When the makers of Wolfenstein, Doom, and Quake bring a new title to the market, it’s easy to think that you already know what to expect: great-looking, fast, furious, circle-strafing, BFGing goodness with little else on the table. Fans of the developer would probably be content with another title in the same vein, and who can blame them? The formula has served the dev and gamers alike very well.
When I sat down to see the demonstration of Rage, I was hoping for a refinement of the FPS formula that brought the genre forward. What I got was a jump that appears to take that formula and add a whole lot more.
Let’s get this right out of the way: Rage looks pretty damn sweet. id Software has been working on their latest game engine, id Tech 5, for several years now, and they are now enjoying the fruits of their labor. Environments and characters look fabulous due to a feature of the engine called megatexture; the feature allows developers to easily texture large environments rapidly, which means that they can get great looking textures in a large game world without the copy/paste techniques that make many parts of a game feel exactly the same.
Rage runs at a silky-smooth 60 hz, and the tech is impressive. The art style looked like a middle ground between the over-the-top cartoon vibe of Borderlands and the bleak, muted color palette of Fallout 3.
The visual inspirations for the game seem to translate directly into the type of game that Rage appears to be. Yes, there’s a heaping helping of twitch-shooting to be had here, but Rage brings in much more from other genres as well. It looks to be a story and mission driven title, unlike previous level driven FPS offerings from id. The Fallout 3/Borderlands influence here is undeniable, with towns full of characters to speak with and problems to solve. They will respond to both your appearance, and your actions in the game world.
The plot is a fairly standard post-apocalyptic affair, where the main character emerges from the Vault an Ark after the blast, then learns that society has continued while other were sequestered underground. Gangs of bandits terrorize different populations of people in the gameworld, who stay barricaded in fortified settlements. A nice twist on the formula is that each gang has its own feel, both visually and in terms of behavior. Some gangs are combat oriented, others have good technical skills, etc., which forces the player to approach situations differently.
A wide variety of weapons are present, from your usual wastelandish guns, to a bladed boomerang wielded in your off-hand that can decapitate an enemy if you land a lucky hit. Some Bioshock 2 influence creeps into the design here, as the game allows you to find and/or build devices like turrets, RC cars rigged with explosives, and automated spider bots to help give you an edge in battle. Weapons receive upgrades like the shock damage added to your crossbow which lets you electrocute splicers raiders, and regular small arms fire will stagger your opponents if you hit them right, buying you time to finish them off or find cover to reload.
The vehicle combat and traversal was reminiscent of Borderlands, but the controls seemed much smoother. The fights they got involved in while driving looked much less jerky and more precise. Damage is treated in a more realistic fashion, as both players and vehicles take damage that must be healed or repaired; there’s no regenerating health in this future, folks.
I kid about the elements that id borrows from in creating this game, but they do it extremely well, and by all appearances it blends together beautifully. I went in with one set of expectations, and left with a whole new appreciation. This game just jumped near the front of the line for my most anticipated 2011 titles.