When you first pick up Rush?N Attack Ex-Patriot, the similarities to Shadow Complex and any Metroid-vania game is clearly seen. However, looks can be deceiving as Ex-Patriot not only strays from its roots, it also stands out with touchy play control, poor level design, and confusing story progression.
Metroid-vania and Shadow Complex this is not.
When the original Rush?n Attack was released for the NES back in the mid 80?s, the game?s high action and co-op play created an enjoyable experience. You and a friend were given the task of sneaking into an enemy base and taking down an entire army using only a knife. Those were the only two warriors brave enough to encourage bringing knives to gunfights.
Ex-Patriot deters from its action roots and stands as a stealth game. The plot is also pretty ridiculous and the story telling doesn?t really make a whole lot of sense. You apparently are a member of an elite group of ?Ninja Badasses? sent into Russia to obtain some secret meteorite and rescue a 20-year POW. However, the game opens up with you breaking out of an unexplained prison cell – not exactly a ninja badass.
Unlike Metroid or Shadow Complex, there are no powerups to collect sans meteorite fragments that slightly increase your health bar. There is no need to backtrack and the map is essentially cut into pieces instead of one giant environment. And you no longer can charge head first into battle and immediately stab everything to death. Sneaking behind enemies are great ways to earn one-hit kills and ducking into dark doorways Blackthorne-style is cool, but also becomes a little inconsistent due to the imprecise controls.
Each time you run near a wall, the player has to wait and tolerate a ?I just bumped into the wall? animation. It is annoying and this animation really isn?t necessary. Also, jumping and wall clinging is just plain weird. Sometimes your character will grab a ledge, some time he won?t. Wall jumps are also strange because the player can scamper up the wall first, and then jump. It is not really what you would expect and the game forces this on the player through awkward level design.
Perhaps the worst part about the level design can be found in the first stage. After finding some keycards, the player must unlock all the other prisoners from their cells. Because the game does not make this task obvious, and it doesn?t even pop up as an objective on the map screen, I literally ran around for a couple of hours before I just gave up. Either I ran into a glitch and could not progress any further, or this proves the game?s lower quality level design. Hitting a switch should not be this difficult.
Ex-Patriot?s graphics are split down the lane of high quality but low functionality. For an XBLA game, this sequel looks pretty cool, complete with fluid animations, nice lighting, and detailed environments. Unfortunately, the game?s background is quite the tease. The backgrounds look as though you can hop into them and explore, or at least, be interactive with them. The best example of this is when you first find grenades; there are red barrels in the background that are just begging to be exploded. Because the graphics are done so well, the backgrounds can also seem like they blend with the foreground. This just winds up teasing and confusing the player.
The game?s AI is also inconsistent. Guards do not acknowledge dead bodies. Even though you are sneaking from behind, enemies still tend to hear you at the last second. And if you are spotted by a security camera, you might as well just hit the restart button to save some time because you will get easily overwhelmed. Earlier in the game, you will come across some night vision goggles. Making the game more user friendly, the night vision goggles can be used at will and limitlessly. But just minutes later, I came across another pair of night vision goggles?then another. Why am I collecting the same item over and over again? Blend this repeat item collecting flaw with the poor mapping system and again, the subpar level design really makes a statement.
For an XBLA game, it was nice to be treated to a motion comic with voice over during the opening cutscene, despite the fact that it makes no sense. But it is also disappointing when the soundtrack doesn?t even loop properly, you can see enemy shadows through floors, and each time a checkpoint is reached the game stutters pretty badly. Again, the game looks good, but the overall presentation values and polish are more frustrating than anything.
With no multiplayer mode whatsoever, Ex-Patriot is solely a single player experience but does have a point based leaderboard system. This fact, along with replacing the action orientation of the original title with stealth-based gameplay, are so far away from the original source material that this sequel cannot really be seen as a sequel at all. It is not that Ex-Patriot is a bad game, it is just that there are better and smoother alternatives on the XBLA marketplace. Unfortunately, if you want a more enjoyable experience (that also costs less and has an entertaining co-op feature), check out the original version.
Not As Good As: the original game
Also Try: the XBLA version of the original for 400 MS Pts
Wait For It: a Virtual Console release of the original NES version
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