R.U.S.E is an interesting game that manages to bend some of the traditional RTS rules, add in a whole new sub-layer of deception based strategy and provide a 20 mission pretty solid single player campaign. It's out on the PS3, 360 and PC with support for Move on the PS3. This review concentrates on the 360 version but we'll reference the others where applicable.
Ah, R.U.S.E thou-art cheesy and fun, the story is just a little overblown and is definitely hampered by some odd dialogue choices. It has a little bit of mystery and plays out between two opposing generals in World War 2. One US and one German, we won't spoil the plot though so to find out more, play the game.
Surprisingly for console the game has some good controls, nowhere near as good as the keyboard/mouse combo of the PC, or the innovative wand-waving fun of the Move controller for the PS3. However, it does a good job of letting you move, select and control units with a console controller and that's no mean feat. There are several levels of zoom available that let you get a good strategic view of the battlefield, from a top level view where you have various war-room icons and symbols, to a close up view where you can see every shell and bullet fly.
Making units, sorting out production and issuing orders is as simple as can be with the controllers and lets you concentrate on the actual strategy of the game. This might put off the micro crowd who have honed their skill at games like Starcraft and so on, but for this game it really works quite nicely.
R.U.S.E isn't an ordinary RTS though; it's not just about rock-paper-scissors unit types pounding each other for 20 missions, or so on. It's about planning and tactics, the use of Ruses that can turn the tide of battle. Ruses are unlocked as the campaign progresses in single player, giving you a spread of card like abilities that can change the battlefield. For example there's a Spy Ruse that lets you see what's going on, or a Ruse that lets you hide your units on the map and ambush the enemy.
The units seem well balanced with anti-tank guns being destroyed by infantry, tanks decimating infantry, and anti-tank guns decimating tanks. There's a definite rock-paper-scissors mechanic here and it works like a charm. Once you learn the various unit attacks and defences you're set to keep the worst the enemy can throw at you in check and have fun doing so.
Beyond the campaign, there's a generous spread of maps in single player challenges, or cooperative play with friends. The AI has various behaviour types and you can setup matches how you want, even though there are few options compared to the standard fare, and for the PC there's no map editor at all. Nor is there one for the consoles either, just to clarify.
R.U.S.E is playable enough, it doesn't set the RTS world alight beyond the RUSE mechanics however, and hardcore RTS players may be put off by the simple and effective approach to the game's playability. However, it's a perfect entry point for new armchair generals and those who aren't able to memorise every attack/defence strategy over 100s of units.
The game presents itself well enough; there are varying levels of detail to the different zoom modes for the camera. The camera doesn't do any crazy tricks and cause any problems with the gameplay. The textures are solid and there's no obvious tearing or skewing of the models. In cut-scenes the game also presents itself well, with nicely detailed figures to compliment the well created backgrounds and set pieces. The maps are interestingly designed and there's lots of room for various tactics across the generous collective of various environments. Special effects are great, light, shadow and all of the eyecandy we're used to is right there too.
The AI has various behaviours and actually knows how to use a spread of tactics, it can push you pretty hard at times but you can usually outwit it if you pay careful attention to your strategies. The timing of Ruses is most important.
There's a nice layer of physics in the game, there are some great explosions and some very cool effects.
Nothing spectacular here but what is here works nicely, from the spot effects to the ambient sound and the booms and cracks of battle. It does what it sets out to do and creates a good battlefield ambience.
Some nice dramatic music underscores the on-screen action and story, it's got a good solid soundtrack.
Voice acting varies from decent to downright cheesy and terrible, with a hackneyed script and flawed writing at times. It doesn't stop the game from being fun though since you're really there to order around your virtual pawns and play general.
You can take R.U.S.E online and battle human opponents or play with friends against the AI. Matches are simple and effective with the Ruses in the hands of human opponents making for some truly devious fun. All in all there were no real lag issues or disconnection problems.
World War 2
We're a bit sick of World War 2 and would like to see a sequel set in a futuristic landscape, or post-apocalyptic kind of setting. R.U.S.E is certainly interesting but the World War 2 setting doesn't do it for us anymore. The game isn't a terrible one but when it boils down to it, without the Ruses there's a low-level RTS war game that has simple controls and unit balance under there and there are dozens of those around.
Company of Heroes got it right and it's hard to beat that game for controls and playability. Fortunately R.U.S.E has its Ruses and deception gameplay mechanics so it stands tall in that regard and you should definitely check it out.