When I saw the first promo for R.U.S.E. I admit I was skeptical. It appeared to be just another gimmick to try and create a solid strategy game on consoles. The concept is that you could use deception to fool your opponent into giving up their position and tactics using ruses. In theory it sounds awesome, but when Eugen Systems actually pulls it off within the gameplay, it is impressive. The first time you zoom all the way out and see a board that resembles a mock of a commander’s table, and then slowly focus into the action and see it become more and more detailed, you begin to appreciate what the team has done.
The story in the game follows a single man in his rise in the ranks during World War II. It is a clever way to introduce new units in the game because as you progress in rank, you are given access to new weapons of destruction such as tanks and planes. Unfortunately that is about all it serves. This is one dry story that hits its peak within the first few missions. The characters never really grasp you and the cut scenes, while nicely constructed, don’t hold your attention the way they should.
One of the biggest hurdles of creating a successful RTS on consoles is unit management. It is hard to manage all of the stuff onscreen with analog sticks and buttons. R.U.S.E. attempts to remedy this with the aforementioned zoom feature. When you pull the camera all the way back you can see the entire battlefield and your units appear as lumped circles that you can control. Zooming all the way in gives you access to individual units thus opening up more strategy. Basically this makes the game more accessible for the mouse-less console players. Queuing up moves and creating strategies becomes much easier and makes the game more fun than frustrating.
What sets this game apart from the crowd though is the implementation of what are called ruses. Scattered around the map are areas where you can unleash these special skills. Basically these tactics allow you to try and trick your opponent into giving up their plan by location or other trade secrets. It really adds a whole new dimension to the strategy genre, and once you get the handle on how to use them it becomes quite addicting. The satisfaction to get from accomplishing a ruse is worth the price of admission alone. Seeing your troops distract an enemy barrage while you sneak in behind is truly the glory of war.
Still R.U.S.E. suffers from one big issue: learning curve. While picking up and playing the game is simple thanks to the zoom controls; knowing all the ins and outs will take some serious dedication to master. Everything in the game has a counter and ever counter another counter. As you can imagine it gets quite confusing, but this is also the game’s strongpoint. Once you master what it has to offer you will be addicted to the sheer variety in the way missions can play out. Thankfully all of that can be taken online to really test your skills against the world’s greatest masterminds.
Getting online is simple and surprisingly there are quite a few players online tearing it up. Matches host up to four players and you can choose between six different nations. Each one has some unique attributes that make them stand out, but also play similarly enough that you can dabble in different ones without much fear of a learning curve. If you have managed to get past the game’s initial batch of studying that is. Online matches are definitely the highlight of the game when you get in a game with good players. It does drag it down that a unit limit is in place as well as a timer, but these are all things that could be patched down the line if it’s popularity increases.
One of the cooler features of Ruse is the ability to use the PlayStation 3’s Move controller to manipulate the action. This almost simulates the idea of a mouse when playing. Camera control is as simple as holding down the T (trigger) button and moving the wand back and forth. You select units by hovering over them and tapping the Move button, and you can paint a selection by holding down L2. It actually works really well and makes playing the game feel much more organic. If you have a choice of which system to pick up the game on, I recommend PS3 if you have invested in the Move controller. It is definitely awesome to see more traditional games using the controller well.
Visually the game has a distinct look but also falls victim to generic World War II syndrome. I like the claustrophobic tendency in the maps, however the units are not all that detailed once you zoom into the action. Frame rates stay steady even during the transition between far and close angles, and all of the onscreen action is easy to decipher. The score is predictably dramatic and the sound effects are certainly impressive, but some of the voice acting in cut scenes is downright laughable. I like all of the tracking that the game does and the menu system is very slick. Overall R.U.S.E. is a very well put-together game.
R.U.S.E. is a breath of fresh air in a genre that consoles have seemingly not been able to perfect. The inclusion of Move controls in the PS3 version really make a difference and even with a standard controller, the game plays great. Ruses are one of the most interesting additions to the genre in some time, and hopefully one other developers decide to copy. If you can get over the immense learning curve there are hours of fun to be had here.
Review copy provided by publisher.