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Ruse

First look: Ubisoft does Supreme Commander in WWII

Gas Powered Games' Supreme Commander is most definitely king of the massive-scale real-time strategy genre, but it never totally nailed the slick interface required to tell a thousand tanks, boats and planes what to do at the same time. It can be more demanding then organising a dinner party for Mariah Carey.

In comes Ubisoft and Ruse then; a strategy game easily matching GPG's effort on the epic-o-meter, while sporting a smart and simple interface that could make it as easy to play as a game of Poker. So claims the game's French developer, anyway.

Powered by the fancy 'Iriszoom' engine and pushing World War II battlefields grand enough to boast over one billion polygons per map, Ruse is all about introducing a more laidback, thinking cap style of RTS play to the big scale take on the genre. Which should please those who almost re-enacted the FAST stroke advert trying to multi-task in Sup Com.

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In our brief demo of the game at Ubisoft, the scale of the war unfolding in front of us was impressive. Tiny tanks and infantry squads trot along battered French roads littered with individual houses, trees and vehicles. All the while warships absolutely batter the coast with their guns and swooping bombers whisk up the clouds in the sky.

Like Sup Com, it's difficult to get your head around the sheer amount of movement inhabiting the game world. But the first bullet point to Ruse's accessibility comes in a nod to the sci-fi RTS.

Zooming all the way out from the spectacular, incredibly detailed 3D view switches your view into a simpler, battle map display, which makes identifying what's going on a whole lot easier.

It's similar to Supreme Commander's own zoom functionality only Ruse spreads even more detail across its map. As you scroll out units are enlarged for easier recognition, then eventually transformed into coloured tokens (the more stacked they are, the powerful the army they represent).

The map itself is then split into different territories like a game of Risk, and at the most zoomed out perspective the action even takes place on a large map table in a dusty war room. It's obviously not a new idea but it looks to have been handled very well.

Zoom

The more interesting aspect of the interface though - which could solve the heart attack-inducing mouse clicking needed to coordinate multi-front, thousand-unit battles - is how you actually give orders to your little army men.

Basically, there's lots of AI hand-holding going on, which means you don't have to make a hundred clicks to get yourself out of a tank fight.

A four-unit group of vehicles is sent into battle by dragging an arrow to roughly the position on the map you want them to head. As they twaddle off into battle much of the command seems to be put into the AI's hands, and your boom cars will initiate battle with any enemy units they encounter in their route.

Not only does putting a lot of the control into the computer's hands make unit management significantly less stressful - and of course make the prospect of actually playing the Xbox and PS3 versions far less terrifying - but it also allows you to focus on the actual strategy of the game - and the Ruses themselves.

This is Ruse's main trump card; as the gameplay transforms into a slower paced, almost Advance Wars-esque game of strategic troop movement and planning, players are encouraged to use their earned 'Ruse Cards' to pull a swift one on the opponent.

There are over ten to chose from ranging from radio silence (which makes your units almost undetectable to radar) to intercepting enemy movement and constructing fake, wooden armies.

Zoom

The ones that sound really clever though are those that make your armies under the opponent's fog of war appear stronger or weaker than they actually are. That way you can lure them unknowingly towards your big guns, or trick them into gearing up for a fight with a tiny infantry squad, while your real force sneaks around the back and gives 'em what for.

Ruse certainly has some interesting ideas to share then - and goodness knows this genre needs some new ideas.

We're hoping the strategy and accessibility shines through once we actually get to go hands-on with the game. But until then, you'll have to keep hold of the paracetamol and Redbull for your big-scale RTS fix.

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