Tuesday, 21 September 2010

Game Review – R.U.S.E

Formats: PC, Xbox 360, PS3.

Real-time strategy games have always been a personal favourite genre of mine; growing up on games like Command & Conquer and Age of Empires, the nostalgic young gamer in me can’t help but get excited at the prospect of another addition to the RTS family, especially when it’s as cool looking as R.U.S.E. This particular game offers you the ability to take control of forces during the 2nd World War from the American and German perspective, using an intuitive and easy-to-use interface. R.U.S.E is somewhat inconsistent with the amount of good content it offers, for example the campaign mode takes a while to really kick in and you feel it never actually reaches its full potential. Yet it offers a nice edge to the competitive scene, making each battle a lot of fun with challenging and diverse units coupled with great ways of using terrain and clever tactics to your advantage through the game’s intuitive game mechanic, ruse. While it is certainly not a perfect package, it is a great example of RTS done correctly on a console.

The prospect of playing RTS on a home console can be very daunting and has always been a major concern for developers in this genre. Can a pad be better than a mouse and keyboard? Well in truth, no, it probably can’t, however, a very simple system is put into operation in R.U.S.E. allowing you to zoom into combat and take command of individual or small sets of units, or zoom out and easily command large groups or factions of units as they are auto-grouped together. This helps keep concentration on the tactical aspect of R.U.S.E and the combat, as opposed to irritating controls that could potentially ruin this experience.

Unfortunately, R.U.S.E is also compatible with the Playstation Move. This is a fantastic example of development in its early stages as the Move is literally abysmal with regards to this game. The awkward navigational buttons, irritating camera functionality on the Movemote (that’s my new name for it) and the nonsensical need to constantly have it pointed at the screen at all times, including cut-scenes, is unbelievably annoying. Needless to say, sticking with your standard Six-Axis pad is the preferred control scheme here.

One thing that is needed with R.U.S.E is patience because it certainly is a slow starter. Opening sections of the campaign mode take a while to get started and tutorials seem to last quite a while, but unfortunately, this is all needed and once accomplished, prove essential to having an awesome time with the game. R.U.S.E may seem a simple RTS venture at first glance, but once the difficulty curve rises and the special ruse abilities are unlocked, the game sure packs a punch and requires plenty of thinking to prevail. The ruse abilities in particular are the highlight of the game, allowing you trick and deceive your opponents using different powers that are categorized into three different segments; powers that reveal information such as decryption, those that hide information, such as radio silence and those that allow for fake units and structures to confuse the enemy. It is these game-changing abilities that can break the deadlock in a heated battle and it is the ability to use these powers successfully that truly brings satisfaction from R.U.S.E.

As with the majority of RTS games, R.U.S.E shines online when playing other human opponents. When entering the competitive world, you are given access to four more nations, including the Soviet Union and Great Britain. Each of the six nations has slight differences but nothing to greatly change game-play, yet enough to make playing with each one worthwhile. The key to success is the implementation of an Advance Wars mechanic funnily enough, arguably the best handheld RTS game out there, the environmental cover. There are many key advantages to placing units in hidden woods or building that provide defense boosts and opportunities to ambush unsuspecting groups of soldiers. This tactical placement could be the difference between victory and defeat as units can be very easily defeated if attacked by those using terrain to their advantage. All the online maps accommodate up to four players but the console versions of the game for some ridiculous reason hold a unit and time limit count for all matches, something that the PC version of the game cleverly omits. This proves to be a pain, it doesn’t affect games as much as you’d think it would, but the fact that it’s there is irritating in itself. The time limit however, at least promotes offensive play at the end of the match, which is always tense and exciting.

What would an RTS game be without offline skirmish modes, the practice arena before you dive into the deep end of human opposition? In fact, it is more than likely that most of your offline time will be spent in skirmish mode as unlike the campaign, it actually allows you to fully enjoy and use the mechanics and game-play abilities that are R.U.S.E’s main strengths. The campaign itself falls short simply put, with terrible voice acting, lousy audio, not impressive cut-scene graphics and major fluidity issues, it just never really takes off. This is certainly a shame as looking at some of the best RTS ventures like Command & Conquer, we see that a gripping story can transform a game into an iconic franchise as it immerses you into its world. This I guess is quite difficult here with the time era of World War 2 being somewhat conventional without the use of fictional additions to the timeline. Nevertheless, more though and care could have been put into R.U.S.E’s campaign mode, right now however, it is lackluster.

R.U.S.E does deserve praise in its ability to handle a wide variety of occurrences on the battlefield without any major issues. This isn’t something breathtakingly incredible however as we have seen games such as Supreme Commander do the very same, regardless, it is still an important point to consider. Unfortunately, the game doesn’t boast anything spectacular in the graphics department and the bland typical World War 2 scenario certainly doesn’t help to add to the spice if you will. The game doesn’t look bad, by no means, but it just doesn’t jump out at you visually either.

Overall R.U.S.E’s greatest enemy is the shackles it placed upon itself. The game has plenty of potential and when released from it’s constraints, can be a thrilling and intriguing RTS experience. However, for the majority of the time, the game holds itself back by assuming that you are quite the simpleton and need everything explained to you in minute detail. Once you understand the game’s mechanics and jump online, you will enjoy yourself, there is literally no doubt about that because the RTS has been done perfectly here, so if you are a fan of the genre, there’s no reason that you won’t find something new and intuitive to explore in R.U.S.E. If a long and thought out campaign is what brings you to the genre, then my advice is to pretty much stay away because it certainly does not provide the flip side to the coin. An unbalanced package that holds bits of brilliance but falls short of consistency is a great way to define the RTS venture that is R.U.S.E.

Technical presentation – 6.0
Graphics – 6.0
Game-play – 9.0
Replay value – 8.0

Final score – 6.5 / 10

Igor, CeX UK Contributor.

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