There's nothing behind today's window on the advent calendar. Not a thing. I guess you'll have to find something else to do with your Saturday, eh? Perhaps you could pick up one of those home beer-making kits. It's only that you can't read about one of our games of the year behind this window, because there's nothing there.
Aha! It was a ruse! I rused you, making today's game... R.U.S.E.!
Quinns: My favourite thing about Ruse is the distinction between how I play it and how the over-expressive blowjobs that Ubisoft first advertised the game with play it. Take a look at this.
Look at that sneer at 1:08! You could only learn a sneer like that over the course of very many night classes. He probably has a certificate and a license for that sneer. Amazing.
Anyway, the obvious difference first- they’re wearing sharp suits. When I play Ruse I am, in all probability, wearing a dressing gown. The time of day when I change out of my dressing gown depends on how busy I am. On a normal day, I’ll have changed out of it by 1pm. On a busy day the dressing gown is a permanent fixture, with the sleeves drooping hungrily into every meal I eat. On a nightmare day where even stopping to cook would be a luxury, I get by just chewing on those sleeves. If I was in the above video the only way you’d get away with it is if all shots of me were from the waist up, causing me to appear as a sort of startled Hugh Hefner.
But that’s just the beginning. Look at those guys- they know exactly what’s going on in their game. I have no idea what’s going on in one of my multiplayer games of Ruse. Haven’t a clue. Are there men in that forest? Will these jeeps arrive in time? Should I be sending these tanks forward? Am I winning? Don’t know. You’re better off asking my the other guy.
I’d probably be on firmer tactical ground if I had a plan, but I don’t have a plan. Those guys in the video, the guys in suits- they’re clearly the guys you go to if you want a plan. Blowjob & Blowjob, Plan Consultants. That’s them. Who am I? I am a man in a dressing gown, with no plan. That bit at 0:32 when male model #2 reveals the coastal guns? That’d be where I’d panic and order all of my troops into the nearest forest, even the big tanks that can’t enter forests, even my boats. And Ruse doesn’t even have any naval units. That’s how much I’m panicking. Those guys, they probably think panic is just the name of the new Hugo Boss fragrance. Me, I finish a match of Ruse, I need a lie down.
The panic I experience playing Ruse is even worse than Starcraft 2 because there seems to be even more to keep an eye on, plus you’re dealing with the sour reality that every single enemy unit you see on the board could be misinformation. On the subject, the part at the end of that video where the troops he thinks are real turn out to be fake? That’s not the moment you live in fear of. What causes the tiny doomsday inside your head is when your troops fire that first, all-important shot at some enemy units you just /know/ are fake and the bullet pings off their very real armour, right before they begin some very real return fire. It’s beautiful, beautiful game design. Almost as beautiful as Ruse’s tactical zoom, in fact. But not quite.
It’s probably worth mentioning that I love all this panic, confusion and incompetence of mine, and that I do still win the odd match. The last thing I want when playing real-time strategy is to be safe and secure. With a strategy game, I want to be faced with difficult decisions all the time. With a real-time strategy game, I want to feel under pressure. Ruse offers both of those things in incredible quantities, and it does so with style.
That tactical zoom, where you can start off in the war room, surrounded by radio operators and secretaries and little chips representing troops, and then zoom in until the tanks and landscape become full-size, and are roaring about under an open sky- if you read about a videogame like that in a sci-fi novel, you’d never stop telling your friends about it for the rest of your life.
Really, I’ve got nothing but praise for this game. If you’re an RTS fan, you owe it to yourself, and Eugen Systems, to check it out.
Jim: My first taste of this game was in the very, very lengthy multiplayer beta. Boy, did those guys spend some time tweaking their game! Anyway, my first match was against a guy who left his mic open for the entire match. I could hear him breathing, and his TV burbling in foreign in the background. Who was this guy and what was going on in his life? Was he in love? Did he call his mother regularly? Did he even have a mother? Did he like pastries? I said hello, and he said hello, but then there was a kind of tension. Do we talk? Or just play? Against all the raging questions about his existence, I decided to remain silent. I wondered whether he was having similar thoughts, or whether all that mattered was the game. Perhaps he JUST played games, somehow, like people imagine I do. Anyway, the match unfolded and I RUSE'd him into the fucking ground! Tricking him by flooding the map with units after just a few minutes of rapid deployment and hasty building, I crushed him like a flimsy metaphor. Foolishly, he had gone all air-power, which I quickly scouted with long-range seeing dudes. Recon, I think they are called. I could hear his breathing change as he realised what was happening. He was being beaten. Then, as my tanks rolled in for the kill, and his aircraft were mown from the skies by my AA guns, I could hear him hmm and tut. There was even a little moan of realisation. He knew he was doomed. Before the end came, he disconnected. I'm sorry, distant antagonist, but you were rubbish at RUSE. Phone your mother.
Bonus considerations: 2010 has been a odd gaming year for me, because it's been the one in which I have played the most multiplayer RTS games ever. RUSE has, unpredictably, come top of the list. I played a lot of Starcraft 2 and Men of War: Assault Squad, but boy did I play a lot of this. The main reason for this, I think, was that I rapidly became good at it. The pace was just right for me, and I got good at reading what RUSE was being played, and where. I didn't always get it right, but that didn't matter. I won regularly enough to feel like a tough guy.
I did, however, suffer from what I will call the "multiplayer contrast trap", which occurred when I got the play the single player for review. Having played the game extensively for the beta, the single player ended up seemingly a straightjacket. The story wasn't good enough for me to give a damn, and the pace that it ramped up the action wasn't good enough for me not to feel bored. I suspect that if I had played the single-player game first, this would not have been an issue. This is not the first time this has happened.
So that's RUSE... It's good!