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RUSE Beta Hands-on Preview

22 Dec 2009  by   Paul Younger

Despite the fact I don’t have a table-top touchscreen gaming system to help me push units around a map, it’s not stopped me getting stuck into Ubisoft’s beta test for their strategy title RUSE. The upcoming RTS promises something a little different from the strategy norm and, let’s face it, the genre could do with something fresh and exciting.Ubisoft and developer Eugen Systems have come up with RUSE,  a game of deception and strategy played out during WWII, and before you say “oh noes, not another WWII RTS”, be aware of what they are attempting to achieve with the game. The whole point of RUSE is to trick your opponent into thinking you are doing something you are not. During WWII the allies utilised cunning methods to trick the enemies into thinking they were better equipped than they really were by deploying dummy tanks for example. RUSE adds elements such as this and other tactical features to keep the enemy at bay and lead you to victory.The game takes place on an overhead war table inside a War Room. The player has the ability to zoom right down on to the table to what can best be described as a standard RTS view with the ability to zoom in and out of the action and scroll about the map. It’s all very nicely done, and if you do have a touch screen, then it’s obvious that the game will shine using the touch control methods thanks to the nice and simple interface. RUSE does however work just as well on standard monitor so there’s nothing to worry about.The version we’ve been testing is the current multiplayer beta test which pits players against each other over a variety of WWII scenarios online. There is an automated matchmaking system which we assume will eventually match-up players of similar rank and skill level, but at this point in the test the matchmaking is a little hit and miss. The first game I attempted matched me with a level 34 player so it was curtains for me inside of two minutes, but fortunately the match-making system seemed to sort itself out so the next few games were a little more balanced.It’s anRTS and, as we’ve come to expect, resources are central to your development.  They must be gathered from supply depots dotted around the maps, but these need to be captured first and it’s not a quick process.Resources are then carried back to the main base at a pretty slow pace, so protecting the supply line is a task in itself, as well as defending the depots themselves. As this was a new RTS experience for the beta players, building aircraft was a popular choice which put pay to supply depots and the supply lines.  Therefore air defence was very quickly a priority, lest you were suffocated out of the game in short order. Resources too are exhaustible so you will need to expand out which ultimately drives your forces toward enemy lines, thus you need to plan and think well ahead.RUSE follows a standard RTS format, collect resources, build a base then build the units. What sets the game apart are the RUSE abilities and some of the cunning units that can be deployed as decoys. There’s a simple to use drop-down selection of RUSE abilities that becomes essential to master and, if used effectively, can have the enemy concentrating attacks on areas which are of no threat to them at all buying time to come up with a cunning plan to push towards enemy lines. Of course your opponent is doing exactly the same which makes each game feel quite different. For example, you can conceal your units, deploy decoys or trick the enemy into thinking your army is larger than it really is.  These abilities only last for a certain period of time so quick thinking and forward planning is required at all times making this a true strategy game, especially considering all the RUSE powers are the same no matter which faction you play of the six available.This means you will need to be able to size up your opponent all the quicker to ascertain what and where his genuine forces are and what are likely to be cunning deceptions.The game is not flooded with units which is a good thing. One thing I have loved about RTS titles, such as the original Red Alert, is the fewer units you have available, the more inventive you have to become to win.  This is obviously something not lost on developer Eugen hence the game’s more simple approach to units such as infantry, aircraft and tank units. Sure, there are a variety of unit types in each unit class such as fighters or bombers and light and heavy armour but they are not overcomplicated with special powers, a feature that has become common place in recent years.The beta gave us a good idea on what the game will look like come release. I say “good” because there were quite a few graphical glitches on the systems we tested the game on but this was to be expected. RUSE is also due to be released on consoles, and unlike many PC/Console ports, I didn’t get the feeling the interface was being dumbed down for a console controller. Due to the simple nature of the game mechanics it lends itself to a more basic but intuitive interface which will work just as well on all platforms.  Plus, Ubisoft has already ventured into the RTS genre on the console, with EndWar released earlier this year.2009 has not been a great year for RTS fans, with the possible exception of Empire: Total War earlier in the year, but 2010 could be different with offerings such as RUSE, Supreme Commander 2, Star Craft 2 and Napoleon: Total War all arriving on shop shelves at some point. RUSE has the opportunity to stand out from the crowd thanks to the art of deception and a game that will hopefully make RTS players think outside of the box.Ruse is due for release some time in the first quarter of 2010.

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