Consoles and strategy are not words that generally go together. The RTS has mainly been PC-driven, thanks to the variety of control / actions available with a keyboard and a mouse. There have been some attempts to bring such games to the XBOX and PS3 but can you think of one worth noting? No, me neither.
Given the uneasy marriage of RTS and controller-based consoles, it’s more than a little ironic that Eugen’s R.U.S.E is so impressive. They’ve taken great advantage of Sony’s PlayStation Move technology to give the gamer mouse-like control over aspects of the game. At the same time though, they’ve created a challenging, impressive title that works fabulously well on the basic controller.
The main activity comes from the joysticks. The left one allows control of individual units in this WWII-themed strategic battler, while the right controls the zoom. It’s the right one that’s the most fun to play with and thanks to something the developers are calling IRISZOOM (you know, someone got paid to come up with that...), probably the most useful too.
Zoom all the way out by pulling back and you’ll be commanding your troops from the sort of strategy table you’ll have seen in dozens of war films. Your forces are represented by blue counters, while Allies are green and the Nazis are red. A quick zoom back, while reducing the scale, will show you the current balance of power in easy-to-suss style. Push forward on the joystick though and that’s where the fun starts.
Zoom in part way, and you’ll have a decent combination of overview and be able to position your personnel and equipment more accurately. Zoom all the way in, however, and you’ll be flying over the battle, watching skirmishes in intimate detail, hearing the cannon fire, seeing your tanks confront Panzers and see just how to sneak your infantry around enemy defences.
It’s a terrific gaming system and the simplicity of button operation is also admirable: press this one to select a single unit, press that one to select them all, choose position, press again to move. Simples. With a clear and concise in-game tutorial, you’ll have mastered the basics in around 20 minutes. Mastering the game and its multiple challenges will take considerably longer however, even at the easiest setting.
In the game, you play American military man Joe Sheridan who – with the clipped, classically moustached assistance of a British officer – is attempting to discover the identity of Prometheus, a mysterious spy who’s been giving information to the Germans over the years and is thus responsible for thousands of deaths.
At the start of the game, the war is drawing to a close and Sheridan, now a Major, must organise an attack on Colditz Castle to rescue a colleague. Slightly cruelly, this means you get a glimpse of all the things you can control, making the operation really quite easy. Once that’s completed, however, the story jumps back three years, to Sheridan’s early, pre-promotion years in Tunisia. This means he hasn’t learned his craft yet, so those tantalising powers you just had are all gone again – and it’s going to be many, many hours until you see them again. However, the learning curve, though lengthy, is well handled and, while this is a drawn-out game that requires investment rather than something you can dip in and out of, you may well find yourself willing to put the time in. This applies particularly to the R.U.S.E system of the title.
R.U.S.E or, rather, ruse (as I think they really mean) is the game’s USP and it’s a pretty good one, a system of deception and counter-intelligence that you’ll need to master in order to complete tasks and overcome German defences. The system gives you some interesting powers: you can listen to encrypted transmissions, send spies in to find hidden units or play tricks on the enemy by building dummy tanks, camouflaging your operations or fighting under radio silence so they can’t track your movements.
While the system isn’t always successful, it’s a damn fine effort, although you’ll have to put in the hours to get to the really fun stuff. When you do though, there have been few gaming joys this year to match the delight of drawing a German attack with a collection of balsa wood tanks, while you send the real artillery around to flank them.
- Great interface, making console-based RTS a genuine option
- Well judged tutorial and the perfect gaming combo of “minutes to learn, days to master”
- Terrific graphics, both at the “table top” scale and right there on the battlefield
- Got a week or two to spare?
- It’s tough enough on Easy, and near impossible on the next two settings
- Sometimes it’s a little too easy (and quickly fatal) to move the wrong unit
The Short Version: Is time investment actually a con? Probably not, provided you like this kind of thing. And, even if you’ve never played this sort of game (and I’m a relative virgin on that scale so will count myself in that), R.U.S.E makes the attractions quite obvious. All in all, this is a clever, well-executed and exciting game.