Platforms: PSN | XBLA
Developer: Vatra Games
For those of you who don't know, Rush'N Attack (or Green Beret as it was known in the arcades) was a Contra-style run & gun shooter that had a fun focus on melee over firepower. It was a much-loved hit in cabinets, but sadly failed to withstand the ravages of time when it re-released on Xbox Live Arcade and the Playstation Network. No-one was expecting - or asked for - a sequel... but rather than let the venerable old warhorse rest in peace, Konami have dredged up the core concept and shoved it into the Unreal Engine.
Was it worth it? Not quite.
The events of Rush'N Attack: Ex-Patriot takes place a few years after the original game, with a crack team of commandos breaking into a Russian gulag to rescue one of their own. However, the squad is captured in short order - and playing as team leader Morrow, players are charged with escaping the prison, rescuing their comrades and putting the kibosh to the Ruskies' plan to create an army of super soldiers.
It's a hackneyed premise, but Rush'N Attack initially shows a lot of promise. You're only armed with a wicked prison shiv throughout the game's campaign, meaning that the focus is on stealth and brutal, decisive strikes rather than running and jumping around like a loon. Morrow can duck into darkened doorways, pits and ceiling vents to wait for hapless guards to walk past, and brutally slaughter them with a selection of stealthy attacks. Hanging on ledges lets you cut the knees out from under enemies, and whistling will draw targets away from their patrol routes. It's empowering, satisfying and great fun while it lasts.
You'll occasionally lay hands on a firearm with limited ammo, which briefly turns the experience into a frenetic shooter for a scant few seconds. Smoke it if you've got it!
There's also a fair bit of exploring to be done. The sprawling 2.5D levels contain a fair few secret passages and alternate routes for savvy players to stalk through, providing night vision goggles, medkits and Ulyssium crystals that deliver a persistent upgrade to damage and health. It's no Shadow Complex, but there's certainly a decent amount of content here.
It's a novel way of updating a classic franchise, and if Vatra had stuck to their guns, Rush'N Attack: Ex-Patriot could have been an absolute corker. The stealth and reliance on melee is tight, tense and fun... until you realise that you really don't need it at all.
You see, the enemies are inept, useless and plain stupid even by platforming standards - and provide little or no resistance to running right up to them in plain sight and hammering X a few times. Simple (though clunky) combos make light work of even big groups of enemies, and health packs are so common that players can shrug off any damage they take. You can practically speed-run through the entire thing without any care or planning; gleefully triggering security cameras and laughing as the idiot reinforcements queue up for the slaughter.
Patently then, Rush'N Attack fails as a stealth game... which means that it all comes down to whether or not it's a capable platformer. Sadly, it ain't.
The platforming mechanics are cumbersome to the extreme. A lack of air control and analogue jump strength control means that precisely landing your jumps can be an exercise in frustration... especially when attempting to leap between rickety crates over a river of ACME instant death fluid. Checkpoints are ridiculously far apart, and failing to nail a platforming section will almost always lose you several minutes of progress. Everything feels heavy and unresponsive, which smacks of a distinct lack of care and playtesting on the developer's part.
The Unreal Engine is used to middling effect. The odd background or vista can look fairly impressive, but otherwise, the visuals are grainy, uninspiring and uniformly boring. Character models are hilariously poor (looking like waxy action figures with massively oversized hands) and badly animated, providing plenty of unintentional laughs when viewed in cutscenes. After all, Morrow seems to facepalm himself ever time he answers his radio! The cutscenes themselves feature no voice acting of any kind and rely on ratty callouts to tell what little story there is.
- Tense and satisfying stealth gameplay
- Large sprawling stages promote exploration
- Refreshing melee focus
- Stealth is ultimately useless thanks to inept opponents
- Weak platforming
- Poor graphics; horrendous character models
The Short Version: Rush'N Attack could have excelled as a pure stealth game. It nearly does. But unfortunately the hapless enemies, limp platforming mechanics and grungy visuals stop it from being anything more than painfully average. Wait for a deal.