The sequel to an ’85 action-platformer (which was remade in 2007) Rush’N Attack: Ex-Patriot is a frustrating game with downright awful movement mechanics. While its combat can be enjoyable at times and the game does possess a certain old school charm, the experience is ruined by heavy helpings of horrendous platforming. Control is perhaps the most integral component of any platformer, and Ex-Patriot’s clunky mechanics are a deal breaker. The game would by no means be great if this were not an issue, but it would be a decent side-scroller. As it stands however, I cannot award the game with even that moderate praise.
The most glaring flaw in Rush’N Attack is that the simple act of jumping is not nearly as smooth as it needs to be. Anyone who has played platformers in the past has come to expect a certain level of tightness in movement and proper weight to an on screen character when he/she leaps. Nintendo’s Mario is of course the gold standard, but plenty of other games have delivered alterations to that particular formula that have worked just fine for their purposes. Unfortunately, moving Ex-Patriot’s Morrow (code named Spider Wolf) through the game’s hostile Russian environments can be an enormously frustrating experience.
The ability to run and jump from one platform to another is a simple concept that Vatra’s latest fails miserably at. While playing, you can expect to constantly misjudge the point at which you should leap for a ledge. Actually, misjudge isn’t the correct term. I’ve been playing platformers since the mid ’80s, and have thus developed a strong grasp of when I need to jump in such titles. Ex-Patriot doesn’t operate under these expected parameters though. Its botched jumping mechanics will force you to retry the most simplistic of platforming challenges. This is incredibly frustrating and will make all but the most dedicated want to put the controller down and walk away.
Aside from often having to come to a complete stop to jump, while simultaneously avoiding any hazards that may be present, you’ll also meet some untimely deaths as a result of not being able to stick landings. Hopping across floating crates is a real challenge in Rush’N Attack because you will often slide right off edges after seemingly nailing a jump. Another annoyance in this field is the roll maneuver that Spider Wolf will perform when falling from steep heights. Under many circumstances it isn’t a problem, but it flat out sucks when you are attempting to make precise leaps onto very small landing pads and you find yourself rolling right off of them into certain doom. On their own, these three complaints would mar any game. Together, they are likely to induce controller throwing fits of rage.
Ex-Patriot’s combat fares better despite suffering from an overabundance of enemy blocking. Your tool of destruction in the game is knife. There are a variety of other weapons that can be acquired (rocket launchers, grenades and assault rifles to name a few) but their extremely limited ammo capacities mean you’ll always return to carving fools up in short order. Your best bet is to take advantage of shadows and ledge hanging in order to get the drop on your Russian foes. This makes it easier to dispatch them and results in bloody assassinations and finishing moves that are quite satisfying.
For those who want to take the game’s title literally, you can always bum rush and unleash any of eleven unlockable combos on the baddies. This often results in you getting overwhelmed by enemies blocking you off on both sides and excessively blocking their way to victory. There’s nothing wrong with a little blocking, it’s an incredibly common aspect of most action games, but it feels overdone here and can be aggravating. The reason behind it is surely to encourage stealth attacks, but you don’t always have that option. Regardless, it will often make you wish that you hadn’t exhausted your projectile ammo during your last encounter.
During the course of the campaign, you will frequently be tasked with branching off and locating switches to open the way forward. It’s nice that the game isn’t totally linear and that it encourages you to go in search of those required mechanisms as well as some optional collectibles that serve as health upgrades. Unfortunately, the “find and hit a switch to open a path” mechanic is overused and grows tedious as the game progresses. These are extremely rudimentary puzzle types that gamers have experienced in excess over the years.
Many of the checkpoints are placed oddly right before you hit a switch or grab a required item. I cannot for the life of me understand this methodology. This means that if you die shortly after hitting a button, you’ll have to hit the button again and watch the animation of something unlocking/opening again. Why not put the checkpoints after these events and save everyone the hassle? Speaking of checkpoints, when they do pop up they pause the game. It’s only a few seconds, but that’s a few too many in this modern gaming world of seamless checkpoints. On top of that, the screen blurs on occasion when cutting back to game play after hitting a checkpoint that activates a cut scene. This isn’t the biggest of problems, but it is one more heaped onto the pile in Ex-Patriot.
On the visual side of things, Ex-Patriot is a dark and grungy game. The first act is full of dark colors that do a commendable job of portraying an exaggerated take on being incarcerated in a prison that is a holdover from Communist Russia. Things brighten up a bit later on with some outdoor, snowy and underwater locales. Nothing about it really stands out as impressive, but the style works for this game. Your character design is a bit odd though, and characters in general are unattractive low-poly builds. Spider Wolf is supposed to be an elite special forces soldier, but he looks more like he’s getting ready to hold up a steam train in the old west. In short: lose the kerchief, dude.
Despite the myriad of complaints I have with Vatra’s side-scroller, I surprisingly found myself rather enjoying playing it on a number of occasions. If you feel that you can stomach the clunky platform mechanics, then it might be worth your time. Those who have more discerning tastes in platformers however, will want to steer clear. With some more development time focusing on ironing out the these issues, Rush’N Attack: Ex-Patriot could have been a solid outing. As it stands, the poor platforming mechanics and monotonous switch flipping makes Ex-Patriot an exasperating experience.