GamesCom 2009: Rage Preview - Our Game of the Show
Written Sunday, August 30, 2009 By Dan WebbView author's profile
I think it’s fair to sit here and say that world renowned developer, id Software, have been relying on past glories in recent years. We get it... you made Wolfenstein, Quake and Doom, and they were all great franchises and all... but we want something fresh, something cutting edge... something new! Their response to this general consensus was to announce Rage at QuakeCon 2007 – a post apocalyptic, cel-shaded/illustrative first person shooter, set in the not too distant future. After seeing, what I can only describe as the best title at GamesCom, I think it’s safe to say that id hasn’t lost their uncanny ability to produce great franchises. Let me be the first to say, “sorry id for doubting that you still had it in you.”
Rage takes place in the not too distant future, in a world that has been devastated by an asteroid. That doesn’t mean the end of the world though, of course not... they’d be a pretty awful game. Before the impact the governments around the world had the common sense to bury pods of people under the planet’s surface, so these people could come out when it’s safe and rebuild society. Things however don’t go according to plan – do they ever in video games? – and your pod pops up a little early and you find yourself in a lawless world of bandits and a never ending wasteland. It feels like a good time to mention that this world you are cast into is absolutely visually stunning. I’ve become a fan of the cel-shaded/illustrative look in recent years and id have created something truly beautiful here by embracing that art style. Let me throw an early spanner in the works though and mention that the demo at GamesCom was performed on a high end PC, so whether the console version will be as sublime remains to be seen.
So we pick up proceedings about 90 minutes from the beginning of the game, out in the middle of the wasteland. On the one side of you; a buggy, and on the other, a deserted shack guarded by a solitary wasteland bandit. Our player whips out a “wing stick” (essentially a three pronged boomerang weapon) and one swing of the arm later, the bandit collapses to his knees without so much as a whimper. There’s nothing like a silent kill... or is that silent hill?
The world you are thrust into, according to id, is “open, but directed.” It isn’t procedural though and id assured us that every part of the wasteland is hand crafted to improve your experience and give the world some credence. Open but directed; what does that mean exactly? Well, you do have the freedom to roam, investigate, explore and even take on side quests, but the world tries to offer you subtle hints on which way to go. For us, it was across the wasteland in our buggy to a place called Wellspring. Obviously, taking out a few bandits with some buggy-to-buggy vehicular combat is first on the cards but after taking out a few foes – with somewhat relative ease – and using the vehicle’s self regenerative nitro, Wellspring was upon us.
Wellspring is one of many main towns in the wasteland and carries with it a western vibe; from everything like the locals kitted in cowboy hats and neckerchiefs, right the way down to the crippling sun and dust blowing up off the roads. The streets were littered with locals; from those playing a dice game (that you can incidentally get involved in), to others stood around offering you hints on where to go. id explained the interactions as “casual” around the towns, so you don’t have to enter into some long winded conversation with them. It is a shooter after all. You can do a ton of other stuff in and around the towns as well, like heading to the Outfitters to do a bit of buying and selling of weapons and gadgets, or head on over to the local garage to buy a new vehicle or repair/upgrade your existing vehicle. The customisation of the buggy incidentally is fairly in depth allowing you to buy stronger weapons or change individual pieces like the suspension or its side panels.
After meeting the local sheriff and being enlisted to help him rid the wastelands of the Shrouded Clan, we managed to get a look at the game’s combat aspect in full motion. The first thing that will strike you about the mutants is not only do they look positively disgusting – which is a good thing – but their animations are fluent, especially when they vault, and they also have a solid AI as they will kick over your deployed turrets and attempt to obliterate the cover you’re standing behind. The explosion animations look fantastic as well... especially if you managed to catch one of the mutants with it.
There are a ton of weapon varieties in Rage and in our short presentation, we got to see the pistol, shotgun, machine gun, crossbow, remote controlled bomb car, the wing stick, sentry bots, spider turrets (complete with melee) and we have a feeling that we’re only just scratching the surface in terms of weapons. The gadgets can be mapped to a quick select menu as well so you won’t be faffing around in menus all the time.
Rage also has an engineering aspect in it – a lot like Fallout 3’s – and you can use items you’ve picked up around the wasteland to make funky gadgets once you have the blueprints; in this instance, id created a batch of remote controlled bomb cars to use. Rage also has an economy system as well so players are rewarded for performing side missions and looting the bodies of the recently deceased in a bid to raise capital to buy and upgrade your weapons/armour/vehicles. Gamers can also rejoice though as id are placing no restrictions on your inventory so you can carry as much, or as little as you want. Again, it’s a shooter, not an RPG... which by the way means no morality choices either. Random and off topic I know, but it’s worth pointing out.
id is looking to add plenty of variety into the proceedings with Rage and you’ll not only have chance to take part in races across the wastelands in your spare time, but you can also get involved in an battle arena called BashTV with the tagline, “mutant bash.” It’s exactly how it sounds... you step into some putrid warehouse full of mutants and you’ll have to demolish them with whatever weapons you have at your disposal in order to win some cash. It looked like some pretty intensive but fun combat and by our reckoning Creative Director, Tim Willits, saw off 19 mutants in around 80 seconds – not bad going.