|System: Xbox 360, PS3|
|Dev: Vatra Games|
|Release: March 29, 2011|
|Screen Resolution: 480p-1080p||Blood, Language, Violence|
Another big disappointment with Ex-Patriot comes from what initially appear to be significant design similarities with Epic's MetroidVania-ish title Shadow Complex. Don't let Vatra's use of 2D exploration deceive you—this is nothing like Jason Fleming's adventure, and just because the environments you traverse are big enough to use a map doesn't mean you'll actually need to (read: you won't). Players hoping for even a dash of non-linearity will be letdown, because the progression in Ex-Patriot is as straightforward as it gets, making any extra of hidden paths you find to various locations feel more like wasted level design window dressing rather than much of anything significant or useful. To add further insult to injury, the game's three chapters divide the levels up, so once you're finished with a section, there's no going back. To be fair, the game offers a modicum of entertainment seeing what sorts of environments you end up going through, as well as mindlessly taking out a bunch of baddies. Some of the weapons you can pick up (good for only a few rounds before it's back to your knife) are also fun, though largely you'll feel like you're just going through the motions.
When it comes down to it, though, Ex-Patriot just feels unpolished and perhaps even unfinished. Cutscenes are mix of sparse, lazy motion-comics (a recent annoyance whose frequency in games is starting to grate heavily on my nerves) and horrible, near PS2-era pantomimes, with comic bubble text and sporadic but equally annoying squawks from c-rate voice actors. Animations are sloppy, making Morrow and your Soviet foes feel as though made of plastic, particularly during combat. More than once I ran into bugs that stuck me between a wall and an attacking enemy, and even had the game outright freeze on me in one instance. The finicky platforming often suffers from too-precise interaction points, meaning that grabbing a ledge requires more use of forward momentum than it should (seriously, why can't Morrow just grab an overhang from directly underneath it?), though jumping itself feels and controls with a good degree of precision. Even the blood is unnaturally cartoony and bright red, lending a certain cheap quality to Ex-Patriot's proceedings.
At least the game looks decent. It's not going to blow you away by any means, but Vatra's dank, rusty corridors, suffused with moody lighting and steam or fog effects make for some nice visuals in places, even if the Russians themselves resemble cartoon robots (or caricatured Helghast). This is pretty ho-hum though, and really, what's the point of playing a game where the enemies are still thoroughly convinced that it's 1986?
CCC Freelance Writer