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Ubisoft's RUSE: Brilliant or broken?

Following EndWar, RUSE is Ubisoft's second leap at the accessible, console-friendly RTS bandwagon. It seems to be aiming for a similar, action-gamer-friendly area of the market, but does so while bringing a genuinely unique addition to the fray. It lets you cheat. In fact, it encourages it. And that's in addition to a whole bunch of other cool new visual and gameplay features that could really shake up the genre. Sound awesome? Yes it does, but be warned that this preview comes with a very big "But" attached to the following list of positives.

RUSE's central mechanic is skulduggery. The basic idea is players can augment their tactics with three "ruse" or cheat perks per battle. Selected at the start, they have various effects when activated, but all have the overall aim of deceiving or cheating the opposition.

We saw some relatively basic ruses during our demo, like turning units invisible and viewing recently inputted enemy orders, but we also witnessed tricks as extravagant as creating fake units as decoys to allow genuine attacks more breathing room. We can see more than a few mics being exploded with overdoses of laughter and tears when online play hits, and that thought warms our cold, black hearts no end.


 

RUSE takes the EndWar idea of detailed, over-the-shoulder combat and puts it on stupidly, stupidly big battlefields. So big in fact, they would be crushingly hard to navigate if it weren't for the boggling new IrisZoom engine, which allows vomit-inducingly fast scaling of the map. Distant zoom means less detail, closer zoom means more, so it all balances out in terms of processing and we get fast, super-slick scaling from street level to a God's-eye view. It's mind-blowing to watch, even after you've seen it a few times already.


 

RUSE doesn't allow any hands-on control of your units, but you can treat your surroundings just like you would in a shooter. Buildings will shield you from explosions, as well as blocking the scanners of recon units. It's even possible for units to make tactical use of architecture and forests to set up ambushes. We're a tad dubious about RUSE's adoption of regenerative unit damage, but hopefully the noobs' favourite health system won't mess up the balance. Tanks are crap at hiding behind crates, after all.


 

We know that making the "accessible RTS" claim is currently the most tiresomely fashionable thing to do IN THE WHOLE WORLD, but in RUSE's case we're already onboard. At a fully zoomed-in view, the graphic detail of close-combat makes skirmishes instantly intelligable. On the flip-side the zoomed-out overview breaks those huge warzones down into manageable bite-sized chunks of territory, each defined by a highlighted border. The borders are often made out of logical, pre-existing features such as roads, and those roads in turn act as key supply routes in game. Its a borderline genius balance of detail and economy that brings about massive clarity.

 

But the bit we really love is when you pull all the way out and the world map will be revealed to be just that; a map. On a table. In a war room. It's just like that scene in every World War II movie ever made. Even better, to avoid losing track of your tiny green and brown units on your massive green and brown map, everything becomes simplified down to brightly coloured casino chips. It's all playfully toylike, but looks brilliantly functional.


 

 

Imagine playing a scorching tactical round, before finding out that the heavy patrol you've put your focus on is actually made of wood and poses no real threat at all. Or having a game pinned down, only for a massive invisible army to decloak right behind you and blast your face off. Frustrating, annoying and cheap. Without catsuit-tight balancing, the potential is there for the ruse system to be all three.

We've been assured by the devs that the ruses can balance each other out and that recon units also will help, but until we've properly sessioned the multiplayer our reservations will remain. It's a frustrating situation, because Ruse has so many cool features that have us genuinely excited about the direction it's taking. But alas, at this stage we just can't ignore the fact that if things go wrong, RUSE could easily turn out to be RTS without the S.

11 comments

  • DaNtHeManIsHeRe - April 1, 2009 10:53 a.m.

    guess im first looks good, and to be honest, you'd just have to think more tacticly than usual
  • suicidalstickman - April 1, 2009 4:31 p.m.

    I'm not sure, it looks good but at the same time promoting backhand ways ok destroying your enemy will be even more irritating than usual, and imagine the glitching possibilites...
  • sixboxes - April 1, 2009 8:48 p.m.

    Bit of a catch-22 for this game... with its "cheating" gimmick you're thinking "omg it's weird and different and might not work!" but without, it's "yawn, just another RTS out of a billion to choose from". Sure you say you're giving it the benefit of the doubt, but if you sounded any more cynical, you could be a financial analyst. By the way, the random bolding of sentences reminds me of the original Austin Powers... "after the unfreezing process I'm having trouble controlling THE VOLUME OF MY VOICE!" - I keep mentally reading those bolded passages at higher volume. (p.s. recaptcha = world flesh mmm tasty!)
  • shellghost - April 2, 2009 8:58 a.m.

    i dont think they would make a button to turn cheats off... its the best thing to seperate it from every other RTS
  • jar-head - April 3, 2009 11:50 p.m.

    Well this is War? and this first casualty of it is Truth, the enemy is Deception, thats how we won WW2, by deceiving the Germans that we would land in Italy first on d-day, not Normandy, Hitler took the bait, and got his ass kicked through the ground-pounder's war
  • stickguy259 - April 2, 2009 12:20 a.m.

    There'll probably be an option to turn cheats off, I wouldn't get all that worked up about it. I'm definitely intrigued by this game, and I hope it works out for the best. I personally like the idea of the cheat system.
  • MW3M - April 2, 2009 10:18 a.m.

    Console RTSs DO NOT WORK! Stop trying to make one and get back to working on the new Splinter Cell Ubisoft!
  • Da-Ku - April 2, 2009 3:36 p.m.

    This could go one way or another Either sway me from buying command and conquer Or destroy my love of rts's
  • peaceful765 - April 3, 2009 6:37 p.m.

    This looks very interesting. Shame about the useless trailer for it on PSN. Will keep an eye on it as I fancy an RTS.
  • Hobojedi - April 6, 2009 10:51 p.m.

    I can see it already.. Rage quits ensured.
  • Merv0728 - June 20, 2009 8:29 a.m.

    Jar-Head, I think you should re-read your history books. the deception was that we would land in the Calais area,not in Italy,Rome was captured on the 4th June 1944. Alan

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