Comic Con Preview: Rush'N Attack: Ex-Patriot
The first Rush'N Attack was released when I was a toddler so I was unmoved by the news that Konami was publishing a Xbox Live Arcade remake. There's not much from the original game to stir up excitement, anyway. It was a side-scroller in which a Green Beret ran around jabbing Russian soldiers with a knife. Also, you died in one hit. It's not exactly fertile source material.
Fortunately, the XBLA remake's similarities to the original are only superficial. You once again play the role of a 2D American covert operative who kills lots of Russians with a knife. Instead of being a Green Beret rescuing hostages, though, you're a CIA operative out to prevent Russia from developing a new nuclear weapon. You were captured and stripped of your equipment at the outset of your mission so at least this time it makes sense that you're running around with only a knife.
Rush'N Attack: Ex-Patriot is at its heart a stealth game. You sneak up on guards and perform bloody takedowns. These executions are contextual in some cases. If you're hiding in a doorway, you'll perform a different takedown than you would if you were hanging from a ledge. Stealth kills are less likely to trigger alarms and are less risky than a front attack but the best reason you'll do these executions is that they look great. The animations for the knife attacks are based on a Spestnaz (Russian special forces) fighting style.
The game features many of the other trappings of the stealth genre. Security cameras keep an eye on hallways and will alert guards if you pass through their field of vision. You can whistle while in a doorway to attract a nearby guard, but the tradeoff is that you can be seen while poking your head out to whistle. In time you acquire gadgets like night vision goggles to further assist your sneaking.
Triggering an alarm will result in multiple enemies converging on you but unlike some stealth games, the stream of foes won't be endless. Furthermore, Ex-Patriot eschews the one-hit deaths of the original in favor of a health bar. While it's possible to evade your pursuers and end the alarm, you're not bad in a stand-up fight. It will require two or three stabs to kill an enemy head-on but there are also slide and throw attacks you can use while running that can wipe out enemies quickly. You'll also find ranged weapons that can tear through guards immediately, though their ammunition is limited. You could play the game like a mindless hack-and-slash and get away with it, provided you've got the twitch skills.
Ex-Patriot isn't very faithful to the arcade game that inspired it but I'm glad. Developer Vatra has taken a frustrating side-scroller and turned it into a accessible and surprisingly deep stealth game. It seems like a smart break from tradition to me.
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