Rage Hands Off Preview - Rage... Against The Machine
Written Tuesday, May 04, 2010 By Richard WalkerView author's profile
Awesome is the word. It's the word id Software's Tim Willits uses to introduce Rage and it crops up countless times during the demo, but nothing can prepare us for what we actually see once he fires up the studio's first game since Doom 3 for our viewing pleasure. Our initial reaction is, “this must be running on a high-end PC. It looks...well, awesome actually.”
So when Creative Director Willits declares that what we're being shown is genuine Xbox 360 code (and apparently the current PS3 build is actually more stable) being run on a standard test console, our jaw hits the floor. It might sound like a fusion of Borderlands' open-world of Arid Badlands and Fallout's narrative involving notorious subterranean vaults inhabited by some of the last vestiges of mankind, but Rage is still very much a hardcore id FPS in the same vein as Doom or Quake, and is its own game. It's big, bold and gloriously OTT, putting the guns at centre stage with meaty assault rifles and brassy, staccato shotguns boasting serious impact, but more on that later.
Picking up after an asteroid decimates much of the land, you're an escaped human experiment and “nanotrite” (nano-tech with regenerative properties) injected man-out-of-time who prematurely emerges from one of numerous underground cryogenic chambers known as Arks. As such, you begin the game clad in a distinctive Ark suit, which you'll need to ditch at the first Outfitters you come across, lest you draw the unwanted attention of The Authority – Rage's all-pervading malevolent force.
Of course, the barren desert wastelands are filled with every type of reprehensible scum imaginable, from vicious, marauding mutants to unscrupulous, violent bandits - there are plenty of ugly, ragtag enemies to show the business end of your gun to. And of course, this being id, there is a variety of loud, brash weaponry in your arsenal and you can carry as many of them as you like as there's no encumbrance and therefore no limits when it comes to firepower.
It's not all about the guns though, and in the demo we're taken through by Willits, we're immediately shown the Wingstick – a glaive-like throwing weapon that silently decapitates bad guys with minimal fuss – and the first kill comes when a mutant is messing with our buggy. One throw of the Wingstick later and the bulbous-headed creature drops to his knees with a gushing neck stump between his shoulders.
Jumping behind the wheel of the buggy again brings to mind Borderlands, but Rage's take on desert driving looks so much more robust and accomplished with the vehicle's twin mounted machine guns making short work of the other hostile cars inhabiting the valley. One brief drive across the sandy plain, hemmed in by looming, vertiginous craggy rock formations and we're at the entrance to the town of Wellspring – the first of the game's two main hubs. (It's perhaps worth noting that the game's two hub towns will each form a one disc chapter in the Xbox 360 double disc release).
It's an environment dripping with detail and incidental audio, like the sound of flies buzzing around a flickering lightbulb or the chattering of the folk as they mill around. On a side note, the audio design in general is superlative, fully immersing you in Rage's atmospheric world. Next up, we're taken down into a water-refining plant manned by engineer Carlson, who wants us to enter the lower levels and clear out the bandits who have hijacked the well and are threatening to poison the water supply.
Beneath the surface - covered in the distinctive graffiti tags of the Ghost clan - the crossbow comes into play, with crackling electro bolts loaded into its chamber. Taking out groups of lurking mutants is a simple case of firing an electrified shot into the water they're standing in, frying them in an instant. Each of Rage's weapons will have different ammo types that you can use, and the electro bolts are just one example. You'll also have a range of gadgets in your arsenal such as radio-controlled cars with explosives strapped to them and crawling spider turrets that can be used more than once or salvaged for parts if they get damaged.
There's a very real sense that although Rage is very much an id game, Willits says that the team “didn't want to do another Doom or Wolfenstein,” and this looks as though it'll deliver on that promise by offering more in every department. The visuals look like concept art brought to startling life running at an ultra-smooth 60-frames per second, there's added depths in the upgrades and other details, and most importantly, the core shooting mechanics appear to be every bit as solid as you might expect, although it'll take a proper hands-on to actually gauge just how well Rage is shaping up in that department.
But on the basis of everything we've seen so far, Rage can't fail to be something incredibly special indeed. If nothing else, id's uniquely enviable FPS pedigree will see to that. And as for multiplayer? “We want to make sure it's awesome before we talk about it,” says Willits. Of course, because awesome is the word.
Rage is gearing up for release in 2011.