R.U.S.E. – PC Game Review
R.U.S.E. PC Game. Publisher: Ubisoft. Developer: Eugen Systems. $29.99.
Passed Inspection: Diverse campaign missions, complex strategy rewarded in multiplayer, new game mechanic for RTS genre
Failed Basic: Unit graphics are bland and do not move or occupy space realistically, campaign story is predictable and cliché, frequent network issues for multiplayer matches, voice chat sounds horrible.
Since the game’s creators have not seen fit to disclose what the acronym R.U.S.E. stands for, I’ll give a forum user’s opinion: Really Underappreciated Strategy Engine. For gameplay somewhere between Axis and Allies meets Warhammer 40k for the PC, R.U.S.E. manages to offer a strategic depth that is rare amongst current RTS releases. Despite its few flaws, RTS fans and anyone who fantasizes about commanding like Patton or Rommel will find hours of entertainment with this title.
The game mechanics in R.U.S.E. are fairly simple. Each match takes place on a map divided up into sectors. Each sector contains supply depots and terrain such as roads, forests, towns, rivers, mountains, and fields. Players acquire income by capturing supply depots, which produce slow moving tanker trucks that must reach your headquarters to deposit the funds. Funds are spent on structures that provide static defense or produce units of their designated type: infantry, armor, anti-armor, AA and artillery, aircraft, and prototypes. Players can choose amongst several nations, each with their unique mix of units designed for a certain play style. The French, for example, have Maginot bunkers, the best static defense in the game. Russians have cheap infantry. The Germans have large, expensive armor. Like with any RTS, maximizing your nation’s unit composition for strategic effect is par for the course.
R.U.S.E., however, offers more depth than the standard RTS with its introduction of its namesake – ruses. Ruses are deployed in a single sector with functions such as: hiding your units and buildings from enemy sight, producing fake buildings and offensives, morale modifiers making your units hold fast or enemy units retreat, speeding up your units, or revealing all enemy units in a sector. The use of ruses in conjunction with commanding your army is as critical as your unit composition and build order. Hiding your buildings early on or producing fakes, for example, forces your enemy to gamble on how to defend himself, or produce the wrong units entirely. A fake offensive while hiding your real offensive might cause an enemy to respond and open up his flank, allowing you a chance to break through. Getting bombarded by aircraft or artillery? Hide your buildings and units so they can’t be targeted. Ruses, however, can be deployed only two to a sector and you have a limited number—which recharges over time—so you must be judicious with their use.
The wide range of options at your disposal makes possible long-term planning, and gives R.U.S.E. a rather steep learning curve. If you don’t have a constantly evolving plan to increase your logistical capacity, harass and respond to your enemy’s army while building your own, you will find yourself lost and quickly defeated. The multiplayer game is difficult to master. If you can endure what may be weeks of being crushed by competent players, you will eventually learn and find the games pays off. Reading advice on forums and watching replays on Youtube will help make this process much less painful.
Often, what and where you build your first structure will make or break the entire game. If you allow a single fighter to raid your first supply line, denying you money and giving it to your enemy, it may be a disadvantage from which you never recover. Similarly, rushes are very popular in the game: Soviet players will often start by building a barracks or two right outside your sector and simply stream infantry until you are overrun.
It is here that one of R.U.S.E.’s oddities shows up. Buildings are completed almost instantaneously, discounting the time it takes the truck to get there. Most units, too, are produced so fast that once a structure goes up, you can produce 10 units out of it in roughly 10 seconds. Artillery, too, has such massive range that all your opponent needs is one in the early game to disrupt your supply lines and keep you pinned down. Late-game massing of artillery can wipe out armies or large static defenses within seconds. Nonetheless, the strategic options are plentiful for the creative thinker.
The units move very slowly in this game, making positioning critical. Light units, such as recon, infantry, and certain types of AA and artillery, can be hidden in forest and towns, making them invisible to the enemy outside of line-of-sight and giving them a 300% attacking bonus. Line-of-sight, is, of course, within attacking range of these units, so if you don’t have recon to spot hidden troops, you might wind up losing everything you have in seconds. Unit speed adds another variable to factor into your strategy: you must look at the map and coordinate your plan with the goal of securing sectors for future resources, and identifying potential traps along the way that could be used by you or the enemy.
The single-player campaign is, unfortunately, stale in its story telling but diverse in its missions. The story, which focuses on discovering the identity of a spy as you defeat Germany, is as cliché as it is predictable, but the last mission ends with a bang. The motion-capturing used in the CGI cut scenes is so poorly done the characters look like they are having seizures instead of making dramatic gestures.
The missions are where the single-player game shines, though they are not exceedingly difficult (at least, on medium difficulty). For any World War II buffs, you get to enjoy taking Africa from Rommel, invading Italy, getting off the Normandy beaches and into France, defending Bastogne, failing at Market Garden, and ultimately meeting the Russians at Torgau. I finished most of the missions on the first try, with the exception of the Battle of the Bulge. Playing that mission, one cannot help but admire the resolve of the American Army, because it’s tough as hell, even virtually.
R.U.S.E.’s graphics are also a mixed bag. Though it’s an interesting concept that the game plays out on a table in a war room which you are able to view from any angle and depth, it seems the developers spent more time on creating the ambience around the table than crafting what goes on the table. Even on max settings, zooming in on the units reveal them to be toy-like, and they don’t seem to move or occupy space realistically. This isn’t too bad, as you will spend the majority of the game zoomed out and unable to see the models, looking at units move around the tables as stacked chips, giving it the refreshing feel of a game that knows it’s a game. To its credit, the game moves quite fluidly at a bird’s eye view, and it is a pleasure to watch your strategy unfold. I have also not experienced any hardware or software issues playing the game, unlike the crash-every-hour fatal errors I’ve been getting with Call of Duty: Black Ops. (For the record, my system specs are as follows: Intel i7 K875 processor clocked at 2.93 GHz, 4GB of DDR3 RAM, and a GTX260 graphics card.)
The multiplayer network does not share this reliability. The voice chat makes human speech sound like its coming from a 1920s vacuum-tube radio pressed to your ear drum, and players drop with annoying regularity. If you can make it past the first minute without anyone dropping, though, the game will play smoothly and without much lag. The game modes include 1v1, 2v2, 3v3, 4v4, and 2v2v2v2, and you can set the era, determining which tech will be available.
The developers are also releasing a DLC patch soon, which will include a Long Tom nuclear artillery piece, three additional maps, and a game type whose era changes after 10 minutes, making new tech available. Balancing changes have not been mentioned, or improvements to the game’s servers, but this could happen anyway.
R.U.S.E. also shows an uglier side to downloadable content (DLC). It seems that the developers want you unlock units, paid for with Uplay points. These points are acquired by completing various objectives and missions from Ubisoft games. The only unit available so far is the Super Pershing, which moves slightly faster than the regular Pershing and deals more damage to buildings. Still, the idea of someone acquiring points by playing Assassin’s Creed and using them to buy stronger units in R.U.S.E. really takes the fun out of a strategy game, in which people are defeated by planning and creative use of strategy, not by inherent advantages. Hopefully, the Super Pershing (which can be purchased if you complete the campaign on medium difficulty) will be the last unit available for purchase, and they’ll stick with patches.
Overall, R.U.S.E. is a decent RTS which offers a clever new mechanic, earning it a worthy mention. It has depth, plenty of choices and builds for the strategist, and you will get out of it how much you put into it.
Armchair General Rating: 89%
About the Author:
Daniel Casper has been an avid gamer since childhood, and enjoys RTS, FPS, and RPG style games.