Send This One Back To Siberia
But retro is in, and Konami clearly isn't one to turn their back on this wave of retro-remakes that is sweeping the downloadable game scene lately. So they tabbed Vatra games to develop Rush'N Attack: Ex-Patriot, all the better to cash in on the craze.
There's some semblance of a story about Sergeant Sid Morrow; some Unobtainium-like substance Russians have dug up that makes ultra powerful missiles; and a CIA team sent in to stop them, but who cares. What little narrative there is is told in Bionic Commando Rearmed styled talking heads with text, and the writing could best be described as sophomoric. But that's neither here nor there, this is old school gaming when stories were only told on attract screens anyway.
Alas, the action isn't much more inspired than the story. Ex-Patriot is a 2D side-scroller (with a good amount of vertical scrolling too) that focuses on melee combat with a decent amount of stealth thrown in. I suppose the closest modern comparison would be Shadow Complex or other modern Metroidvanias (or Castleroids), but this game is a far, far cry from that masterpiece. Knife play is the order of the day, although you will on occasion grab a rifle or rocket launcher that has a scant few bullets in it, and you also have the ubiquitous grenades that were in every pre-90's arcade game. There are a variety of simple two- and three-button combos to add some shallow bit of depth to the gameplay, but they aren't especially fluid or interesting. Scattered throughout the level are doorways, holes in the floor and catwalks you can duck into for a moment to avoid detection and get the drop of those pesky Ruskies for a stealth kill. A smattering of security cameras are mounted in the base and will set off a brief alarm if you wander into their sight range, but for the most part they are minor annoyances. You'll also find the occasional health pack, pair of IR goggles and possibly a gas mask to help keep America safe.
Speaking of levels, the level design is about on par with the rest of the game. There are a few scattered shortcuts that keep the game from being totally linear, but in the end, all routes lead to the same place. I'm not sure why, but there is toxic sludge filling entire floors of the compound you are infiltrating, often blocking your progress until you can find the correct switch to flip to drain it all out. There's also lots of crates floating through the sludge, and thus a fair amount of jumping puzzles. Except the jumping controls are about the worst I have ever come across in a game. I may not be a video game savant, but I'm not all thumbs either, and it shouldn't take me upward of a dozen tries to simply hop across three crates. I've never broken a controller in frustration, but Ex-Patriot had me twisting the DualShock 3 in rage more than once.
There' are three acts to stab your way through, if you find yourself so inclined. But the game doesn't change in any significant way after the first 5 minutes, so unless you are infatuated with the gameplay, there isn't a whole lot to keep you going. Between the boring gameplay, horridly unresponsive controls, and middling-at-best graphics, it is very hard to see Rush'N Attack as anything more than a cheap cash-in. I'm sure the folks at Vatra put their best effort into the game, and hopefully they learned some lessons that can be applied to their next project, but right now it is hard to recommend Rush'N Attack: Ex-Patriot to anyone but the most hardcore nostalgia buffs and masochists.