As you progress, you can collect or buy new moves, which is made easier by the game being set in a version of China where people drop gold and experience points when they die. One of the guys we played as, for example, enjoyed throwing an endless supply of knives, while another threw an arsenal of elbows. You can even attack as you get up from being knocked down, or do a jump attack by, well, jumping before you attack. Funny how that works.
All of this was made fairly easy by the controls, which were as responsive as Microsoft Word. Though, as it is a PC game, there are certain limitations. You can’t, for example, do a normal attack and move at the same time; when you throw a punch, your feet are firmly planted in the ground. Well, unless you’re jumping. The game will also support PC controllers, which could make this a moot point.
How the game works as an MMO, however, is still somewhat unanswered. Though there will be side quests as well as a major story, and characters can be leveled up to fifty, it doesn’t seem like the game will have the kind of “virtual world” motif as World Of WarCraft.
It’s also not very cinematic, as the game’s connection to the film seems somewhat superficial: There are a couple settings from the film, while the film’s director and star Stephen Chow has been very involved in the project. But it is not a direct translation of the film, so while you will have to appreciate side-scrolling beat-’em-ups, you don’t need to have seen, or even enjoyed, the movie to appreciate this game. Which, potentially, might be a good thing.
The game is currently in beta in a few Asian markets and US release plans have not been discussed at this time.