In case you've been hiding under a rock the past few days, and haven't checked out our banner, we're a little bit excited about the release of Gears of War 2 today. In keeping with the theme, then, I decided to go with a classic that was similar in tone to Gears 2. Perusing the list of classics in our database, I found Rush'n Attack. I'm sure there are closer matches to Gears of War, but both games feature macho soldiers, a variety of weapons, and, well, war. I downloaded the demo off of Xbox Live Arcade, and tried it out for a bit. That experience is the focus of Co-Op Classics this week.
First, a bit of history about the game. You may know the game that eventually became known as Rush'n Attack as the arcade title Green Beret. In 1985, when Green Beret was released, the Cold War was at its height. It's no surprise, then, that Russians are the bad guys. The objective in Green Beret was to rescue POWs from an enemy camp. However, this was altered for the NES port. Instead, your character's task was to destroy an enemy secret weapon. It's the NES version, with the cool sounding name change to Rush'n Attack, that I remember playing when I was younger. It featured two player simultaneous gameplay, which the arcade did not, and I am certain it's this that made the game memorable for me.
The gameplay, when viewed from a modern perspective, is anything BUT memorable, though. It seems the XBLA version I played is based more on the arcade version, with a few enhancements. The biggest problem with the game is the weapons. Your elite soldier is sent into enemy territory armed with... a knife. Yup, you are running around, fighting well armed enemy troops, with a glorified swiss army knife as your only method of attack. Luckily, you can take weapons from certain fallen foes. However, these are just limited use powerups! The first weapon you'll find is a rather satisfying flamethrower. Well, it's satisfying, until you use it three times, whereupon it disappears. I was expecting Contra style permanency to these weapons, and I died as a result. Not too fun.
By the middle of the first level, you are literally dodging grenades and soldiers are pouring in from both sides of the screen. To say it's difficult is an understatement. Rarely have I been so annoyed by a game so quickly. I don't mind a difficult game, really. I love the Fire Emblem series, which are quite well known for being challenging. I love playing Ikaruga , even though it schools me every time. But Rush'n Attack seems to be difficult in the cheap sense, the controller-throwing, kick-the-arcade-cabinet way, and I certainly didn't enjoy it too much.
Knowing that two heads are often better than one, I called for my oldest son to come help me check it out. Unfortunately, there is no co-op in the demo. The only way to play with two is alternating player 1 and player 2 style, which was fine for Pac -Man in 1981, but seems weak now, even for a demo. Given the quite awful experience I had playing solo, I don't see much of a reason to pony up even the $5 it would cost for the full game. If you're looking for a good classic co-op experience, with the big guns and awesome co-op feel of Gears of War 2, check out Contra. I'd only recommend Rush N Attack to those who look back on it through the lenses of nostalgia. Some classics age well, some don't, and Rush'n Attack, despite the clever name, is firmly in the latter category. You'll be better off Rush'n to a store to pick up Gears 2, I guarantee.