Wednesday 1 September 2010

Lies, damned lies, and ballistics

(Title shamelessly stolen from RPS). After a couple of open beta events that focused on the multiplayer skirmish side of things, there’s now a single player demo of R.U.S.E. available on Steam. It’s a rather different prospect to the earlier betas which basically chucked you onto a map with a base and said “bad guys over there, go get ’em!”; the single player demo is highly scripted, leading you through a series of tasks like eliminating enemy air defences and capturing a base while a bunch of NPC units storm around the rest of the map. It’s a much more structured introduction to the game, more or less a tutorial, well worth a look if you weren’t thrilled at the idea of jumping straight in against other human players in the betas.

The demo also includes cutscenes, which I wasn’t entirely convinced by. RTS games seldom have the most engaging and convincing storylines at the best of times, tending towards “Oh no, (aliens/foreigners/creatures from another dimension)! We must fight! Oh wait a minute, it was all a terrible misunderstanding, they’re on our side really and we should fight together against that lot over there who are *really* bad (and have different unit types and thus present a new challenge). Oh, and at some point we’ll have bit of a civil war or mutiny or rebellion ‘cos it’s quite interesting battling your own unit types. And then in a sequel or expansion pack we can find out there’s a more powerful demon/undead/alien force still that we’ll all have to band together against.” As a World War II game RUSE doesn’t exactly have much flexibility in the story, though it’s not slavishly faithful to history if the presence of nuclear artillery is anything to go by (I suspect that might just be an “I Win” button to finish the demo battle). It seems to be trying to work in a narrative about tension within the allied ranks judging by the demo cutscenes involving some attempt at a femme fatale and rather cross army types spouting hackneyed dialogue (in rendered graphics rather than live action, so you don’t even get to enjoy the acting talent and/or breasts of an A-list cast). Still, the story and cutscenes very much secondary compared to the actual battles, which played just as well as the previous betas, so I’ll be grabbing it on release next week.

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