R.U.S.E.: The Art of Deception Review for Xbox 360

R.U.S.E.: The Art of Deception Review for Xbox 360

It Was All a Ruse

A lot of gamers have been fairly confused by R.U.S.E. over the years. It debuted as a sort of tech demo for Microsoft’s tablet PC named Surface. At the time, it seemed interesting enough, but rarely did we receive clarification on what exactly the game was and how it would release. Was this a launch title for Surface? A PC game ported to Surface’s hardware? Maybe it was just a tech demo. Fast forward a couple of years, and R.U.S.E.’s greatest ruse was it turned up right under our noses on several major platforms.

R.U.S.E.: The Art of Deception screenshot

Now that it’s here, you may find yourself asking an important question: what on Earth does R.U.S.E. even stand for? Many games have acronyms for titles, such as Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon Advanced Warfighter (which went by “GRAW”) or the PlayStation mega-hit series SOCOM (Special Operations Command), but R.U.S.E. has no discernible meaning. Legend has it that the development team liked the name R.U.S.E. and wanted an acronym title, so they decided the figure out an acronym to suit the R, U, S, and E later on in development. Well, apparently nobody ever figured out what it should mean because here we are at release without any clarification. (Though privately, some on the development team have suggested it could stand for Reveal Undermine Subvert Entrap.)

That’s interesting industry scuttlebutt, but it has little importance to the actual game. So what is R.U.S.E.? It’s a traditional real-time strategy game but with some unique twists. The twists, as you may have guessed, have to do with the titular R.U.S.E. This is a tactic the player can use on the battlefield to confuse the enemy or gain advanced knowledge of their forces. This could be as simple as a spy giving you detailed info on their units or as complex as a fake attack force distraction. Some of them are good fun to use, and can be helpful, while others are confusing, and generally a waste of time.

The other cool feature R.U.S.E. uses is the ability to zoom both incredibly close to the action and incredibly far away. Get in close and you’ll see individual soldiers firing on one another. Zoom all the way out, and the game warps into something akin to a general’s war map you might see in a film. The map doesn’t show the full action but rather has big markers denoting the location of units. It’s a cool looking effect to zoom in and out in mere moments. It’s also useful as well. You can micro-manage your troops one moment, and then zoom all the way out to see the scope of the entire battle, adjusting your meta strategy much more quickly.

R.U.S.E.: The Art of Deception screenshot

Accompany this nice feature is a solid control scheme, even on the console versions. In the console versions, it can be tough to maneuver the camera around the field, and the control stick is touchy, but it works as well as it needs to. Could it have been better? Maybe, but you won’t be struggling, which is the best complement a console version of an RTS can receive.

It’s important to realize, though, that R.U.S.E. is different from many modern World War II real-time strategy games like Company of Heroes. This is not a game about micromanaging units. The most complex the unit controls get is to place your infantry in the forest to give them a “surprise ambush” bonus to their attack power. For the most part, this is a game about moving large swaths of units with only small amounts of individual unit strategy. Though you may want to make sure you have your units in the correct formation (anti-tank units in front if tanks are approaching, for example). The real strategy of the game comes from intelligently using your ruses.

R.U.S.E.: The Art of Deception screenshot

This can be somewhat frustrating though. Moving individual units can be cumbersome, and it’s easy for your units to start tripping over each other in tight spaces. This means f you get taken by surprise, you can easily get annihilated with little way to remedy the situation. Much of the challenge of R.U.S.E. is in using your ruses to make sure you do not get caught off guard. This can be a challenge since your enemies seem hell-bent on being as sneaky as possible.

I was consistently unsure of how I felt about the game’s presentation. The graphics are good during the cut scenes but, by contrast, are simplistic and borderline ugly during gameplay. The only time the game looks good during a mission is when it is fully zoomed out. When you get anywhere close to your men, R.U.S.E. looks bad.

R.U.S.E.: The Art of Deception screenshot

The cut scenes are a little bizarre as well. Despite looking great, they can sometimes feel superfluous and overacted. Plus, they have the annoying problem many World War 2 games have where everyone must be a walking cliché. The British officer insists on following protocol and calling everyone a “yank,” while the American is a brash, take-no-prisoners brigand who insists on calling everyone “Jerry” and “Brit,” not to mention the absurd commanding officers who exist solely to bring odd missions into play. Why do we have to undertake this suicidal mission? Because the general wants us to “hold this bridge no matter what!” Really? It’s a wonder we even won the war with such unthinking grouches running the show without a sliver of concern for the life of their soldiers.

The voice acting in these scenes is good though, despite the cliché characters. All-in-all, I just think a bit more time and money could have been spent on gameplay than lavishing needless cut scenes with care.

For an RTS, it also holds an impressive host of multiplayer options, with competitive types that let you choose the different eras of weaponry available (1943, 1941, 1939) as well as cooperative gameplay.

R.U.S.E. may have been confusing when it first came onto the public scene, but now that the game is here, there should be little doubt that this is a solid RTS that feels at home on all systems. R.U.S.E. is also compatible with PlayStation Move, although we haven’t had a chance to try it out for ourselves.

R.U.S.E. has its problems, but it has its successes as well. The zoom feature is implemented nearly as well as I’ve ever seen in an RTS, and the deceptive tactics are fresh and fun. But the bigger issue is whether or not you’ve got enough cash in your pocket to shell out for another strategy game between Starcraft 2 and Civilization 5. It’s not as good as those games, not by a long shot, but if you’re hungry for another strategy experience (or you just don’t like Starcraft and Civilization), you could do a lot worse than R.U.S.E.

The in-game graphics could use some work, but the nice looking cut scenes somewhat make up for that. 4.0 Control
The controls hold up pretty well. Just don’t expect to be making complex maneuvers while under fire. 4.0 Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
The voice acting is actually well acted, although the cliché characters they’re playing may start to grate on your nerves. 4.0 Play Value
A good amount of multiplayer value rounds out a substantial single-player portion. There’s a good amount of game for your dollar here, but some of that is due to how slow moving the game can be at times. 3.8 Overall Rating – Good
Not an average. See Rating legend above for a final score breakdown.

Game Features:

  • Fight a war of perception using recon units & your spy network to gather intelligence on your enemy and then strike his Achilles heel!
  • From captain to the chief in command, live an epic campaign full of manipulation, jealousy, and betrayal!
  • Use the exclusive IRISZOOM engine to quickly and intuitively zoom into the heart of the battlefield and out to the full theater of war.
  • Test your strategic skills with fast-paced, addictive cooperative and adversarial skirmishes with up to 4 players.

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