Rush’n Attack: Ex-Patriot scratches the same itch that Bionic Commando Rearmed does. It’s a nostalgia trip with beautiful visuals and the same classic gameplay scheme you’re already used to. Set after the Cold War, you play as Morrow, a Harvest operative. You’re sent to Russia to discover the secrets of Ulyssium – a rare element that can be used to create high-yield nuclear weapons, rescue captured operatives, knife Russians in the back, and crawl through the most dilapidated prison known to man.
Morrow is, and I’m quoting the game’s opening scene here, a “sneaky ninja badass.” There are a number of things wrong with this statement. One: Morrow is not sneaky. He’s loud, and he got captured. You start the game in a jail cell. Sure, he relies on stealth to knife guys, but he is given that knife by the operative who breaks him out of the Russian prison. In true video game fashion, this mysterious friend then sneaks away and communicates only by radio leaving you to take up the reins, but without him Rush‘n Attack would be a lot less exciting – unless you like simulations of the boredom that comes with spending your time in an eight-by-eight room with nothing to do – then I guess you’re disappointed at nearly every turn. Two: Morrow is not a ninja. No smoke bombs, no sword, no fancy black pajamas. Just one angry dude hiding in a darkened room slitting Russians throats as they walk by. Three: They got this one right. Anybody who can take out a rocket-launcher-wielding enemy with a comically-oversized knife is most certainly badass.
Rush’n Attack gets compared to Shadow Complex a lot, and that’s because both use the Unreal engine and both feature a grid map. Do not be fooled. Rush’n Attack is not a Metroidvania game. There are no missile expansions to find, no sword that can only be found in the upside-down clock tower, and there is very little focus on exploration. You will have to find your way to your objective, but things are fairly linear. If you veer off of the beaten path, you may find a health kit or a dose of Ulyssium (which can make Morrow stronger), but the impetus is always placed on moving forward to the next objective. Combat also is handled differently. In other games, the protagonist is some kind of Superman able to take on wave after wave of enemy soldier. That isn’t the case here. You’re outnumbered, outgunned, and if you want to see the end of the level you’re going to hide a lot and follow guys around while crouched down. The point is to not be seen, to not trip the intruder alarms, and to not get stuck fighting multiple opponents.
Rush’n Attack controls well, but true to its NES-era roots, movements are very deliberate. You won’t be changing directions mid-jump or just hammering on the square key during a fight, because it won’t work. Despite the word “rush” in the title, Morrow moves a little slowly, which makes sense considering he’s constantly on guard and trying not to be spotted by search lights or patrolling guards. While walking upright, Morrow is loud, and you’ll be the first (though only barely) to know when you’re on a grate and too close to a guard. While crouched, Morrow is a bit slower but much quieter. You’ll be crouching a lot, if for no other reason than because it is very rewarding to sneak up on a guy and kill him with one button press. For a game with such a heavy emphasis on stealth, I can’t for the life of me find a quiet way to descend from a ledge. You’d think that crouching near a ledge would make Morrow grab said ledge, and then another button press would make him fall silently below. That doesn’t happen. Your only option is to walk off the side and alert the guard forcing you into a direct confrontation when a stealthy alternative is preferred.
Rush’n Attack is exactly what you want out of a revival game – it is true to the original in terms of gameplay mechanics but decidedly modern in terms of visual and sound design. Run-down Russian facilities have never looked better than they do in Rush’n Attack: Ex-Patriot.
Pros: Stealth and stealth combat are well-thought-out and well-implemented
Cons: …Except for when you want to silently drop from one platform to another