Konami's been in a rough spot on the XBLA recently. Hard Corps: Uprising was sub-par at best, and Battle: LA was so bad I called the aliens and told them I now totally understood why they wanted to kill us. But with their latest arcade offering, maybe Konami can turn that around.
Rush'N Attack: Ex-Patriot hit XBLA yesterday, and after playing through the demo, I can honestly say this game is great. Actually, let me clarify that: the gameplay is great. Mechanics, button scheme, controls, all of that is fantastic. The rest? Not so much.
You fill the role of Agent Morrow, a man described in the intro by his Commanding Officer as one of a team comprised of a "sneaky bunch of ninja badasses." After delivering the Best Intro Line in a Videogame for 2011, your C.O. goes on to tell you that you're going to rescue your buddies (who you don't even get to see, apparently) from a Russian prison. About 3 seconds after you are told "You will not be caught" you are caught, and then the game proper begins. There's also some nonsense about Ulyssium, a crystal the Russians are weaponizing, but like the "save your friend" plot, it feels really throwaway considering the Russians haven't actually DONE anything with it yet.
Someone of ambiguous ethnicity bails you out of jail and throws you the BIGGEST goddamn knife I've ever seen. In the intro you're told you are a master of knife combat, so this situation looks promising, right? Well, they also told you that you were a master of stealth and infiltration, too, and you start the game in a Russian gulag cell.
Rush'N Attack wants you to think it is gritty as F*** with blood flying and curse words scattered liberally throughout. It might have gotten away with it, too, were it not for cutscenes involving character models that would look embarrassing on the N64.
Despite my nitpicking at the story, the game handles beautifully. Your mission is to be a sneaky S.O.B. and shank your way to freedom and Democracy. You'll sneak and stab in 2.5d environments that will bring back memories of Metroid and, more recently, Shadow Complex. Light knifery is mapped to the X button while the heavy "You Shall Not Pass" stab is on Y. You're told that you can play quiet and stealthy or fast and loud, but that's not entirely true. You are forced to sneak whenever there's a camera around, unless you'd like to try your luck against 3+ guards at once. (PROTIP: You don't want to try your luck.) The platforming and walljumping/climbing/kicking feels intuitive and natural, and hiding in dark doorways or ceilings waiting for prey is sadistic fun.
Hysterically, the in-game graphics are actually pretty nice, featuring dynamic lighting that gives you a real sense of dread as you skulk around the prison. This may be the first game I've played where the cutscenes are actually worse then the game itself.
If you can overlook the terrible cutscenes and throwaway story, there's a really fun game to be played here. Rush'N Attack: Ex-Patriot is 800 MSP, and is available now.