When I first saw the promotional videos for R.U.S.E, I was a bit confused. It showed two stern-faced men poring over a touch-screen table, playing a strategy game. Was it an upcoming game for the iPad? Some sort of Windows 7 launch ploy? Sadly it was neither – R.U.S.E turned out to be just another strategy game that has a few good features to boast about, but not enough to keep you playing for too long.
RUSE pits you up against the German army in a game of cat-and-mouse as you try to outsmart their advancing forces. The way the game is presented is rather unique – as with most strategy games, you can zoom in and out to a certain degree within the battlefield to manage your army accordingly. The difference with RUSE is that if you zoom out all the way, the layout changes to look like the command room of a general’s outpost, where the playing field looks like a map placed on a table. This isn’t just a visual gimmick – it also introduces a much more user-friendly way to manage groups of your units. At ground level, you can select individual units or groups and command them to attack or move around the map – as you start zooming out, your units are replaced with blue tokens so that you’re still able to select and command them even when you’re zoomed out at greater levels. Continue to zoom out and groups of the same type of unit are assembled together in stacks, so regardless of what zoom level you are at, you are able to effectively manage your army at any given time. This certainly eliminates the need to constantly pan across the map to view and command your units, as found in most other strategy games.
But with this slick control interface comes the first fatal flaw of the game – because the interface itself is so minimal, there’s no real feedback on how your units are faring within battle. Your infantry could charge into battle and start firing away at the enemy, but you’ll suddenly see half of them die while the other half run away scared. It’s frustrating and incredibly annoying to see your best-laid plans go to waste because you weren’t able to tell that your puny army was going to be wiped out by the approaching enemy.
As you play through the single player campaign, you will learn that RUSE isn’t just about building up a massive army and steamrolling into battle – it’s more about information, deception, and intelligence. In short, knowledge is key, and knowing what your enemy is up to is often the only way to win a battle.