Rush 'N Attack: Ex-Patriot ReviewJoe Shaffer
In 1985, Konami invaded arcades with an illogical stab-happy hit called Rush 'N Attack. It chronicled the adventures of a crazy commando armed with only a knife against an army of Russian soldiers. It was true to its name in that all you did was run forward and knife everyone to death. It lacked depth, was challenging as all get out, and yet still delivered enough simple action to whet the whistle of the average action fanatic.
Nearly three decades later, Konami decides to release a sequel: Rush 'N Attack: Ex-Patriot. Much has changed since 1985, and the run-and-stab method wasn't going to cut it. Konami had to make a sequel with relevance. They wanted something that would draw attention from more than just the fans of the classic predecessor. They wanted something raw, something gritty, something... "accessible".
Ex-Patriot's shortcomings aren't the PSX-quality graphics, highlighted by a dull, earthy color pallet. Nor is it the boring Metal Gear Solid Lite storyline. It's the fact that it's too easy.
Konami took Rush 'N Attack away from its roots. Where the original was a straightforward side-scroller with minimal platforming and no branching whatsoever, Ex-Patriot presents itself as a pseudo-Metroidvania. Levels branch, featuring secret tunnels and hidden nooks and crannies filled with power ups to increase your maximum health or other goodies. Other branches are merely alternate routes, but many of them are redundant. Most games use alternate routes as an easier way to advance through a level, yet many of the main routes in Ex-Patriot are easy enough that they don't need alternate routes. More than anything, the alternates are there to make levels feel more complex than they truly are.
Even with the branching, levels are still linear. However, each one features multiple objectives, many of which are simple and almost all of them are the same. Either collect X of item Y, open a door, or throw a switch.
But it's not the objectives that define Ex-Patriot; it's the combat. Like the original, your character's initial weapon is a knife, but unlike its frantic predecessor, Ex-Patriot gives you a choice: face-to-face hack 'n slash combat or the stealthy approach. Taking the hack 'n slash route, you can execute various simple combos to dispatch your enemies. This method provides faster gameplay with more action and a pleasant metal-through-flesh sound with every slice. Stealth, on the other hand, requires you to take it slow and plan ahead. You'll sneak into doorways, hide in openings in the ceiling and floor, or just slither up to Russians and slash their throats while their backs are turned. Stealth allows you to deal with problems in one shot rather than trying to wear enemies down with a constant mash of the 'SQUARE' button.
Both methods allow you to ignore the ugly visuals and laughable story. They're both addictive at first, even cathartic. Sometimes there's nothing better at the end of a long day than pulling a guard into the floor, stabbing him in the spine, and absconding with his corpse into the shadows.
When you're tired of stabbing, you can get your hands on some of the special limited-use weapons certain soldiers carry. Rifles can take out most of your opponents with a single shot, and for those of you who appreciate excess, there's the RPG. Shooting a guard in the back with a rocket and launching him fifty feet into radioactive waste is an event that must be seen!
And then about 75% of the way through level 1, the magic wears off. Ex-Patriot lacks two things: variety and challenge.
You can unlock new combos, but you really won't need them. Mashing the hell out of 'SQAURE' gets the job done every time. Even when enemies block, all you need to do is wait or keep mashing until they get tired of blocking. This is true for every enemy. There's nothing complicated about the combat, or even challenging. You won't even use the block button very often, as the only time I made use of it was at the end.
You might find yourself switching to stealth to get the job done, except that you do the same stealth moves over and over again. Dealing with every enemy is a no-brainer. If they don't have a door or a hole in the ground near them, then your best bet is to wait until they're facing the other direction. Either that or lob a grenade at them for an instant kill.
Lob a grenade? Won't that set off the alarms? Ha! No one in Ex-Patriot seems to care about your presence, or even notice you unless you're in front of them or you were spotted by a camera. Basic principles used to add challenge to even the most basic stealth game are not even present in Ex-Patriot. Soldiers will walk past a dead comrade without a glance. Violent bangs, sounds of struggle, or other soldiers crying for help will not raise any suspicion or concern. Everyone else, even if they're right below you, will not give a damn. What makes a stealth game work is the risk of being seen and the hefty penalty that comes of it. The only penalty Ex-Patriot dishes out is that you lose the fat bonus points gained from a stealth kill.
Even though there are only three levels, all three of them drag on much further than they should. It 's worse when you have to exercise the same tactics, be they face-to-face or stealth, repeatedly. At no point does doing either of these things become more difficult or interesting, and losing interesting before the second level's climax is not an unheard of phenomenon.
Gritty violence and simple gameplay can only carry a game so far if they aren't reinforced by challenge and variety. Rush 'N Attack: Ex-Patriot unfortunately forgets this and winds up a tedious and repetitive entry into a small series. It makes one wonder if it was really worth the effort of reviving a dead franchise. Still, Ex-Patriot is not a terrible title, and could provide some violent fun for a short while. Just bear in mind that it won't take long for boredom to rear its ugly head.
Disclosure: We are provided copies of games from the game companies for some games that we review.