STAFF REVIEW of Rustler (Xbox One)

Monday, September 20, 2021.
by Adam Dileva

Rustler Box art In 1999 a little sequel called Grand Theft Auto 2 released. To say that it influenced many games after the fact is an understatement, and I can’t even start to guess how many hours I sank into its world. It’s not often that older games in this style get reproduced, but Jutsu Games attempts to take what made GTA 2 so great in the first place but put their own spin on it, complete with a whole new setting in medieval times. The top-down type of gameplay isn’t seen as much anymore, so Rustler brings back this back in a hilarious parody of the popular game.

Rustler takes your classic GTA gameplay but gives it a completely new makeover set in medieval times where you’ll be laughing throughout if you enjoy poop, fart, pee and other debauchery jokes. I myself am a man-child, so of course I thought Rustler was absolutely hysterical. Rustler has some great ideas that fit the setting, like stealing horses and delivering corpses alongside other “historically inaccurate” missions but you’ll constantly fight the clunky controls, boring missions and become frustrated when you have to redo a whole mission after dying or being caught by the guards on horseback.

As you start up Rustler you’re given the game’s intro, but what makes this unique is that it’s a live action video that plays, introducing your character, Guy, and his buddy, Buddy. Even from this opening video you can tell that the tone of Rustler doesn’t take itself seriously as it shows you causing a ruckus, committing Graft Theft Horse, fighting guards and more. Rustler doesn’t take itself seriously in any way, and this is apparent from its opening minutes and lasts throughout until the end. After this intro you get treated to a hip-hop song as the game does its introduction, also hilarious if you listen to its lyrics.

You play as Guy; yes, that’s your name, and alongside your friend, Buddy, you want to join and win The Great Tournament, going from a nobody to a champion. How you do so is up to you, or ignore all of this and simply cause a ruckus for the fun of it, because why not? Full of dumb but hilarious humor, there’s plenty of pop culture references along with a heavy dose of Monty Python jokes and fourth wall breaking.

While the campaign is a decent length, many of the story missions eventually become gated off, forcing you to play though a handful of side missions until the next ‘chapter’ opens up. The story absolutely won’t win any awards, but it sure did give me some laughs throughout. You’re going to be causing havoc with your weapons, on horseback or even throwing piles of crap at your enemies to slow them down. Missions begin easy, having you smash barrels, steal a knight’s horse, bringing a body to sell to someone, roughing people up and more. Mission design is very reminiscent of that GTA 2 style, just with a completely different backdrop.

The inspiration from GTA 2 is quite obvious, from the mission types, the circles on the ground to begin missions, the type of text font that has a GTA-esque style to it, to even having a music jingle when you complete a mission. Guards are Rustler’s version of police, as you’ll earn a wanted level for killing people or doing terrible things in their line of vision. The higher your wanted rating the more will pursue and try to stop you, again, just like GTA. Guard’s horses even have red and blue lights if it wasn’t apparent enough that they are the police and will seemingly chase you forever. To get your wanted level down you either need to find Wanted posters on walls to tear down, or simply ride your horse through the Pimp-A-Horse, akin to GTA’s repainting a car. It’s absolutely absurd but fits with Rustler’s over the top humor.

Horses play a large part of traversal, as the map is a decent size when completely unlocked and you run quite slow on foot, so get used to the horse’s awkward controls because you’re going to need to use them whenever possible. You’re able to gallop and cantor with a horse, though this of course uses their stamina that must be refreshed when depleted. You’re able to also fight with certain weapons on horseback, but be careful, as running over a peasant will cause guards to chase you if they see it happen, even if by accident.

Rustler separates itself from a straight up GTA clone by also adding in a skill tree. Completing missions will get you anywhere from 1-6 skill points, depending on if you finish a side or main quest. You can spend your points on increasing Guy’s health, stamina, carrying more bolts for your crossbow, cheaper vendor pricing, not getting knocked off horses, how much throwing piles of crap on enemies slows them down by and more.

To enter The Great Tournament you’re going to need a large sum of cash. But you’re a simple peasant with no work, so clearly you’re going to do jobs for your shady ‘boss’ and other interesting characters that probably don’t do everything quite legal, acting as almost like a mercenary, doing anything you can for cash. Missions usually have a few steps in each, though failing or dying means you sometimes get put back at the very beginning section, adding for a lot of repetition and frustration. This wouldn’t be such a big deal if poor controls and bugs weren’t the main reason for failing.

I can’t count how many times my horse got stuck behind or in an object, unable to get out before the guards came and killed me. Another time a certain mission wouldn’t trigger the next step, causing me to quit out and do it all over again. It simply feels very janky with its controls and combat, but for every frustration I endured I had at least two laughs to make up for it with its absurd writing. While dialogue isn’t voiced, everyone sounds exactly like Crazy Dave from Plants vs Zombies mixed with The Sims gibberish. It somehow works quite well given Rustler’s tone and ridiculousness.

Bards were a thing back in these times, so why not hire one to follow you around? Changing his song based on what’s happening, there’s something absolutely stupid, yet hilarious, with a beatboxing bard following you side into battle or running from guards on horseback. Don’t like his song? Give him a smack to encourage them to change it up.

While it’s easy to simply categorize Rustler as a knock off GTA parody, it can be fun in short bursts. Love poop and fart jokes? Rustler is going to make you chuckle and laugh if you’re into immature and toilet humor, so I know exactly where my maturity lays. Rustler’s enjoyment either way is solely going to be based on your sense of humor, and even though I’m probably their target audience, the $40 (CAD) asking price seems a little steep for how clunky it can feel at times. Nobody expects the Spanish Inquisition!

**Rustler was provided by the publisher and reviewed on an Xbox Series X**

Overall: 6.0 / 10
Gameplay: 5.0 / 10
Visuals: 7.0 / 10
Sound: 6.0 / 10


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