Review | R.U.S.E
The thrill of deception
Format: Xbox 360/PS3/ PC | Genre: RTS | Publisher: Ubisoft | Developer: Eugen Systems | Release Date: 10/09/10 | Price: £49.99
With deception and strategy Greg Giddens takes command in World War 2 Europe in R.U.S.E.
R.U.S.E ADOPTS a refreshing change of pace to the more frantic RTS titles around at the moment. Setup with a strong focus on strategy, R.U.S.E is slower, promoting preparation over aggressive speed, and requiring a more thoughtful approach to victory. The result is a resounding success, offering up something different yet accessible and – most importantly – fun.
Ignore the story
Playing as American commander Joe Sheridan you take part in commanding military forces in World War 2 against the German commander Eric Von Richter. Your plans of attack, however, are consistently countered, thanks to an informer known only as Prometheus, who is leaking orders to the Germans keeping the Allies on their toes throughout. As far as the narrative goes it’s all been seen before and comes off as generic, there’s little to grab your interest and large chunks of the dialogue are laughable. Fortunately it doesn’t really matter, as R.U.S.E is able to strongly stand on its experience in-game alone.
You command your forces via a tabletop. The further zoomed out you are, the more austere the battlefield becomes, with units represented by stacked chips and the detail of the terrain washed out. Zoom in, however, and the tabletop view becomes a distant memory as terrain and armour detail pops into view, slowly spreading out into individual units, and the war room and ambient radio chatter beyond the table turns into sky, the whizzing of bullets and thunder of explosions. Much like the pace, it’s different, and the sense of scale it provides is impressive with smooth transitions complimenting the design brilliantly.
The actual combat is deceptively simply. Essentially it’s ‘rock, paper, scissors’, with infantry taking out anti-tank, tanks taking out infantry, and anti-tank taking out tanks. The other units, including a variety of aircraft and artillery as well as defensive bunkers, also come into play further down the line, adding to the scope of strategy but still doesn’t deviate much from the ‘rock, paper, scissors’ setup. Line of sight, choke points and cover also shape the strategy required to be victorious. You gather resources slowly and are often strained for units, promoting the use of clever tactics and effective use of any and all advantages. The ability to hide units in woodland and villages to ambush approaching enemies and the ruses all come into play and are essential elements to learn.
The art of deception
The ruses consist of temporary advantages you can call upon in battle and are introduced gently as you progress through the campaign. Increasing unit speed, revealing hidden enemies, and deploying fake units and building are but a few of the ruses available, all of which proving legitimately useful in singleplayer and multiplayer battles. There’s no padding to be found here, each ability is well implemented and strategically valuable, able to shift the battles favour very quickly.
That said, intelligent use of both your ruses and units is essential. The AI doesn’t mess around and is downright brutal in punishing you for bad tactics and ill preparation. As such the campaign poses a decent challenge, teaching you to use each unit effectively if feeling a little frustrating at times.
Human opponents online are also fiendish and brutal, with the ruses and other strategic elements all coming together with the intention of deceiving you. It works brilliantly except for one aspect. A timer is introduced that limits a match to no more than an hour, completely contradicting the fittingly gradual pace R.U.S.E built up in the campaign. A win is determined by points you earn through destroying enemies units. When the timer is up, the player or team with the most points wins. To its credit it works well in controlling matches and intensifying the battles but it still seems like a missed opportunity not to have unlimited time and the ability to save multiplayer battles. That said, however, it’s still a terrific multiplayer setup, complete with coop scenarios against the AI as well as the standard team and free for all matches.
For those more accustomed to ‘rush’ matches this reduced pace will feel alien but it certainly makes the experience more intense. For those who have been waiting for a steadier RTS, R.U.S.E more than matches your needs and the unique use of ruses makes it well worth your time. The narrative is dull and the timer in multiplayer is incongruous but despite these issues – issues that could easily destroy a weaker title – R.U.S.E still plays brilliantly.