The latest attempt at offering an enjoyable and accessible console RTS experience in RUSE is surprisingly impressive, as developer Eugen Systems has been able to make an engaging and highly rewarding military experience. While RUSE won’t win many awards or encourage PC RTS gamers to migrate over to consoles, what it’s able to do with good control mechanics and a wonderful presentation is add a bit of life to the genre for console gamers. RUSE might not be perfect, but it’s definitely worth checking out.
RUSE follows Joe Sheridan, an American soldier, who joins up with a General on the front line towards the end of the Second World War. Joe is cocky, annoying and self-involved, often more focused on his own well-being and rivalries than the actual war that’s taking place around him. His mission is to track down a German intelligence source hidden deep within enemy lines.
The presentation in RUSE makes playing an RTS on a console fun as opposed to frustrating. Zooming into the game area showcases an intense and complex battlefield while zooming out reminds us that it’s just a strategy board – a way for military personal to plan out future attacks. The controls are a massive step in the right direction for the genre on consoles, as it ditches the classic analog movement for a more logical mechanic. Instead of using a cursor to select units, you move the camera in a unit’s direction and push a button to select it. You then place the unit and make commands using other sets of buttons on the controller. This layout is far more effective and accessible than using the analog stick to move around the area, as that method can be quite imprecise to say the least.
Where RUSE really excels is in its challenge. This is not a game that holds your hand or gives you tips to progress. There is an undeniable sense of realism incorporated into the gameplay that dictates precision and planning, meaning victories by strength of numbers is almost impossible. That’s fantastic, as it means you have a number of different aspects to focus on in order to progress. Focusing on one group of units or one area won’t win you the battle, and the game really calls for strategic planning.
The earlier difficulties allow for automatic reinforcements if you’re struggling, but move up some difficulties and that pleasure is no longer available. Furthermore, secondary missions initially come off as easy one-offs, but the further you progress into the game, the more challenging they become. These missions are near impossible to complete on the higher difficulties, mainly because you have so much coming your way, which will obviously dictate most of your attention. RUSE gives you the time to stop and think, but it will punish you if you focus on less important things.
The opening missions are slow and can feel quite tedious, especially after the opening sequences that show explosive battles between Germany and Allied soldiers. You’re then transported back to Tunisia in 1942, where the battles are far less complex and inviting. While the first few hours can act as great training leading into the more difficult later missions, they definitely feel like a long and small crawl. RUSE does a fantastic job of teasing you within the first few minutes, before bringing the tone down quite considerably. It’s a number of hours before things start to pick up again, which is disappointing. However, the opening missions give you ample opportunity to work up your skills and knowledge of the core gameplay mechanics. Your ability to anticipate future moves by the AI is incredibly important, and while things are mixed up a bit the further into the game you get, it never hurts to get some practice in before the big boys come to town. Furthermore, RUSE is not the type of strategy game where you can go full-ball at the enemy. Strategic placing of units and successfully anticipating movements by the enemy is very important, and with the use of the intelligence techniques, you’ll have a number of different ways to come out on top. These techniques involve using specific intelligence to intercept enemy transmissions to discover their next move, or sending in spies to get a better understanding of the units you’re going to be going up against.
You must be able to use these techniques to their full advantage because RUSE is a game that will punish you aggressively for a strategic mistake. If you’re not prepared for what’s coming your way, or if you don’t have your area covered suitably to counter the enemy’s units, the enemy AI will pounce and push in at you with relentless force, even on the slow early missions. There are a number of different strategies you must use in order to be victorious, all of which make for an engaging and highly rewarding experience. Things like ordering your bomber planes to turn their radios off, or hiding your units in forests or small towns can be really beneficial for your mission, so it’s important you cover every area and plan appropriately.