April 7, 2011

Review – Rush’N Attack

Rush n Attack Ex Patriot
Having never played the original Rush’N Attack, I approached the sequel, Ex-Patriot, drawing more comparisons to Shadow Complex than any other title; another in a line of products designed to leverage new technology against an old school experience—here, sadly, to not much effect at all.

Rush’N Attack takes place—gasp!—in Russia, where the player is on a mission to rescue a previously captured operative and investigate a possible Russian weapon program. What follows is an offensively bad string of dialogue sequences and awkward, lingering cut scenes that serve only to make the player crinkle his nose.

The plot may be standard NES-era fare, but it’s executed with none of the charm or self-conscious humor that has made modern takes like Explodemon a success, nor with the careful quality that made Shadow Complex an upstanding modern experience.

Rush'n Attack Ex-Patriot
These scenes (and, indeed, the game in general) are characterized by sound design that ranges from simply mediocre to outright awful. Cutscenes sound as if they’re taking place in the void, with dull, muted sound effects and characters that mumble almost imperceptibly. During gameplay, barely audible (also, terrible) music tinkles in the background, creating no sense of mood or excitement, while enemy footsteps clang obnoxiously throughout the environment, and enemies bark in monstrous Russian without pause.

Art design is similarly unpleasant. Many games take place in settings that, logically, should be horrifying; Gears of War, Call of Duty, Fallout—taking place in ruins, warzones, and wastelands, they should be ugly games. Instead, they are often beautiful. There’s an art, well, to this art, and unfortunately Ex-Patriot misses the mark. The environment is simply an ugly mess of unappealing browns, grays and yellows with nothing interesting to look at in the endless passages and hallways—and when the camera zooms in for cutscenes, matters become outright cringe-worthy.

The gameplay doesn’t fare much better. The core mechanic mixes melee combat with platforming and stealth elements, while the player can also collect firearms with limited ammunition, as well as grenades and eventually deployable turrets.

Rush'n Attack Ex-Patriot
On the platforming end, the player character moves with an awkward, unwieldy jump that will frequently and infuriatingly miss the mark and carry players to their death. Platforming sections are adequately designed, but never offer any particular challenge, nor requir much skill or clever thinking. Considering the imprecise control, this may be for the best.

Melee combat is comparably awkward. There are a number of combos to be unlocked as the player progresses, but only one or two of them can be put to much use, and all of them function poorly. More often than not the combination will simply not execute, leaving the player open to a brutal assault from the uninjured enemy.

Indeed, I found that the only way to reliably dispatch an enemy without taking damage was to execute one of the dashing combos; any attempt to engage them with another approach invariably led to me swinging awkwardly, clumsily, and ineffectually while they slashed at me over and over.

Stealth can provide a measure of relief, as the player is able to crouch and move silently or duck into darkened doorways to evade enemies and execute stealth attacks. Enemies crisscross areas in slow patrols, however—so slow that sitting around in a doorway waiting for an opportunity is unbearably boring. Equally, attempting to crouch your way behind an enemy for a stealth kill is slow enough that enemies will often simply turn around for their next pass, spotting you.

Rush'n Attack Ex-Patriot
Security cameras and turrets occasionally complicate matters, but the pattern for these devices never changes, making them only an interesting obstacle on perhaps the first encounter—later becoming an obstacle that only serves to force the player to slow down.

Enemies come in a few varieties; most attack with knives or chainsaws, while others are more heavily armored and attack with rifles, grenades, or rocket launchers. There are also environmental hazards like mines and, naturally, water pits that cause instant death—and a handful of maddening dogs that are aggravatingly difficult to attack, on account of their small stature.

The problem is usually that enemy positions are such that a single mistake will land the player in a literal killzone; crisscrossing lines of fire and too many enemies to successfully overcome with the miserable melee system lead to instant death.

Furthermore, while enemy weapons can sometimes be picked up (and sometimes not, inexplicably), they are of limited usefulness. Your fire may fly over an enemy head, or if the foe is too close, simply pass through him harmlessly.

Rush'n Attack Ex-Patriot
The design shortcomings converge in the boss battles, each of which seeks to combine platforming elements with the standard “Figure out the pattern” boss encounter. Not only are these tedious, but poorly designed. When the player fails, it’s not because the encounter is designed to challenge, but simply in a manner that is not conducive to player success.

One boss asks the player to shoot through a tiny window in an armored elevator, through which the boss is firing his own, far more powerful weapon that can’t reliably be avoided with the awkward platforming controls. As weapons can only be fired straight forward, this becomes a situation where both characters open up on each other and take the damage.

When the game plays the way I can feel it’s meant to, it works—dashing from target to target, quickly dispatching enemies and navigating the environment with speed is exciting and satisfying. Sadly, the game design is simply so sloppy, the attacks and movement abilities so often ineffectual, that such moments are far too rare. Instead, the game is a mess of awkward battles, aggravating deaths, and clumsy platforming that simply doesn’t live up to the standard of many other downloadable titles. There’s a fun game in here somewhere, but it’s inaccessible, piled under poor design that makes the game fundamentally frustrating and unsatisfying.

Vatra Games


PlayStation 3 (PSN), Xbox 360 (Xbox LIVE Arcade) (PlayStation 3 Reviewed)


Release Date
March 29, 2011 PlayStation Network, March 30, 2011 Xbox LIVE Arcade

$9.99 (PSN), 800 Microsoft Points (XBLA)

*A copy of this title was provided by the publisher for review

No Comments »

No comments yet.

RSS feed for comments on this post.

Leave a comment

Powered by WordPress