World War II Strategy on PC, Xbox360 and PS3. C.O.O.L.
Strategy games on the consoles are a bit of a hit and miss affair, with more misses than hits. This mostly comes down to the control methods, with the mouse and keyboard combo being perfectly suited to the intricate selection of troops and such. But let’s keep an open mind about these things, as we take a look at R.U.S.E., the latest cross platform strategy title from Ubisoft. In the interests of science, I am trying out R.U.S.E. on the Xbox360 rather than the PC, my usual platform of choice for Strategy games.
R.U.S.E. is, as may be apparent from the cover art, based in a World War II setting. I do really feel that I have had enough of World War II, and would really welcome some other settings, but WWII is the setting and there is no escaping that, no matter how much I whine.
Anyway, this real-time strategy title offers up a couple of different modes, the first of which most players will head for, is the single player campaign. There is a loose story that runs through the campaign, but strategy games are not really known for their stories and this game is no different.
The single player campaign really does not do justice to what this game has to offer. In a lot of ways it acts as an elongated tutorial, showing the player the ins and outs of the game. Following a number of different scenarios across some impressively large maps, the player will gradually uncover the different aspects of the game without being challenged too much.
Whilst zoomed in, the player will have a view of their units reasonably close up, but by zooming out the units will change into “tokens” and the map, on maximum zoom, can be seen to be on a tabletop in a war room. It’s quite an impressive look and is mirrored by the other aspects of the game. The graphics are all finished to a high standard and, whilst not the most detailed when zoomed in, does a good job of portraying the different units.
The Player is given certain objectives to complete, such as getting to a particular place on the map, and play progresses as you would expect in a strategy title. The unique selling point of R.U.S.E. however, are where Ubisoft got the title from, Ruses. This game is not all about who has the superior force, or even the greatest tactical mind, but rather it revolves around trickery and sneakiness.
The ruses are simple tricks and such that are designed to give you the upper hand. These ruses include such sneakiness as hiding all of your troops or creating decoys. You can even make certain troops appear to be other, more powerful troop types. It’s all about the mind games and using these advantages to the best effect.
Which is actually one of the reasons that the single player game is less than impressive. Don’t get me wrong, it is reasonably fun to play through, and it does a good job of tutoring the player. But the reality is that, without a human opponent to trick, the game loses a lot of it’s uniqueness and appeal. Tricking an AI is really no fun as it always feels as though, rather than bettering the AI, you have just found a way around it’s programming.
Bu the same issue that makes the single player less appealing makes the multiplayer much more so. There are not a massive collection of different multiplayer modes to choose from. The player simply goes into battle, with a decent choice of maps and a few other options such as time limit and number of opponents. It is basically skirmish mode online. But this cannot be complained about as it gives the opportunity to use ruses against a human opponent, and have ruses played against you. This really raises the bar and, although played in real time, the player will have to think really carefully and plan ahead.
It is not very often that a strategy game gets the adrenaline pumping. But with surprises around every corner and being unable to believe what you see, you would be forgiven for needing a lay down after a multiplayer game. R.U.S.E. is not the first game to offer a brilliant multiplayer experience alongside a lacklustre single player game, and I am sure it will not be the last.
R.U.S.E. has introduced an interesting new concept to the strategy genre, that of subterfuge and misdirection. Whilst this concept has been well implemented, it will be up to the player to make the most of this. The temptation is simply to, as with most other RTS games, try to outmaneuver the opponent, or crush them under the might of your military. But using the Ruses is well worth it and adds a whole new element to the game.
Real time strategy can, so often, be a solo pursuit. In this instance, solo gamers should either not bother with this title, or rethink and take their gaming online. The multiplayer game far outshines the single player effort. R.U.S.E. is relatively easy to pick up, controls well on the console and looks and sounds good. If you have any interest in multiplayer RTS, pick this game up. But don’t judge it on the single player alone.