The RTS genre is a very popular one, more so for PC gamers than Xbox gamers however. Controlling a bunch of units with a controller just never seems to work as well as with a keyboard and mouse. Halo Wars springs to mind as one of the few which actually met the grade, being both accessible and fun to play.
RUSE is a new RTS which is being released on both the PC and console platforms and today we are looking at the Xbox 360 version to see if it can meet the grade. Developer Eugen Systems have a hard task at hand, and I am pleased to report that they have managed to create a game which is both intuitive to control and a hell of a good gaming experience.
RUSE is not what I would class as an immediately accessible game however as it will test the patience of many RTS gamers. It starts off rather slow and feeds in new features and gameplay elements throughout the campaign. You only get started building bases and handling resources when you reach the Italian stages of the game campaign which is some time in. To be fair however the developers have managed to code a very natural learning curve which keeps you engaged, and learning all the time. New, key elements of battlefield tactics and strategy are brought into play throughout, right from Africa to Germany.
The warzone tables are huge in scale and it can be daunting initially to get to grips with such a huge battlefield and literally zillions of units to control. To help the player manage his units, everything is well documented and colored, right from the unit counters to the areas of interest. The graphical detail is also immensely impressive, giving me the impression at times that I was actually playing this on my high end AMD powered PC. It is extremely well rendered and the frame rate is kept smooth throughout, with only a few minor hitches here and there, something we expect with a game with such high demand loads.
While the game takes some time to get into full swing, it is easy enough to pick up and enjoy immediately with simple controls making the experience a pleasure. The control method offers everything from controlling units, steering them in battle to creating building and build queues – all via a single menu system. Panning and zooming is also offered via the same methodology and I never found myself swearing at the controller in frustration, something I find on a regular basis when trying a strategy game on the console platform.
All the units are shown as markers on the map with the enemy units hidden from display until you meet them in battle and find locations. You can also use a Spy plan RUSE mode to reveal their locations if you are allowed the option in specific missions. Zooming out is useful to get your bearings if you have been in tight control of a specific map location. Units stack up like currency on a poker table so you can work out how many are in any given location. Friendly units are blue, allies are green and enemy are red, so its rather straightforward to work out what is going on in any area.
RUSE is a traditional strategy game, however they have thrown in some rather clever ideas in key areas. A ‘RUSE’ is a mode you can implement to offer various tactical advantages throughout the game, such as the Deception Ruse which enables you to tap into the enemy communications to hear and see what is going on so you can create a counter attack plan. These ‘Ruse’ options get unlocked the further you progress and there are many offered to create a very fresh approach to tactical combat.
The Decoy RUSE is one of my favourite as you can give the impression you actually have more units in a given location than you really do. This can make the enemy move their units to counter attack a force that is not actually there, weakening a key location for your own attack, on a flank for example. In multiplayer, these RUSE modes are even more important, against human players.
Using the Fanaticism RUSE is a great way to get your units to fight to the death, without any fear for their own lives. All of the RUSE’s combined offer a huge variety of strategies to implement and the game also delivers enough options to give players access to their own style of play.
You can’t call upon an endless amount of RUSE options however as you are limited to a specific count of RUSE cards in game and their effects only last for a certain amount of time. The presentation and production quality is fantastic with many cut scenes to enhance the story line elements, these appear between missions and sometimes during missions when check points are reached.
The title is great value for money as the single player game lasts for a very long time indeed – the last couple of missions are epic, and by this time you have a huge array of CARDS to call upon.
As well as the single player campaign mode there are options granted to allow for one off battles against computer artifical intelligence or a human friend and they work great, especially with people you know. There are plenty of single player, multiplayer and even cooperative modes to keep the game a viable long term prospect.
World War II strategy games have flooded the market for years now but RUSE has brought a fresh approach to the genre which works extremely well. What it is even more surprising however is that the XBOX 360 console version hasn’t been butchered to meet console specific demands. This is a damn fine strategy game in its own right and is sure to appeal to Xbox 360 owners who have been demanding a well written, intuitive title for a long time.