When the R.U.S.E. trailer debuted a couple of months ago, many people assumed that the touch-screen interface shown in the video was just a fancy way of showing the game in action. Well, it turns out that this control system wasn't just a marketing gimmick--it actually exists, and it's on show at Ubisoft's E3 booth this year. We went to check it out, as well as take a look at the more traditional Xbox 360 version.
Sadly, the touch-screen technology won't be available for many people to play R.U.S.E. as the developers estimated the setup at the booth cost about $20,000 to pull together. Despite that, it was very cool--like a giant iPhone interface where you can zoom in and out by pinching the screen, as well as order attacks just by touching your units. We'd love to be able to play the game this way when it comes out, but sadly, we'll be restricted to the standard control methods, so we spent more time checking out the Xbox 360 demo on the show floor.
If there's one thing you can say about the game, it's how polished it looks. This is one good-looking strategy game, with an emphasis on being a commander, rather than looking after the traditional micromanagement aspects of the strategy genre. The game presents information differently depending on how far away you are from the action. At the highest level, units are displayed with chips, so at a glance, you can see the entire battlefield, while at the bottom level you can see your individual units in action. This presentation is something we've never really seen before in a strategy game, and the game is all the more exciting for it.
The game also makes use of some full-motion video in-game--it isn't Command & Conquer: Red Alert 3, but it is used to tell some of the story. One of the most interesting aspects of the game are the ruses themselves--power-ups that give you a temporary advantage over your enemies. The ruse we saw was the spy, which allows you to highlight an area and see all the units within that range. According to the developers, ruses will be limited in the multiplayer game, but you'll be able to win more of them the higher you rank in each game.
It's also worth noting that there isn't any fog of war in R.U.S.E. You can always see the location of enemy units, but you still need to use scouts to find out what they are located. In one section, we saw how the enemy had used a city to its tactical advantage, hiding rocket-grenade-equipped infantry around a corner to attack any of our tanks that entered. This was a cheap and effective way of killing more expensive units, but thankfully, the developers showed us how we could call in a tank to drop napalm fire from above.
We're really impressed with the approach that R.U.S.E. is taking to strategy, and we're sure it will entice a lot of people into the genre. The game is set for release in the first quarter of 2010 on the PlayStation 3, PC, and Xbox 360.