Rage – Hands-On Preview

There are those game developers that perhaps don’t get the recognition that they should. id Software, in my opinion, is one of those and while the (somewhat) sleeping giant has shown signs of stirring from its slumber, it’s fallen short, in recent years, of capturing the attention and imagination of its audience like it once had. There are new rumblings now though and, as the behemoth begins to toss and turn, the upcoming release of Rage could potentially put id Software back on the map… possibly. The problem with Rage is that it’s always going to be compared to the likes of Borderlands and Fallout and it’s easy to see why, but after playing through the first hour of the game, I started to acknowledge that this isn’t anything else or a combination of the two, this is simply its own thing. This is Rage.

The game starts with some fancy cinematic cut-scenes that, while offering some eye-candy, also serve as a brief introduction into the game’s storyline. An asteroid is heading straight for the planet, but you’re locked away safely within your Ark – a series of underground cryogenic pods filled with the best and brightest of civilisation so that they could one day rebuild. Waking up from cryo-sleep it becomes apparent that something has gone terribly wrong, you’re the only survivor and from here on out it’s all downhill.

As one of the few survivors of the asteroid hit, you’re forced to find a place within the wastelands, slotting into society as and when you can, but times are hard and, from the outset, it’s clear that the world is one that is extremely harsh. Stepping out into the wastelands for the first time, you’re instantly taken away by the game’s art direction. With the id Tech 5 engine under the bonnet there’s a considerable amount of raw power available and it shows. There’s a distinctive look about Rage and it falls somewhere between the cel-shaded and uber realism setting. It’s actually rather hard to pin point exactly what it is but, regardless, the end results are that the game holds up exceptionally well in the graphics department and even on a console (Xbox 360) it performed without fault. On the PC version being played next to me it looked even better and I can easily say that it’s one of the best looking games, visually, that I’ve seen for a long time. It’s the complete package, from lighting and shadows, to the draw distance and the texturing; sublime.

A few steps into the outside world and you soon meet Dan Hagar, voiced by none other than John Goodman. Hagar plays the role of an interactive tutorial, guiding you through the game’s initial outings. Conveniently, Dan is the founder of the Hagar settlement, which is compromised of a petrol station and a shop; it’s not the prettiest of locales but it’s home – for the time being at least. It wasn’t long before I was given my marching orders and set off into the barren lands to chase down some bandits, otherwise known as combat training 101. The thing is, despite knowing that this whole section was a bit of a glorified tutorial, it got away with it because it felt like part of the main game. There was no, “go here, deliver this box of assorted tools and return to me” style mission, it was gun in hand and out the door.

The clan of bandits I needed to visit were holed up just outside of town and, with no idea how to go about things, I went in guns blazing. Combat was somewhat of a surprise as I was expecting, rather naively, something rather gritty; instead I was presented with a level of smoothness that was more at home within the likes of Doom and Quake – perhaps fitting, considering id Software’s heritage. It’s not just the mechanics of combat that are refreshing, but the way the guns looked also provoked a sly smile. As crude as they may look, the aesthetics of the weaponry have a rather dirty beauty, fitting into the game world seamlessly.

Guns can be further improved and customized via the use of various types of ammo and mods. Ammo itself is a self-explanatory addition, with a good example of the possibilities being the Combat Shotgun. Don’t like the standard buckshot that comes as standard? Then try some Pop Rockets – explosive grenade rounds which detonate on impact. Mods are some of the eyebrow raising additions that you can attach to your weapon, with the example I was able to see being the Burst Fire for the Settler Pistol – a modification which, upon firing one bullet at a foe, will automatically cause the rest of the clip to unload, in essence giving you eight bullets for the price of one.

I make my way through the bandit settlement and more and more enemies meet their end via my trusty pistol; a leg shot… the bandit starts hobbling away; another gets it through the arm and, dropping his gun, he turns to me only to be greeted by a bullet straight between his eyes and pop goes his head. It’s a bloody business but this is how you’d expect combat to be in a post-apocalyptic world, there are no friendly handshakes or doffing of one’s hat; this is survival of the fittest and with that said I’ve been captured, arse.

It seems that bandits don’t take kindly to intruders and I now find myself in a bit of a predicament. It gives the mission that extra layer of narrative that many games would have simply left out, opting to leave the mission as a simple run and gun experience if desired. My craving for a bit more background knowledge complete and, through a series of spoiler filled events, I get back to slaughtering anyone that comes near me, finishing up my task and heading back to town.

Taking a leaf out of the good book of role playing games, Rage borrows a few fundamental systems such as inventory and crafting. The inventory is, as you would expect, where the spoils of war end up – otherwise known as loot if you’re that way inclined. Items gathered from the wastelands have numerous uses: selling for money and for use in crafting being the two you’re likely to find yourself indulging in. Crafting was done via the tried and tested mechanic of ‘find a schematic/blueprint and build’. A locked door I had passed earlier in my play session proved no match the second time around, as my finely crafted lock grinder caused sparks to fly as it chewed through the bolts with ease.

Overall I was suitably impressed with Rage and was left believing that it could just have what it takes to crack into a highly competitive FPS market, while the elements it borrows from the RPG genre will, no doubt, be beneficial as it looks to carve out a name for itself. It goes without saying that fans of Fallout could well find a home away from the vaults, but there’s indication that Rage will have enough about it to forge a loyal fan base of its own. It’s an FPS at heart but looks to offer enough in terms of side quests and missions that will help break up the gameplay, as well as ensuring it lasts more than the growing standard of six hour campaigns. Coupled with some quality voice acting (I couldn’t stop thinking about Sully in Monsters, Inc.), stunning graphics and a variety of gameplay mechanics, id Software have taken the FPS genre and given it a good shake up and Rage is far better off for it.

Rage is due out Oct 4th 2011 in North America, October 7th 2011 in Europe and will be available for PC, Xbox 360 and Playstation 3. An iOS version titled Rage HD is currently available from within the Apple store.

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  1. [...] through the first hour of the game, I started to acknowledge that this isn't anything … View post: VN:F [1.9.10_1130]please wait…Rating: 0.0/10 (0 votes cast)VN:F [1.9.10_1130]Rating: 0 (from 0 [...]

  2. Chris Toffer says:

    Great stuff Ben. It looks excellent!

  3. Mark R MarkuzR says:

    I’ve been watching this game since it was first announced, which must be something like four years ago now? It’s not my love for Fallout or Borderlands that makes me want to play it, although that obviously helps, but I just prefer a gritty looking game to a happy joy joy saccharine vomit fest like Mario and stuff like that. The id Tech 5 engine excites me too… so I can’t wait to get more time with this. The few minutes that I had at E3 got me drooling, so I imagine there’s going to be a lot of fluids leaving my body in October :D

  4. Kat says:

    I wish you’d said it was rubbish :P Looks like another game to add to the potentially-buy list! My wallet can’t take no more >.<

  5. Edward Edward says:

    Even though I’ve known about the game for ages, I had zero idea what it would actually be like, other than it was going to come on a seriously impressive engine and that was probably why it was taking so long.
    Glad to see that it’s shaping up to be goddamn frigging impressive, and I hope it actually is. Granted, I’m never sure about RPGs being in my shooters and vice versa, but they’re got too much of a pedigree not to screw this up.

  6. Mark R MarkuzR says:

    I keep coming back to this preview, drooling a bit, and then I leave again.

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