World War 2 warfare in classic RTS style?
read my SquareGo magazine review
Picture the scene: It is 1944, you are in the midst of the campaign to storm through Italy all the way to Berlin when you find yourself hemmed in on all sides. You are heavily outnumbered by superior forces, they have resupplying bases all around and you have little or no re-inforcements. What is the one thing that could help you out here? No, not Chuck Norris. How about subterfuge? Not convinced? you’d be surprised.
Gimmicks are nothing new in games, however they are always interesting in the Real-Time Strategy (RTS) genre. Apart from Tom Clancy’s Endwar and it’s amusing voice command system there has not been much variety of late, so it is with some interest that we come to R.U.S.E. which has been sold so heavily on its ‘ruses’ (i.e. super power-ups). Yep, this is WWII, so while you are tooling around in Shermans and half-tracks helping drive the Axis forces back to Berlin, you can employ propaganda measures, dummy armies, and secret intelligence as well as more dubious powers such as ‘fanaticism’, which prevents troops from retreating or ‘blitz’ which increases unit speed.
It is a clever and intricately balanced idea, that works brilliantly in online battles and means the usual tank-rushes can be suicidal upon arriving at fake bases, or attacking dummy armies while your own HQ gets pummeled by a legion of radio-silenced Tiger MkIIs. Unfortunately, this brilliance is pretty hard to find. The single player campaign is little more than a dull tutorial, marred with soul-sapping cutscenes filled with US war movie stereotypes. The game also has an odd terrain system, which means it is difficult to tell what units can see, or what counts as fortifiable positions for infantry. You also can’t blind fire, so more often than not tanks will speed towards an enemy that they can’t see for a couple of trees, wrecking an offensive line and getting half your battalion killed. However there is one system dependent issue, and it’s a doosy.
If you take a gander at the list of recent examples such as UAW: Earth Assault, Red Alert 3 or even the 360-only title HALO Wars, there is a consistent level of averageness and a conspicuous lack of anything mindblowing. R.U.S.E. is one of scant few major release RTS to hit the multi-format gaming circuit in a wee while and it is not hard to see why. The PC market has been consistantly churning out cracking RTS fare since the days of the original Command and Conquer, however the limiting factors inherent to consoles has had an understandable impact on any multi-format release. Put simply, theres a lot more flexibility with an 100-key keyboard and a mouse than with an 8-button controller.
So as usual the controls have been streamlined, only Eugen Systems seem to think that that means: Give players as few commands as possible. Add to that the most cumbersome controller viewing in years.
It is almost impossible to accurately select the troops you want, or where you want them to go. You will die more from mistaken clicks and spending too long trying to select the right unit, than from bad strategy or lack of ability. Unsurprisingly this last issue is not a problem on the PC, or indeed the PS3 if you have a Move controller which makes it all a doddle. Sadly Microsoft are not providing Kinect support for R.U.S.E. so the final verdict has to be that on PC or PS3 with Move, it is worth it but on 360; do not waste the time or money.