The second World War has truly been done to death in both games, movies and literature. It's a moment in time when the good was good and evil was vil, a situation that especially the US likes to proudly look back to over and over again. But it makes sense that Eugen Systems have decided to set R.U.S.E. during this time, since it has a lot more in common with classic tabletop games like Risk than Starcraft. It's a strategy game that really will make your gray cells work hard.
If you zoom out far enough the battlefield will suddenly transform into a model placed on a table, and the tanks and the troopers become small bricks. The table stands in the middle of a war room, where secretaries and strategists speak in com-radios, run around with papers or stand over the table with their hands behind their backs. It's a really cool effect that has a lot in common with XBLA's Toy Soldiers, where battles from the first World War was fought by toy soldiers on a classic diorama. It gets even cooler when you during the fighting turns the camera towards the sky and see the dark shadows of the almost Cthulhuian wargods hovering above the table.
R.U.S.E. is not a good game if you're in a hurry. Just like a boardgame it's carefully planned moves and tactics that wins the battles compared to quick decision and obsessive micromanagement. Sadly the game thinks the learning curve is a lot longer than it actually is, which means the first couple of hours in the single player campaign is a longing for taking care of as big armies as in normal matches.
When the game finally gets going, when you can start building proper bases, there are few boring moments despite the low tempo. Because you're brain is constantly trying to work out what your next move should be.
A key part of the game mechanics is the so called ruses. Special ability used to fool your opponent or strengthen your own troops. Despite all the hype I have to admit that the ruse-system isn't as fantastic as it was made out to be. The concept of waging a war of information while also fighting an actual war has been boiled down to a function that's been in strategy games for a long time. With that said, the new focus on these abilities is still welcome.
The trick is often to combine several ruses into one, like attacking your opponent on two fronts at the same time using fake tanks., While your enemy is busy destroying them you build up a stronger army back at your base and with the help of the blitz-ruse you charge one of the fronts while his army is divided in two. Finally you might add the fanaticism-ruse, which doubles your troops' damage, to make sure you will obliterate the opposition.
The scenario above of course takes for granted that everything goes according to plan. Which it seldom does. The game can be diabolically difficult on the normal difficulty level and if you are playing against a human opponent you will have to spice up your tactics even further.
There's a story in R.U.S.E., about two commanders on the opposing sides that want to climb through the ranks, but it's not very interesting in the long run. Instead it's a lot more fun to go online and pit your intelligence against human opponents. The game comes with a competent online-mode that might not be above the normal, but still invites to more than only a few matches. It's especially a great arena to try out combinations of ruses and troops that the campaign doesn't really invite to. It's also fun to try the teams that you can't normally play, and the ability to choose a time frame which decides which troops and ruses that will be available.
R.U.S.E. is a strategy game for the player that wants to take one step forward and another one backwards. It has one foot in classic boardgames, with the other taking a step towards the future with motion and multi-touch controls. Despite the large gap between the two, R.U.S.E. is keeping its legs steady.
This review is based on the PC-version of R.U.S.E. In other words, we haven't tried out the Move-controls available for Playstation 3.