Nice horse, mate. Can I have it? Actually, that’s not a question as I’ll be taking it back to the knacker’s yard for a refit; new exhaust, upgraded callipers and a boost in…horsepower. That’s the premise of Rustler, but there are other bits too other than Grand Theft Horse.
That last bit isn’t me being clever but the pitch for the game. Jutsu Games are crystal clear that this open-world game is a love letter, or booty call, to the original GTA. What’s wrong with that? There should be more games like this as the gameplay, while usually tough, is so much fun.
Glitchpunk recently did the same thing but in a future setting. In Rustler, we wind it back ten or twenty years to the medieval times where the hackney carriages were exactly that: horses and not black cabs lecturing you on Brexit.
You play Guy, a lower crim running odd jobs with his chum Buddy. He’ll be tasked with stealing goods and selling them to the black market – notably horses, killing some people, and even profit on their carcasses to form a Sweeney burger. Rustler is acutely self-aware throughout with its wit and nods to pop culture (from all the ages), but it’s a game for the players.
With a top-down perspective, you’ll control Guy with the keyboard, mouse, both or a controller – the decision is yours – and complete a series of missions to climb the criminal hierarchy, earning better jobs, lots of rep and subsequently decent money in the process, but eventually towards a scam to gain nobility. While these jobs help with the story progression, it’s also a way to earn XP and invest in fighting skills, ranged attacks, horse whispering and upping your stamina.
There’s no need to explain the controls as it’s a very simple theft-like setup of stealing a horse, punching a peasant or shooting from a distance. Due to the era, the technology is an acquired taste, so it’s advised to invest in as many missions as you can handle to level up things like your reloading skills for the crossbow and stamina so you can run from the police. This was pretty much my preference as hand-to-hand is a little sluggish and unresponsive unless you beef up your stats.
Fight Your Way Outta This One
Everything about Rustler screams GTA with the wanted levels and factions you work for, but it stands on its own two feet and four hooves when it comes to gameplay and the overall experience. As noted, the humour is funny if you can jump off your high horse and laugh at toilet humour, making references to pop culture, as mentioned, and having bards play their lutes in a hip-hop style.
This is a nice looking game, and the level of detail for the style is pretty good. Instead of having your character appear through objects by giving them a colour-coded silhouette, objects will go invisible as you approach them. Retreating to the woods while being chased shouldn’t mean getting lost or frustrated as you don’t know where you are.
It’s pretty much perfect, then? Well, not really. There were quite a lot of times where I would clip an object that was seemingly far enough away, or when completing a race or one of the Pony Express missions, spin-out from the slightest collision as if flooring an F1 car into a chicane. The same frustration occurred when getting caught by the fuzz or local mob, and you’d frozen to the spot, taking repeated damage. In GTA, you could shoot your way out, but melee isn’t as desirable here, and you may end up restarting the mission each time.
Pimp My Horse
Again, quite frustrating at times as you will have to start all the way back, or maybe 90% of the way through, then scared off or inadvertently killed an NPC you needed. But before dusting your copy of GTA that is perched on a pedestal, that game was flawed too, and the number of times you’d crash because you couldn’t see through a building, or there were limited places to gain health or respray the car was in abundance. GTA is a classic, but perhaps it’s not the game you remember.
That said, it’d be nice to think that these sorts of traits could be combated by now. Making assets invisible is definitely an improvement, but the collision and clunkiness can be distracting. Oh, and don’t get me started on the cops that chase you on horseback as they fly along at a blinding speed, spinning you out as you can’t reach the Pimp My Horse station to ‘rebrand’ it.
But this is my review of the game, and for the most part, I enjoyed it. It was hard for me to stay mad at a game that made me chuckle so much with its recklessness, flinging shit in the faces of pursuers or reading graffiti that would make your nan spit out her Murray Mints.
So yeah, an enjoyable, comical adventure as an anti-hero, giving the nod to yesteryear but with upgraded visuals. The jankiness may put off those expecting something a little tidier, but if you’re patient enough and enjoyed games such as the original GTAs, then this is worth a look – especially if you’re looking for a sandbox of mayhem, pigswill and horrible histories.