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Jarrod Mawson
20 Sep, 2010

R.U.S.E. Review

PC Review | Look beyond the simple military presentation and you'll find all is not as it seems.
A very long time ago a very well-known military philosopher wrote “All warfare is based on deception”, a statement paraphrased over and over again by many great generals, commanders, and strategists since. Pick up any documentation of war history and it won’t take long to realize the significance that information warfare has played in almost all of the armed conflicts, small and large, throughout human history. It is surprising then that something so essential to military success, the manipulation of information, is used so sparingly throughout the gaming medium. There are a wealth of real time and turn based strategy games available to gamers, but how many of them really go beyond macro and micro control of armed units, base construction, and resource management? This is where R.U.S.E. comes in, and where subterfuge is the name of the game.

Set during the Second World War, a time period we’re all very familiar with by now, R.U.S.E. is built on the idea that information warfare is imperative to success, that battles are not just fought with men, but with ideas and deception. It is here we find the core gameplay concept; the ruse. Unlike so many other strategy games that bank heavily on unit management and super abilities, R.U.S.E. is all about getting to know your enemy and manipulating them to your advantage. Players are given access to a list of ‘ruse’ abilities that allow them to not only spy on the opposition, such as seeing all of their available units in a sector as well as their given orders, but also disguise their own commands and fool opponents into attacking decoy armies and structures. Training a formidable force is not enough; you must understand your enemy’s intentions, learn to predict their tactics, and lure them into traps of your own, and it’s all done without even pushing a single soldier out of the barracks.

An effective method of clearing out the hippy protestors.

An effective method of clearing out the hippy protestors.
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However, just because there’s a considerable focus on deception and informationm this does not mean the complexities of unit management have been neglected. A plenitude of varied historic units make up the military might of six factions; foot soldiers, tanks, recon, artillery, flamethrowers, bombers, bunkers, and much more, each with their own set of meticulously balanced speeds, strengths, and weaknesses. The archaic ‘tank rush’ tactic of amassing an army of the most fortifiable unit is useless here, with exploitable weaknesses that allow you to rip a haphazard mess of enemies to ribbons with a few select units of your own. But it doesn’t stop there, with mastering the environment just as essential to victory. Roads must be kept safe to allow the transportation of resources, forests can be used as ambush points, and securing bridges and other bottlenecks can spell the difference between an impenetrable blockade and shoestring defence. It’s all remarkably easy to manage and control, too. Units can be selected and given orders with just one mouse button, the ruse and building construction menus are always just a single click away, and just like all good strategy games there’s support for more advanced control, such as unit grouping, specialist hotkey’s, and queuing multiple orders.

It is in the controls and design that we find one of game’s most important achievements; just as it is deceptive in nature of literal gameplay, it is deceptive in depth and accessibility. Strategy newcomers will find the simplistic controls and easy to understand nature of building construction and unit balance very welcoming, made even more-so by a campaign that gradually introduces gameplay concepts without ever putting too greater burden on the player, yet strategy veterans and masters will discover a web of intricate balances and complex tactics that make full use of all the game has to offer. Success is not weighed towards those with quick fingers, but those who are quick thinkers, and the most skilled of players will be those who can not only plan complex tactics, but those who can adapt on the fly, twisting an opponent’s devious scheme into giving you the upper hand before they’ve even set it in motion.

The little wooden tank that couldn't.

The little wooden tank that couldn't.
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R.U.S.E. accompanies this deep design of gameplay with a robust package of content that will keep gamers busy for months. A lengthy military campaign with a mystery story premise, as if ‘World War II’ wasn’t enough, is situated at the core of the single player offering. The story is forgettable, due to B-grade pre-rendered cuts scenes and woefully stereotypical characters, such as the upper class tea sipping English general and the young, hot-headed American, but the variety and polished pacing of the campaign, which takes place from multiple perspectives across many maps, including some historic battles, really delivers an engaging experience. Each chapter operates under a theme that drives most of the primary objectives, and allowing more adventurous players to discover challenging secondary objectives scattered around the map. Alone the campaign should take around twenty or so hours to complete, and if the single player itch persists there’s a handful of ‘Operation’ missions with predetermined variables, and a standard ‘Battles’ mode that lets you join in with up to eight AI opponents across a wide variety of maps and conditions to wage war at your own pace.

Once the single player options have been exhausted there’s a full multiplayer offering waiting, including all of the previously mentioned ‘Battles’ mode maps and variables available for random and hosted games, and a stat tracking ‘Ranked Matches’ that puts you in your place courtesy of a worldwide leader board. Sadly, and for some bizarre reason, the PC version of R.U.S.E. is region locked, which may make finding Australian games very difficult. This is easily bypassed by changing your Steam application download location to another region, such as the United States, but it is an unnecessary restriction that will hopefully be patched in the future. There’s also a concern as to the popularity and longevity of the multiplayer portion, due to an audience that might be far too preoccupied with the strategy behemoths StarCraft 2 and Civilization V to populate servers, but the high quality of gameplay is destined to keep at least some dedicated gamers around waiting for a challenge, and the lengthy worldwide leader board is more than enough proof that a good amount of people are already hooked.

In the land of Nazi Germany, in the fires of Mount Doom, the Dark Lord Hitler forged in secret a master race.

In the land of Nazi Germany, in the fires of Mount Doom, the Dark Lord Hitler forged in secret a master race.
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On the presentation frontlines R.U.S.E. can be quite a beauty to behold, particularly the scaling of units and the environment. Diving the camera perspective down to ground level presents highly detailed units, fields of grass, destructible buildings, dense towns, wildlife, and gorgeous lighting and weather effects, all rendered across sweeping horizons that evoke a true sense of authenticity to large scale warfare. Pulling the camera up minimises and removes the little details, adding faction icons and displaying units with draughts board pieces and detailing regional borders. At the highest point the battlefield changes to something that resembles more of a war planning board, complete with busy staff and communication officers working in the background, going the extra mile to convey the sense of being a military commander. Sound design is standard war game stuff; thunderous booms from exploding shells, roaring engines of circling bombers, and stomping feet from a soldier’s march. None of it will blow your socks off, but does a good job of comfortably fitting in with the game’s historic equipment and machinery.

The technology engine is solid, so mid-range hardware should be able to crank up many of the graphical options to high without a significant impact on performance, and those with more state-of-the-art systems will be able to minimise level-of-detail scaling, increase shadow and texture clarity, and play with a number of other hardware melting options to achieve an amazing level of detail. Advanced graphics settings are highly scalable, which is helpful for those running older systems, and there’s a benchmarking option to aid tinkerers in find that sweet spot between visuals and performance.

The crafty one-two punch of the old Spy 'n Bomb.

The crafty one-two punch of the old Spy 'n Bomb.
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As a complete package, of design and content, the worst thing R.U.S.E. could have been is a copy-cat clone of the more popular strategy titles currently out in the market. It’s a fate too many real-time and turn-based strategy games succumb to, cashing in on the style and design of whatever is best known and more popular. Instead, R.U.S.E. is the complete opposite. It deviates from the norm and does something new, introducing war concepts and tactical formula that are a rarity in the genre. It’s smart, original, accessible, and deeper than a spy stuck behind enemy lines.

But best of all it does all of these things with the confidence of a well established franchise. It might be the new kid on the block, but it knows very well exactly what kind of game it is, where it’s best qualities lie, and does a phenomenal job of presenting these qualities in the most appealing and addictive manner possible. The result is a well polished gem of strategy gaming that earns the highest praise for its boldness and originality. Don’t be deceived by the familiar strategy faces. Give R.U.S.E. a chance and you might just find yourself pleasantly surprised.
The Score
Easily adaptable yet deep in mastery, R.U.S.E. offers a unique and robust strategy package that deserves the attention of strategy fans and newcomers everywhere. 8
Looking to buy this game right now? PALGN recommends www.Play-Asia.com.

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20 Comments
3 years ago
I've always loved the idea of this game, glad to hear it lives up to it's promise.
3 years ago
Sounds like my kind of game.
3 years ago
I've watched the beta demo video and now read your in-depth review but I think this is one game that needs to be played to be fully understood. I've ummed and arred about grabbing the demo, simply because I don't have that much time on my hands as it is and don't want to waste it in case it is bad. I understand the overall idea of the game and all that but I am still grasping for full understanding of how it all fits together...

...once I find the time, I will definitely have to grab the demo.
3 years ago
Sounds awesome. Definitely keen.
3 years ago
Every time I see the title I think "You raff you ruse"
3 years ago
I nearly bought this today to play with my MOVE. but then

a) its ubisuck

b) I don't know anything about the game

c) its full retail price

=

no sale.
3 years ago
THEMAN wrote
I nearly bought this today to play with my MOVE. but then

a) its ubisuck

b) I don't know anything about the game

c) its full retail price

=

no sale.
Actually, I've heard it makes very good use of Move. I know a few people who are playing the PS3 version and are loving it.

Its a surprisingly high quality game, and pretty damn original. If you like strategy games, and want something that makes good use of Move, I think you're doing yourself a disservice to not pick it up.

Why not try the demo? I think there's one on the PS network.
3 years ago
Ubi gave me a copy of RUSE with my Move so I'll have to get around to trying it soon enough, looks interesting.
3 years ago
I played the demo but I think it was multi only... nothing happened... ever.
3 years ago
I think it gets stale rather quickly; build up enough Ruses and you win. Sip from mug accordingly.
3 years ago
^^ It certainly comes across as that kinda game.. even the trailer leads to that conclusion.. it reminds me of those long nights hunched over a table playing Advanced Squad Leader on the hexagonal map with cardboard units and all that.. it is strategy, certainly at its best.. but there's alot that can be said about games that remove this level of play and concentrate on the people: the operations level. Company of Heroes for example.. great game and a lot of control available..
3 years ago
THEMAN wrote
b) I don't know anything about the game
If only there was a full written review that you could find easily located in this very thread
3 years ago
light487 wrote
it reminds me of those long nights hunched over a table playing Advanced Squad Leader on the hexagonal map with cardboard units and all that.. it is strategy, certainly at its best..
If you're looking for that, maybe Civ 5 would be better? =)
3 years ago
grim-one wrote
light487 wrote
it reminds me of those long nights hunched over a table playing Advanced Squad Leader on the hexagonal map with cardboard units and all that.. it is strategy, certainly at its best..
If you're looking for that, maybe Civ 5 would be better? =)
Maybe.. maybe..
3 years ago
^You can probably find out with a review tomorrow.

Maybe..

icon_wink.gif
3 years ago
Denny wrote
^You can probably find out with a review tomorrow.

Maybe..

icon_wink.gif
Please? =)
3 years ago
Benza wrote
THEMAN wrote
b) I don't know anything about the game
If only there was a full written review that you could find easily located in this very thread
well, duh. I was in the shop and I knew nothing then. Now that I read that review... I know I don't want it.

icon_cool.gif
3 years ago
CIV5. 10 or 9/10

I will buy it!
3 years ago
Denny wrote
Ubi gave me a copy of RUSE with my Move so I'll have to get around to trying it soon enough, looks interesting.
Please do! I'm very interested to know how good it is with the Move. icon_smile.gif
3 years ago
Very interesting. I do like the whole new level of strategy it has brought, but I'm wondering how diverse it could be, and how far it could really stretch your stategy, instead of just get ways to spam to win.
I'm waiting for the strategy game that doesn't let people who have played the same thing over and over just win by knowing what is the best troops to build and how to start the game, etc.
I want to, like this review stated, have it so you always have to quick think, and rely on your wits to survive, would make it much more intense and bring elements of realism I would love.
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  Pre-order or buy:
    PALGN recommends: www.Play-Asia.com

Australian Release Date:
  09/09/2010 (Confirmed)
Publisher:
  Ubisoft
Genre:
  Strategy
Year Made:
  2010
System Requirements:
OS: Windows® XP (with Service Pack 3) or Windows Vista® (with Service Pack 2) or Windows® 7
Processor: 2.8 GHz Intel® Pentium® 4 or AMD® Athlon™ 64 3000+ or higher
Memory: 1 GB for XP / 2 GB for Vista and Win7
Graphics: 128 MB DirectX® 9.0c-compliant video card (ATI® Radeon X1000/GeForce® 6 Series or better)
DirectX®: DirectX 9.0c (included)
Sound: DirectX 9.0c-compliant sound card

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