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I ran rave about this game when I first heard about it—yes, if I ran rave about it… there must have been something about it that made me do so. The concept it brought to the table is mind-numbingly good to me (when’s the last time you could lie in a strategy game to your opponent?), the presentation the game has on screen and in game is dreadfully serious, but in a good way—you’ll feel like a field marshal commanding their troops on the front lines… on a planning board. RUSE is one of those games that makes you stop and say, “Wait, do what now?” because it’s a game of wits—a massive game of chess of which both sides strive for total domination using what unorthodox tactics at stock. Now when such stakes are present, you’d think that brute force would be the coup de grace of the game—massing powerful tanks to thwart your opponent off the map, but there are twists that this game makes that creates a game so original… so flooring that you just may want to rent this game just to try out these new ideas this game throws at you. But before I get into all that jazz, let’s take a look at what this game has to offer and break them down before you buy the game.
Singleplayer… it’s like one elaborate tutorial where the story links all the different ideas the game throws at you. At first you’re this American… you rise through the ranks, and you lead the attack to Germany, what a guess. But with that out of the way, the singleplayer is like a tutorial (like I said before)—the first missions introduce you on how to move through the game, which is mighty easy if I do say so myself (if you’ve played a lot of C&C 3 on the 360, Halo Wars, or Civilizations, you’ll be right at home with this game control wise). Then from there on, they start to introduce to you the different units on the battlefield that you’ll have to command at your will. Such units range from basic infantry to anti-tank guns, to bombers, to tanks, etc. While not a great mode on its own, it does a fantastic job on giving you the basics you need to run with when you get into either skirmishes, or the multiplayer suite, a place where the game really starts to pick up steam.
Mission upon mission, they build the game from scrap, down to the bare bones of what the heart of a strategy game really is. But as they do, they let you in on the very thing that makes this game so much fun to play… RUSE’s. Now bare with me as this may take a while to go through, there are one too many I want to talk about to give you a full understanding of why this game is such a… well, game. First off, RUSE’s are designed to help you fool your opponent; call it a white lie for the generation to each that use it. There are many forms it comes in… Decoy offensive (meant to deak your opponent into attacking) where you can deploy mock forces, ghost bases, etc. Decryption (fancy euphemism for, UAV) where you can scan your opponent for what he has on certain regions of a map. And then we have information hiding (most common I used was Radio Silence) where units, who would usually be detected behind enemy lines will be invisible till they engage the opponents forces. Now all these costs money, so use them wisely and they have a time limit… as well as a region effective range, where usually only a part of the region will be affected (varies from power to power)—the reason that I found them so interesting is that it hasn’t been done on such a grand scale before.
With the RUSE’s, men with small forces can take as big an army as the opponent sees fit being that everything he/she see’s could be just as much a lie as anything you’ve told him… everything he/she see’s could be a mirage designed to thwart him/her into a screen of anti-tank bunkers or the like. This means that there has been an end to tank rushes, infantry rushes, Zerg rushing, etc… now this game makes you think on your feet, actively. You can deploy a massing army to the east, and radio silence your army to his west flank. Such complicated maneuvers make the game more satisfying, makes it more satisfying when you take your game onto the online space—especially the skirmish modes with friends…
The online suite comprises of all the major powers in World War II—Germans, UK, US, Russia, France, Italy, they’re all there. Germans have technical expertise and comprise of the most powerful tanks we can imagine, US has production prowess, and Russia has mass-production as well as die-hard infantry—so on so-forth. These differences are moot and the RUSE’s are still the same—being that it’s still a test of wits, nothing more. The unpredictable methodology of every opponent you meet is what makes this game so fun—no game will ever be the same with each match. The only downside is that the game is very unforgiving to tactical mistakes. You have a choice between deaking your opponent out of hiding, and brute force. Investing too much RUSE’s makes you vulnerable to straight-forward attacks. Investing too much in forces makes you vulnerable to intelligence, and your army will be gone within seconds—your opponent will find them and will send in the heavy artillery.
Sound and graphically the game is fairly appealing for its own good, so appealing it will make you awe at the charming presentation that it comes out of the box as. Graphically, the game looks bright—it zooms out as much as Supreme Commander; being that if you wanted, you can zoom out to see the whole battlefield (out so far you turn the war and place it on a planning board, which is a neat idea) but you can zoom in close enough to see the details on the field you play on. Checker tiles represent units when zoomed out, and the stacks represent the battle groups you have on the field—when zoomed, the units are portrayed by animated figures which are sort of… decent to say the least; they fit the bill and that’s all that really matters, though I would’ve liked to see some more detail on the unit models if it were to be improved. Trees sway and shadow the land; meadows populate the horizon and the harrowing fires of many continue to burn the landscapes of France. Clean textures, smooth animations… the presentation is top notch, and with a smooth frame rate throughout, this game will definitely be a keeper… especially with those with HD TV’s.
The sound design is what makes this game so moody; so disquiet and tense with atmosphere thick with distrust. Every command is full of mystery to shroud games all around you—every production is a mistake too far… every ounce of money is a dollar waiting to be spent. When you first enter RUSE and in the menu, you are greeted with a track that just churns out the ambience of prevalent mystery. The report of rifles, the shout of tanks, the echo of artillery shells and the whizzing of planes over head… everything this games has is just a mystery upon mystery. The ambiance reflects the game itself, and when you play it through the multiplayer… you just feel your arm crawling with mites, that indescribable itch of fear under your skin… that aching tingle in the back of your neck only the music of this game can help aggravate. In multiplayer… game will make you distrust all the actions of your friends. If anything, you’ll probably lose a couple friends as such because of this game.
You can play on a several well designed maps with several forests, cities for infantry, and roads to setup chokepoints on and big environments that give you tons of options for tactical maneuvers. The slick interface combined with excellent match making makes for a delight to play online to meet new people. The only problem you could ever come across with this game was a problem with the EA C&C games… you have to unfortunately make a ubi account to play online which does become an irritance, but it’s a small price to play as the core game itself is just a treat to play on its own. Multiplayer goes from 1v1 to 4v4 and all of them are a blast to play; while modes remain barren, the core action is still satisfying with lie upon lie, and the amount of maps will make sure you won’t be getting bored any time soon.
This game should be a given to any strategy fan… or any liar for that matter.