Rush’N Attack: Ex Patriot is ostensibly a sequel to the Rush’N Attack arcade game from the 80s, although at this point most people will regard the follow-up as a fairly standard 2D platformer. That’s not necessarily a problem. Rush’N Attack isn’t the most technically proficient game, but it’s cheap and the gameplay mostly delivers so it’s about as enjoyable as any other recent budget download.
In Rush’N Attack, you play as Morrow, an elite commando sent behind enemy lines to rescue a soldier who was abandoned some two decades prior. Morrow and his team are soon captured and thrown in a Russian prison, and the game begins with a jailbreak as Morrow attempts to rescue the surviving members of his team. He’ll also learn some secrets about a material called Ulyssium, although that’s really just a fancy word for ‘nuclear warhead.’
The story hits on every Cold War cliché in the book, and it’s neither campy nor serious enough to warrant any serious consideration. It’s simply bland, with a few elements that seem more unintentionally hilarious than deliberate. The timeline is a mess – the Cold War has now been over for more than twenty years – and Morrow dresses like a homeless guy on his way to rob a liquor store.
Then again, the gameplay is fine, so it’s not as if any of that stuff matters. Your default weapon is a knife, and the over-the-top violence is highly reminiscent of other downloadable brawlers like Shank, although the action in Rush’N Attack isn’t nearly that relentless. Badass Rambo knife aside, Morrow is not invincible, nor is he even particularly superhuman. Every enemy can make short work of your health bar and head-to-head combat is usually a losing proposition. The block button will protect you from most melee attacks, but the Russians have also mastered the technique and it’s not much help against bullets or multiple soldiers.
The thing is, Rush’N Attack is actually a stealth game, and it appropriately prioritizes guerilla warfare over direct confrontation. Hit-and-run strategies are highly effective, and the controls are fine once you’ve made the adjustment. You can crouch down to move without making noise, and if you can get within striking distance without getting noticed, you’ll be able to execute a one-button kill and then move on to the next victim.
Your goal, then, is to make your way through each level while slitting as many throats as possible, and you’ll hone your skills on NPCs armed with assault rifles, chainsaws, grenades, and other assorted instruments of death. Some enemies will drop those weapons after they’ve been killed, although you’ll still want to remember that Rush’N Attack is not a shooter. You can only carry one gun and you’ll seldom have enough ammo for more than two or three shots.
It’s also not as if firearms are any deadlier than your trusty knife. The guards are extremely nearsighted – you can hide in plain sight as long as you’re at the other end of the corridor – and they have a delayed response time, so the first strike is usually the most important.
That’s true regardless of your weapon choice, and while it might not be ‘realistic,’ it makes for better gameplay within the confines of a 2D field of vision. The camera is relatively tight, so you won’t be able to see what’s ahead until you’re already there, and the game thankfully won’t punish you for that enforced lack of foresight. Tread carefully, and you’ll have more than enough time to analyze any situation.
To that end, the game deserves credit for some surprisingly intricate level design. Even though the background visuals are mediocre, the layout is fantastic, and air vents and tunnels will often give you multiple ways to approach any given situation. The stages are absolutely massive – there are only three, but each one clocks in at around two hours – and while you can go looking for secrets, you’re never forced to do any unnecessary backtracking.
Unfortunately, Rush’N Attack can still be a little repetitive. All of the guns are functionally identical and while you can find hidey-holes in ceilings, doorways, or floors, the leap-from-the-shadows-to-stab-a-dude-in-the-chest gameplay pattern is exactly the same in all three situations. The game requires a considerable amount of patience as you wait for guards to finish their patrols and you’ll spend a good chuck of time slowly picking off solitary foes like the unseen villain in a horror movie.
Once you become more comfortable with the controls, however, you’ll start to realize that the action is only limited by your own creativity. You can throw a bad guy off a ledge, sprint down a platform to jump his friend, and then immediately grab a flamethrower while tossing a grenade, and you won’t even have to deal with return fire as long as you keep moving.
Of course, Rush’N Attack is far from perfect. The new combo system is so completely broken and unresponsive that it manages to make melee combat worse, and the time between thought an action is generally a bit sticky. The frame rate chugs whenever there are more than three or four characters onscreen and while the game isn’t broken, it’s hardly a technical marvel.
Even for a $10 download, Rush’N Attack is just noticeably lacking in polish. Nobody expects the graphics to rival more prominent AAA titles, but the game tries to emulate the gritty feel of a current generation shooter and it comes up well short by comparison.
In a nod to its arcade roots, Rush’N Attack also has online leader boards, but the feature is almost entirely superficial. You’ll always get max points for stealth kills, so the scoring actually discourages creativity and the game is more dynamic if you if you ignore the competition.
So with that in mind, you’re free to make your own decision with Rush’N Attack: Ex-Patriot. It won’t make a lasting impression, but at $10 it’s good for a few hours of mindless, disposable entertainment. You’re not missing anything if you don’t buy it, but you probably won’t regret it if you do.
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