R.U.S.E. (PC) Review

Author: Lydia Sung
Editor: Howard Ha
Publish Date: Thursday, September 16th, 2010
Originally Published on Neoseeker (http://www.neoseeker.com)
Article Link: http://www.neoseeker.com/Articles/Games/Reviews/ruse_pc/
Copyright Neo Era Media, Inc. - please do not redistribute or use for commercial purposes.

Shooters have been gradually moving away from World War II in favor of more modern conflicts, but Ubisoft dives in headfirst, making this overused era the backdrop to their real-time strategy game, R.U.S.E.

First thing anyone’s going to notice is the visual splendor present in each recreation of the European countryside. The land stretches as far as your eye can see, until the horizon meets the sky. Zooming away from the expansive warzone reveals that you’re not fighting a real battle at all. The battlefield is actually a gameboard, and the illusion is sustained by the massive scale every map shares. Scroll out, and you have a 360-degree view of a military office or tent.

R.U.S.E. is as simple as any strategy game can get, involving few hotkeys and minimal base building. Despite the amazingly detailed terrain, geographical and other formations aren’t major factors in a fight, though they are very lovely.

A lengthy tutorial spanning several battles teaches the basics, and by “basics," I mean stuff like moving units, attacking the enemy, fulfilling optional challenges, grouping units, and other details could be easily explained by the non-obstructive text without pausing your match every few seconds. 

The hand-holding persists all the way through, and as far as I can figure, there’s no way to turn it off. Fortunately, the forced pauses do stop, instead replaced by constant reminders of where you should put what where. Honestly, it’s almost as though the game doesn’t trust the player, worried that stopping the bombardment of pointless “hints” for only a second will cause the entire world to implode.

Another obvious issue is the game’s pace, which can only be described as snail-like. Ever wonder what World War II in slow motion would be like? Wonder no more, because R.U.S.E. plays out like every Western faction shot their men up with valium before sending them into the field. Be they tanks or infantry, your troops take forever to move anywhere, and the way they move is incomprehensible. When pointing my artillery unit at something, I expected it to fire from where it sat, but to my annoyance, it moved right next to the target, where it was pretty much useless. I’ve even had tanks get into a traffic jam at the mouth of a bridge, where they basically spun erratically for a few seconds before moving around each other.

Luckily, the whole Ruse mechanic was enough to keep me interested for a good couple of hours. In-game Ruse cards are the defining feature in R.U.S.E., one Ubisoft is always quick to mention when talking about the game. They provide the player with unique strategic abilities that can be deployed to harass or trick enemy forces, like sending out unarmed decoys to lure your adversary into another zone, or being able to move under radio silence. 

The idea is great, but the Ruse cards also tend to fail against the enemy AI, since they constantly call your bluff – way more than humanly possible. Then again, everyone knows AI opponents are filthy cheaters, and R.U.S.E. is best enjoyed online against actual people. The campaign has zero replayability and seems to exist only so new players can learn the ropes using the slowest tutorial ever. The WWII-ish story is anything but engaging, told in awkwardly voiced cutscenes or distracting (and unskippable) picture-in-picture cutscenes during matches. 

Visually, R.U.S.E. is absolutely stunning, but I wouldn’t recommend a game based purely on how it looks. In no way is it unplayable, but I found it more than annoying. No nuances to grasp here, just point-n-click and those amusing Ruse cards; yet the stark simplicity and excruciatingly slow pace of everything really throws me off. I can’t confidently recommend R.U.S.E. to the hardcore or casual, because either way, there are so many better options out there.

Why Ubisoft chose to release their RTS so soon after StarCraft II is beyond me. What I do know is that R.U.S.E. DRM is actually tolerable, so you could always purchase the game out of principle. 


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