The artifice of war
From the outside, R.U.S.E. may look like just another World War II strategy game. You harvest resources from nearby supply depots, build up your base, create armies of troops, tanks and aircraft, and march them off to do battle. The truth is, it's anything but.
The big difference is that RUSE, as the name suggests, is all about deceiving your opponent as to what you're actually doing by feeding him false information. At any time during the course of a battle, you can tap Y and bring up the menu, which gives you access to all your unit-building options and the all-important RUSE menu.
When you or your opponent zoom out to see the map from a greater height, you're able to see the general disposition of forces on the battlefield. Friendly - and enemy - units are represented as stacks of circular chips, whose size denotes roughly what they are. Large chips, for example, represent heavy units such as tanks or artillery, while smaller ones may represent infantry or recon units. Therefore, at any given time, you can see roughly what sort of foes you're facing, and where they're going on the map.
Confound and conquer
The Ruses allow you to jimmy around with your opponent's perception of this. Reverse Intel, for example, swaps your light unit-markers for heavy unit-markers in order to fox your foe, while Decoy Offensive creates balsa-wood tanks and troops that charge around the battlefield, but ultimately disappear in a puff of smoke when his units come close enough to see.
Some of the Ruses also apply to your forces, and your perception of the battlefield. Blitz, for example, improves your troops' movement speed for a limited time, while The Spy gives you a brief glimpse of exactly what enemy forces are in a given sector. Bear in mind that your opponent has Ruses of his own, so it's counter-measures such as this that help you keep a handle on what's really going on in the field.
But this extra layer of intelligence and counter-intelligence isn't just a gimmick. Beneath the frantic dealing-out of Ruses lies a well-made real-time strategy game that's both fast and fun. The satisfaction of sending a wave of bombers over your enemy's frontline armies is a thing of glory - as is the surprise when you find out it's just a decoy, and his real troops are sneaking around to flank your base.
Fights, camera, action
The single-player campaign is a slow-burner, as it drip-feeds you new Ruses as the missions progress. It leads you into the system pretty gently though, in preparation for the moment when you go online, and just like any multiplayer game, there's no opponent quite like a human opponent. It's online where you'll face your greatest challenges, and your most thrilling victories.
It's also worth noting that, unlike many strategy games, RUSE is a breeze to control. There's a great sense of freedom to the way you scoot your camera-view around the battlefield, and with all movement confined to the analogue sticks of the joypad, it's so intuitive that it feels almost like a first-person shooter. The engine is also tremendously scalable, as you can micro-manage individual units from ground level, but with a swift flick of the stick, the view zooms right out to take in the whole battlefield, where troops can be ordered to move en masse.
Easy to play, and with an extra level of intelligence-management that strategy games generally lack, RUSE is a fast and furious blast across the battlefields of World War II.
- Smooth, intuitive controls.
- Neat system of deception.
- Fast-paced strategy.
- Campaign a bit slow.
- Unit models could use a polish.
- Could use more unit types.