Rush'N Attack: Ex-Patriot
Mining a seemingly never-ending source of nostalgia for '80s video games, Konami's polished up yet another old-school title, this time pulling out the one-hit-and-you're-dead Rush'N Attack. There's more story this time around, as you play as Morrow, a bandana-masked, vicious ninja soldier whose team of operatives has been captured by Russian bad guys (in a mostly anachronistic storyline.) With the odds stacked against you, you utilize your outstanding knife skills and stealth abilities to battle through three levels of Russian soldiers to rescue your team, and complete a few additional tasks you'll find yourself charged with.
An action platformer, this new Rush'N Attack hews closely to the original in some ways, sticking with the side-scrolling knife-fighting (enhanced by letting you move up and down though levels, along with entering doors) along with some the same general settings. But in this new three-level version, you get a life bar, instead of the original's brutal instant-death deal, and you can recharge it via med-kits found literally EVERYWHERE, making the game much easier, unless you choose to play in the hardest setting, which could make you throw your controller through your TV. It's basically the return of the one-hit death. You'll find lots of little call-backs and references to the original throughout, but the one things they kept that could have been tossed is the rather repetitive nature of the game.
At first, as you start attacking pretty cool-looking enemies armed with knives and guns, the game feels a lot of fun. Whether it's hiding in an open doorway and delivering quick, violent death from the darkness, or picking up a dead guy's rifle and mowing down your foes, or especially the promise of attack combos, it seems like good times. Then you find yourself navigating the same levels and challenges for far too long and far too many times and realize there's not a whole lot to this game. Sure, you can unlock attack combos and collect hidden stocks of a previous gem (which does essentially nothing for you) but you'll instead be schlepping through the same find-and-activate quests again and again. That you have no idea when it will end makes it seem to last even longer than it does, and then you're faced with a boss that, like the rest of the game, tests your patience more than anything else. The final battle of the entire game can simply be beaten by waiting out your enemy, until you have a better angle, and then alternate simple attacks and defenses until he's defeated. It's easily one of the most disappointing final challenges I've experienced.
Through the game, you'll run into plenty of things that will annoy you, which really makes them stand out, because it's the rare thing that's new or different. For instance, there's seemingly no way to know if you are close to unlocking a new combo, so you can't work toward it. For some reason, when you're following a conversation, and you hit advance, which normally completes that part of the text to read and then lets you move ahead, just moves ahead instead. Then there's your weapon-toting enemies, who will sometimes drop their arms for you to pick up and use. How do you make them do that? Good question, but it's not exactly clear, as you'll watch a body cling to its now-useless gun forever. Now, you'll pick up an awesome flame thrower or a powerful sniper rifle, but there are guys carrying gatling guns and chainsaw, and you'll never get them. It'sd be nice to know why, and better to actually be able to use them.
In addition to these issues with the games' construction, there are many straight-up glitches you'll come across. Aside from weapons landing where you'll never be able to pick them up or having your character drown in ankle-deep (but admittedly toxic) water, my favorite had to be when I killed an enemy on the run, and his body proceeded to float in front of my as I ran. Neat trick, but not very useful. Unfortunately, that goes for much of your attacks.
The only online element is the leaderboards, where you can compare scores.
Though the game has its moments of fluidity, like the sweet way you can grab hold of a ledge and yank someone off it in one smooth move, there is a slowness to the controls that makes you feel like you're not fully in control. That goes double when you try to utilize the combo system. To be completely honest, I am not certain I've actually pulled one off, as I can't tell the difference between the results of button-mashing or specific combinations of the two attack buttons, especially since once in a while, you'll pull off an incredible gorgeous move and have no understanding as to what you did to make it happen.
You've got 12 achievements worth a total of 200 gamerpoints to earn here, which range from very standard game completion rewards to quantity achievements, along with some extreme completion tasks, like unlocking all moves and completing the game with a high ranking. Only the few requiring you to play at the toughest level will offer a real challenge.
There are a lot of art styles in play in this game, from the painterly animated segments, to the nicely-illustrated title screens, to the grimy, photo-realistic in-game animation, and the oddly comic-book style text balloon dialogue screens. It's a tad off-balanced in terms of a unified presentation, but outside of the goofy comic-book art, it all looks pretty nice. The game is a side-scroller presented from an elevated angle, which adds some dimension to the original game's concept. Overall, the game is pretty polished-looking, delivering detailed settings and interesting character designs, along with well-done animations, especially when using a special combo to take out a foe. The only things that don't look so great are the textures when you get up close, as they look decidedly not high-definition when zoomed in, and the characters' hands. Seriously, in any cut scene, the characters' hands are oddly shaped, like they are all suffering from severe arthritis. Strange stuff.
There are plenty of sound effects and voices throughout the game, including some unintelligible Russian, big explosions and groans of pain, most of which sound tight (the audible cues for the ticking landmines and dropping mortars are especially nice touches.) The less voices there are the better though, as the dialogue is simply silly, and there are only a few include. Music, on the other hand, is barely present outside of the menu theme.
And in the End...
What started out with great promise and excitement ended up being a repetitive, overly gritty, and frequently awkward reboot of a game that may be more fondly remembered than it deserves to be. The fifth time you hit a switch to empty a room of toxic water in order to move forward though, you'll likely remember this game far less fondly. More variety in the gameplay and more clarity in how the game actually works would have been much appreciated.