Ubisoft’s RUSE was first shown off on Microsoft’s futuristic ‘Surface’ technology and deemed to be a new and innovative way of playing and controlling an RTS which was set to change the genre. RUSE has finally released on consoles and PC. The PS3 version utilizes the PS3 Move controller which was not part of this review. The main question is, can RUSE live up to those high expectations set since its initial announcement.
Ubisoft has pushed back this World War II based RTS game several times before it finally released this September. RUSE centers around the strategic and hard fought battle between US General Joe Sheridan and Axis Major Erich Von Richter who combat each other throughout the run of the campaign.
RUSE’s most notable feature are its ruse cards which can be used to deceive the enemy, intercept radio transmissions or call in a spy to scope out hidden enemy locations. These ruses are essential to playing the game as players need to manage those cards effectively in order to gain an advantage over the opposition. The campaign does a very good job of explaining to players how to utilize each ruse effectively. I am not a strategy game expert and had no problem at all understanding the mechanic, using the ruses is very rewarding and gathering intelligence or hiding under radio silence provide an interesting touch in RUSE. While the ruses are very fun to use I found the table top mechanic used in RUSE even more engaging as players are able to zoom out of the battlefield and view the entire map which is placed on top of a table in a war room including the audio of radio chatter and conversations surrounding it. The sense of scale is very appearant and allows players to think ahead while planning a strategic move down the line. When zooming out the units on the map dynamically switch into table top like figures which are awfully reminiscent lot of playing a game of Risk or Axis and Allies.
The basic gameplay of RUSE is a typical rock paper scissors mechanic where tanks defeat artillery, anti-tank defeats tanks and artillery takes down anti-tank units. While this sounds a bit unenthused it is merely the catalyst for what is a very enjoyable gameplay experience. RUSE combines classic RTS elements with a unique level of strategy to create a fun and engaging experience even for someone new to the genre.
There is no incredibly deep level of base building in RUSE. Players only need to manage and protect their supply depots, tank, aircraft and artillery bases. Those become highly important and victory depends on a steady flow of supplies and production of units. I did not feel that I needed a greater level of control or research as it was great to simply focus on the strategic elements in the given battles.
When playing RUSE I also found having a military adviser by my side throughout the campaign very helpful. My British sidekick pointed out new ruses available to me or introduce a new unit while explaining its characteristics and effect on the battle at hand. The missions of the single player campaign are varied and fun to play once the game stops holding your hand. The beginning hours of RUSE can be a bit strung along. Some missions could be a bit frustrating to new players though as it is imperative to use units properly within the rock paper scissors formula. For example, using artillery instead of an anti-tank unit, the cluster would get crushed running straight into a tank combat situation but its bazookas will destroy heavy tank armor quickly if attacking from a hidden position in the forest. Using ruse cards in addition to smart strategic advances can make for some great battle scenarios but making a mistake early on in a mission can cripple you for the remainder of the battle and usually require a restart.
The learning curve of RUSE is quick and painless due to the lack of any overly difficult unit and base management, complex research trees or economy. When picking up RUSE it should take players only a couple of hours to pick up the mechanics and start having fun with the game, which brings me to my only real harp on the game – story. While RUSE uses some real characters and battles of the World War II era, the actual story is less than stellar. Maybe developer Eugen Systems realized that and thankfully did not spent a lot of time forcing it upon us during the course of the campaign. While the plot and voice acting aren’t terrible, they are equally not as gripping or engaging.
Controlling the game on consoles was a big worry to Xbox and Playstation owners but Eugen Systems has taken extra care to deliver a solid control scheme. RUSE is controlled with only a few buttons on the controller and a navigation bar in the top left corner, both allowing players to see all their options at a quick glance and execute them with a tap of a button. Of course playing on the PC is still superior to the console version since the mouse allows for more precision and fidelity but besides some minor difficulties in selecting units on the map I found the console controls to be executed very well.
RUSE also has 1 v 1 up to 4 v 4 multiplayer over Steam, Xbox LIVE and PSN which allows players to set up custom games with certain preferences such as map type, available ruses, victory conditions or time era. Having played some multiplayer matches I can say that it works and I found plenty of opponents but besides some supplemental fun to be had the online games will not have me coming back to RUSE.
Even though RUSE did not live up to the impossibly high expectations it had set for itself, the game is a very well executed take on the RTS genre. The simplicity of its controls and lack of complexity in other areas makes RUSE a fun twist on real time strategy games. Playing through the variety of scenarios and applying strategy along with ruses left me feeling satisfied when the game ended. RUSE’s multiplayer worked but did not add much to the experience I had playing through the single player campaign.
Score: 8 / 10
RUSE was developed by Eugen Systems and published by Ubisoft for the PC, Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 on September 7th. Copies of the Xbox 360 and PC versions were provided to us by Ubisoft for reviewing purposes.