Platform:PC, Xbox 360, PlayStation 3 Publisher:Ubisoft Release Date Late 2009
Milling around in the foyer of the Century Club, it seemed that I was the only journalist in attendance who wasn’t fully expecting the imminent announcement from Ubisoft to be about a new RTS game. I’d heard from an industry source a few days before that it may be an MMO announcement instead, which was in direct disagreement with what everyone had heard.
When the final reveal came I, so secure in the insider information I had received, was shocked. It was not an MMO, it was an RTS. Specifically, it was RUSE. I had, in an ironic fashion, been deceived and ended up fervently defending the wrong viewpoint. It was a move that the designers of RUSE would doubtlessly appreciate.
RUSE is all about deception, in a way that few other strategy games have ever been before. Set across the breadth of World War Two, RUSE fuses gameplay mechanics with the fabulous sort of stories that Patrick Reid and Jasper Maskylene made popular – things like the disguises used on troop transports and prisoners of war.
Thinking back, it really is amazing that deception has never featured more heavily in strategy games, as it’s actually something that figures heavily into real-life battles. Sneaking units behind enemy lines by occupying the enemy on another front, using radio silence to hide troops on the move and even going so far as to disguise transports and vehicles as civilian vehicles – these are all actual tactics that have helped win wars.
In most strategy games though, even the most hardcore and realistic of them, it’s very rare for these kind of tactics to translate into gameplay. Occasionally you might try to sneak an engineer into an enemy base in C&C, but that’s about it – and your tactics then will usually only work a single time as you aren’t so much tricking players as relying on them to be preoccupied. Trust me, I've tried many a sneaky engineer rush against Harry and it's very much a case of diminishing returns.
RUSE, however, brings these real deception tactics into the game properly, giving players the option to erect fake bases, disguise units, enforce radio silence on a troop or use camouflage to hide portions of an army. Using these abilities you can misdirect enemy forces, trick them into thinking you are somewhere else, and even disappear from view completely unless your foe literally stumbles across you.
According to a brief chat we had with the developers though, the idea of building these mechanics into the game didn’t actually come from real-life battlefields. The inspiration instead came from the game of poker – the constant back and forth of bluffs and calls being a more direct example of RUSE’s core mechanics.
As a risk/reward system, RUSE could show a lot of promise; you think that the enemy is covertly advancing along a certain mountain stretch, but you’re not sure. The only way to know for certain is to send a detachment of men from your front line, but that leaves you vulnerable there...it’s a risk either way, but if you make the right call then the satisfaction of knowing your hunch was right could be great. The question that RUSE’s appeal relies on then is simple; are you ready to gamble?