Hands On: RageBy Tom Yeates | August 21, 2011 | Previews | No comments | Share
Back in July 2007, id Software showed a tech demo at Apple’s World Wide Developers Conference. Soon after, in August they officially announced the development of Rage at Quakecon. Four years have passed and now, in 2011, Rage is about to go gold and be released to the public and I had a chance to play the first twenty minutes or so of the game on the Xbox 360.
“This Wasted Land…”
It’s been a long time since I have played an id title, Doom 3 was released in 2004 after all but Rage certainly felt familiar to me even after a 7 year break from id. Storywise you play as an “Ark Survivor”, a group of humanities elite who were frozen and buried underground so they could awaken and rebuild the Earth after the impending apocalypse wrought by a giant asteroid colliding with the planet. Naturally, this plan doesn’t work out and you wake up to find that you are sole survivor of your pod and the others have rotted away. So you emerge into the blinding sunlight of Mad Max 2…I mean, The Wasteland.
The first think you notice is the fidelity of the graphics. Rage looks brilliant and id Tech 5 looks to be one hell of an engine. The 360 version impressed me and ran very smoothly during my playthrough, I didn’t notice any obvious FPS drops and there wasn’t a great deal of tearing or artifacting. A glance over at the PC version did make a difference however – it looked fantastic. For those with a machine capable of running Rage at higher settings, I think the PC may well be the way to go.
Within moments however, you are attacked by bandits and are about to presumably have your face eaten for a snack when suddenly and without warning, John Goodman, of Big Lebowski, Monsters Inc. and…Roseanne fame, shoots both of your assailants dead from his car, handy that. What follows is a lot of obligatory exposition, informing you that the world has moved on and that “ark survivors” are a rare commodity.
Wait A Minute…
This my major concern with Rage. It’s clear that id are going for a certain cinematic feel, the introduction is filled with interludes where the player loses control briefly whilst something happens. The voice acting I encountered was also very strong, as was the ambience and the environments which are very immersive. The sky looked ominous, in incredible detail and the dust off the tracks blew in the wind.All of this detail seemed to communicate to me that id want to send a message that they care about the story of Rage and so my concern lies in the fact that the narrative moved so swiftly within the first ten minutes. After the introduction cinematic, you awaken in the pod, open the doors, emerge and within moments you are attacked, saved and driven away to safety by John Goodman’s character, Dan Hagar, who then informs you that it was a big risk he took in saving your life so you had better take a pistol and go to the bandits den to kill them all. Doesn’t this mean even more danger? Thus making his life saving effort somewhat of a waste of time? I found it a confusing decision and felt that the game’s introduction was lacking a real sense of pace.
...the enemies reacted brilliantly to my shots, clutching their arms but still advancing towards me with sickles in hand...nasty buggers.
Perhaps this is a niggling concern and the game’s narrative will improve substantially as we delve deeper into the Wasteland, this was only a 20 minute playthrough after all but it is nagging away at me. I’m afraid that id is creating a great environment where there’s undoubtedly a story to be told and is letting that opportunity slip through their fingers.
In terms of gameplay, Rage felt very solid which is to be expected from a company like id who have one of the finest shooter pedigrees in the world. Whilst I was limited to the pistol alone in the time I had, it felt meaty, with a punch and the enemies reacted brilliantly to my shots, clutching their arms but still advancing towards me with sickles in hand…nasty buggers.
The game also features a few RPG-esque features, though they are more RPG-lite than anything else – there are quests, an inventory system and vendors in settlements you can buy from and sell to and you can heal via bandages that you can purchase or find lying around the world. Guns have several different types of ammo that you can switch between depending on the kind of enemy you are facing, though I did not get far enough to get any experience of this. At one stage, you are caught whilst fighting through the bandit lair and sent to the appropriately named “Kill Room” where, naturally you are killed. What follows is essentially a defibrilator mini game where you kick start your own heart by connecting nodes within a time limit and then hitting a final node to start yourself up again. Another handy perk of being an ark survivor it seems…
“I Want To Drive That Truck…”
The vehicles are also being touted as a key feature of Rage and are vital for traversing the vast Wasteland world. I was given a quad bike by Hagar, but it was only a short journey to the bandit hideout so I wasn’t able to go exploring, though I did like the way the game communicates your route on the minimap, curving around rocks and giving you a nice and direct path to the objective. It remains to be seen how strong the vehicle play will be in Rage but the bike handled well and was responsive enough to not cause me any problems with manoeuvring.
In summary, I found myself feeling unsure about Rage. The shooting, graphics, and driving all felt solid enough and the controls were smooth. It felt polished and the ambience was excellent. I loved hearing John Goodman’s voice in a video game and I appreciated how id Software are breaking away from their usual comfort zone by including RPG mechanics such as quests, inventory management and vendors but I’m worried that I will find Rage’s story lacking, especially in terms of pacing. I understand the need to get the player involved in the world early but surely there’s a better way than having the main character be saved, only to then be asked to go into greater danger with no real explanation. It felt flimsy and sold the game short a little given the high quality of the other elements of the game. I hope that delving deeper into Rage yields a richer story, with vibrant characters and if it manages to do that then I think Rage could be a real contender in this years market. If it doesn’t, then for me, it risks falling down the slippery slope of “might have beens” and “if only’s”. Let’s hope it doesn’t…