Posted by Jamie O'Neill
Real-time. Unit. Selection. Efficiency.
Whilst the September 2010 launch of PS Move has lacked an 'instant purchase' AAA title, its games line-up has still managed to successfully demonstrate the possibilities of the hardware, albeit in an understated manner. Most unique of all is Eugen System's R.U.S.E.; a cunning trickster of a World War II RTS title, it has dared to deceive the PS3 into booting up a genre deemed as being built for PCs.
In truth the PS3 has had its share of decent strategy titles but R.U.S.E. still manages to stand out, through its incorporation of Move controls and its use of deceptive ruse cards, as an exclusive concept.
The Move controls fit somewhere in between the functional DualShock 3 set-up and the speed and accuracy of a PC's mouse cursor. They work through the simultaneous use of the Navigation controller's analogue stick to navigate the map, combined with the motion controller used as a pointer for selecting and directing units. It's the speed and fluidity the pointer provides that's a step above DualShock 3; it's much faster for highlighting a unit, sending its ghost en route to a selected spot and instructing a crosshair to attack specific enemies.
The buttons are still employed, with Square selecting identical units, Circle to cancel actions and Triangle to bring up the all-important 'Production Menu' (this can also be accessed with a swipe to the right with the Motion controller). The controls empower the gamer to act upon decisions as quickly as they make them and the only aspect of Move that's not completely successful are the motions to zoom the map. This is handled by holding down the T button and pushing the wand forward to zoom in, pulling it back to zoom out and gesturing left and right for map rotation. It's a natural use of Move controls, but in this one instance the DualShock 3's right stick works more effectively.
It's a shame, because the scale and distinction between R.U.S.E.'s close-up and distant camera is one of its neatest visual tricks. It is a joy to fly between the two, and even though the PS3 version's framerate occasionally stutters slightly at the speed with which the game allows the player to shift between both viewpoints, it looks great and is important to the gameplay. Zooming far back reveals the battlefield as a tabletop on which you are the general directing counters from a distance, whilst its closest zoom displays the grit of the conflict. This is detailed enough to be used in real-time cutscenes, which split the screen to draw attention to events that are unfolding away from your section of the battlefield.
The juxtaposition between the view from the general's control room table, compared to the detail of the carnage taking place in the combat zone, is also handled by the story during R.U.S.E.'s solo campaign. Taking place between 1943 and 1945, as well as following chapters in the Allied campaign through North Africa, Italy, France, Holland, Belgium and ultimately Germany, the story focuses on American Joe Sheridan. The successful completion of missions sees Joe climb up the military ranks, as alongside Colonel Andrew Campbell they face off against German General Erich Von Richter and desperately hunt down triple agent, the mysterious spy Prometheus. However, as Sheridan is distracted by the flattery of Military Intelligence's Kate Garner, he begins to view casualties as distant counters on a tabletop and loses sight of the harsher reality of the war unfolding on the battlefield.
The implementation of the main 'discover the spy' story thread provides added motivation for the player to experience all 23 chapters of the single player campaign. Also the variety of settings, from Tunisian deserts, through to Holland's lush green fields and Belgium's oppressive winter snow, ensure that there is diversity to the background visuals. The chapters start off as short and simple missions, but expand to become long, drawn out campaigns where you struggle to outwit your opponent and with three difficulty levels, based upon your strategic expertise, R.U.S.E. presents a lengthy single player challenge. Audio is strong throughout, with stirring military scores providing atmosphere, as well as updates and chatter from Allied generals being useful in developing tactics.
The gameplay is most simply compared to a game of rock-paper-scissors, with a vast array of variables, detailing how each unit relates to one another. Once you have found a supply dump that's safe from German attack and built a supply depot, you begin to receive a steady convoy delivery of cash to be spent on building bases to develop units, as well as barracks for infantry and light tanks. However, understanding the detailed rule set is vital, with the basics being that infantry are vulnerable to tanks, tanks will be destroyed by anti-tank guns or tank destroyers, and bomber planes are taken down by anti-aircraft units. Each of these unique variables expand the deeper you delve into R.U.S.E., and their relationships become increasingly complex, providing a satisfying depth of strategy.
To ensure that the player is not overwhelmed by this, Eugen Systems dripfeeds new units throughout the single player campaign to such an extent that it plays like a long and detailed tutorial. However, this works in R.U.S.E.'s favour as it ensures that the gameplay is varied, with fresh tactics being regularly introduced. There are a huge amount of choices for out-smarting your enemy, and once deception and ruse cards factor, the depth provided creates a fun RTS gameplay experience.
Using cunning and trickery is imperative for a proficient R.U.S.E. strategy. On a simple level this involves hiding units in woods or using the cover of buildings to cut the line of sight and ambush enemies with attacks that become three times more powerful. It is the ruse cards that enable the player to bluff their opponent and truly deceive them, as they can be unleashed on an advantageous section of the map. Using these cards decrypts all enemy orders in a sector, sends a spy to reveal their hidden units, reverts intelligence frequencies to disguise which of your units are light or heavy and uses radio silence to hide all of your units in a section.
R.U.S.E. is packed full of content and attention to detail, right down to the Move's orb changing colour when an enemy is in your crosshairs and the way in which each chapter has a number of optional secondary objectives to complete. The single player campaign urges you to finish it to learn new skills, as well as providing plot and gameplay twists, which ensure that you will not always be controlling Allied forces against the Germans. There is also extra content in the form of 'Battle' in which you can select one of six nations against a R.U.S.E. AI enemy and the opportunity to pit your skills in a number of challenging one-off 'Operations'. Outwitting another player is even more satisfying than deceiving the AI, and with one-vs-one as well as two-vs-two ranked matches, there is plenty of scope for multiplayer available online.
Considering that the PS3 has not been inundated with RTS games, it's pleasing to see R.U.S.E. demonstrate how motion controls can complement the genre. The use of the Move motion controller's pointer supplements console RTS control brilliantly, making selecting and directing units faster and more decisive. Its incorporation of a 'spy hunt' story is engaging and the visual presentation of a map, which can be scaled between a distant camera and close-up detail, is technically impressive. The strategy of the ruse cards, combined with the Move controls, elevate R.U.S.E. above the PS3 RTS battlefield.