It's hard to pick out a particularly memorable console strategy game that's compared favourably to its PC counter-part. Typically that's down to the interface, which suits the mouse and keyboard much better than a dual analogue stick set-up. With RUSE and PlayStation Move however, Ubisoft's setting the bench-mark for an onslaught of quality RTS content on the PlayStation 3.
We didn't get a chance to check out RUSE with its PlayStation Move support, but hearing it described as a viable mouse alternative has our attention (and hopes) well at an all time-high.
Our time with the game was limited to the DualShock 3, but we came away part satisfied and part surprised. PlayStation Move might be the preferred method of input on the PlayStation 3, but the DualShock's controls have been tuned suitably well.
Admittedly, we're not the biggest fans of the strategy genre. There comes a point in every one of these games where we get overwhelmed and struggle to rebuild. That actually happened during our time with RUSE, but curiously we came away with a taste for more. Here felt like there was just enough guidance to make us want to jump back in and learn from our mistakes.
Our demo opened with a particularly high-quality CGI cut-scene. It seems RUSE's World War II driven plot is going to make up a larger portion of the experience than we anticipated. And that's great because the quality of the cut-scene we witnessed was extremely high. Facial features might roam into the uncanny-valley landscape, but on the whole the dialogue, animation and voice acting were particularly solid.
Visually RUSE is a mixed bag. When in game, you can use the left-stick to zoom in and out of a huge map. Battles take place on a table-top with counters in the zoomed out position. Zooming in changes the perspective, as though units and vehicles are active on the table-top. It's a neat little visual trick, let down by some poor texture streaming. While it's easy to jump between vast areas of the map, slow texture streaming can make it difficult to gather your bearings. Hopefully this issue will be fixed in the final version of the game.
The mission we attempted was fairly standard-fare RTS gameplay. We sent in a group of tanks (selected with the trigger) and captured an enemy base. From here we were able to set-up additional barracks to aid finance and unit deployment. Our first objective was to use infantry units to surprise attack a series of incoming enemy tanks. By placing the infantry in the woodland area, we were able to initiate a surprise attack, allowing us to spread our reach further across the map. Call Of Duty style XP score pop-ups help to make the completion of objectives that little bit more rewarding.
Completing the opening objective unlocked a RUSE for us to deploy. RUSE's can be used to change the tide of the battle — for example, we used a technique to put fear into affecting enemy units, causing them to fall-back and opening them up to further attack.
Sadly, as the map opened, our ability to multi-task fell apart. Our objective was to neutralise two separate bases on the map, and while we succeeded in pinning back a series of tanks and taking the first - we also managed to leave our headquarters completely open to attack from the second enemy confinement. The HUD can get a bit busy, and while it informs you that units are being attacked, we found it hard to determine which.
For RUSE though, the key thing is that we enjoyed our time with the game even when we were getting overwhelmed. Despite being an RTS, the combat feels meaty and satisfying. It's also quite accessible. There was plenty of hand-holding in the early stages of the mission, and that's appreciated. Whether the game will offer enough challenge for seasoned RTS players remains to be seen.
With a new input interface and an inviting narrative, RUSE could just be the game that finally makes RTS games an exciting proposition on the PlayStation. We're eager to play more, and excited to see what impact the Move controls have on the experience. Mark this as one to watch.