Preview: R.U.S.E.

Perhaps the greatest ruse in Ubisoft’s marketing arsenal for the upcoming game R.U.S.E. is the fact that the every.capital.letter.as.its.own.sentence. faux acronym is, as I’ve just given away, not an acronym at all. This is either three-fold genius or just damn lazy – and I’ll let you decide. On one level it makes suckers like me Google what it could possibly stand for, thus delving further and further into various tidbits of information relating to the game. On another, it does follow the lame F.E.A.R. and even, dare I say, S.M.A.R.T. technology of Brink’s path of having an acronym for the sake of having an acronym. The third foreseeable level is the irony of the aforementioned marketing ruse factor of the title itself.

I’ve recently had my second round with the R.U.S.E. multiplayer beta and found myself surprisingly impressed. Y’see, when someone throws the terms ‘RTS’ and ‘World War II’ into the same marketing spiel, I tend to glaze over for a couple of reasons. First, and I think we’ll all agree, World War II games have kinda been done to death and, perhaps with the exception of the FPS genre, the RTS genre has seen the most World War II-fuelled releases. The second point is that any game with those two terms in their synopsis immediately put themselves in a very scary field of comparison: namely, they pit themselves against the majesty of Company of Heroes.

Despite having sunk many more hours into RTS franchises such as the Age of Empires games, Company of Heroes is, without a doubt, my most revered RTS game of all time. So R.U.S.E. had already half screwed itself before I’d even started the game by putting itself in a comparable field as the on-a-pedestal Company of Heroes franchise. Before I’d even booted up the R.U.S.E. multiplayer preview, I was already not expecting much from it.

Couple this with the fact that I was also involved in the multiplayer preview a couple of months ago—the very same preview that resulted in Ubisoft delaying the game—and my expectations were firmly set on ‘expect disappointment’. Full credit to Ubisoft and developer Eugen Systems, for making me have to dine on those not-so-tasty words.

If you delve a little deeper into the delay, you’ll find that it was because of feedback from the initial multiplayer preview. And when I say “because of”, I actually mean it and am not simply parroting marketing tripe that’s designed to lure you into the seemingly often bullshit belief that developers/publishers really listen to the community. The spit and polish that was evident in the second round of the R.U.S.E. multiple preview was evident from a very early point.

Now while the first round preview didn’t grab my attention for long enough for me to encounter many of the issues that my PC brethren had, the second round preview engaged me in a pleasantly surprising way. First and foremost, the zoomed-in graphics are amazing. The attention to detail is jaw dropping on everything from individual units and created structures to towns and natural foliage. Initially, the user interface is somewhat tricky, but this is mostly due to its semi-foreign nature and, once you get your head around it, it all makes a lot of sense.

As with your average RTS, you build various structures to create an economy for your budding war machine, and then proceed to pump out units of destruction to blast your digital foes into submission. It’s the inclusion of the game’s titular ruses that set this apart from your average RTS and it will take some time to initially get your head around what ruse is best to use when. I toyed around with a variety of offensive and defensive ruses, all which had varying degrees of effectiveness (the less effective ruse implementations would have been more effective had I used them at opportune moments).

Although exquisite at zoomed-in levels, R.U.S.E. actively encourages you to peruse and manage the battlefield from board game-esque heights. In fact, considering each map is a digital tabletop view of the playable battlefield, zooming right out gives you crucial insights into the goings-on of your enemies. But you can also be fooled at this zoom level by whatever ruses a foe has activated in a particular section of the map, which creates an intense battle of uncertainty as you wager whether to back your instincts and rush in or apply a more tactful approach.

I didn’t get a chance to take on a human foe, but the two easy-level opponents I fought seemed to possess a dynamic level of AI, whereby they adjusted to my tactics and play style and, by the end, were giving almost as good as they were taking.

R.U.S.E. is scheduled for a September release and has been re-added to my release calendar because of how impressed I was by the recent multiplayer preview. I’m not entirely sure how it will all come together for console gamers, but I’m sorely tempted to get my hands on a multi-touch monitor to see how R.U.S.E. plays on that. For a simulated demonstration of exactly how that will look, take a look at the metrosexual gamers slapping it out in the video below.

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  • Moopidoo

    This makes me think that the iPad is the perfect platform for an RTS game.

  • popshott

    Oh Boy I cant wait for RUSE. I feel like a Fat German kid :)

  • NachosJustice

    Couldn't agree more dude… it certainly lends itself to that when you take into consideration the ability to play it on a multi-touch computer screen. I wonder if they'll do a port?