Rage Hands-On Preview – Respect My Authoritah!
Written Tuesday, April 19, 2011 By Dan WebbView author's profile
If id Software’s aim at Bethesda’s BFG Showcase was to show the diversity of Rage, I’d say it was very much mission accomplished. After all, we did go hands-on with five missions with varying different goals and in hugely different environments, and we even got chance to see a brand new area. You can’t ask for much more… Did we say we actually played it on the Xbox 360 as well? No, well we did, and id’s claims that it can achieve new highs in terms of visual fidelity on consoles with its id Tech 5 engine is right on the money. In short, it’s a technical masterpiece.
Before we headed behind-the-scenes to get our hands-on with various missions in the campaign, Bethesda was keen to show off one of the big foes in Rage, the Authority, and one of the later towns in the game, Subway Town – which is exactly as it sounds… a subway built into a town… Genius!
So the Authority, these well-armed and tactical foes are a far cry from the savage and Neanderthal-like mutants who charge first and ask questions later. You’ll find these tactically co-ordinated soldiers will not only work together, but they’ll also use shields and make use of environmental assists like recharge stations to make sure they’re at the top of their game. Aggressive, strategic and well-organised, these are foes you don’t want to tackle head-on. I found a sniper round to the skull works best, but the shotgun loaded with pulse rounds and a mind control crossbow are just as effective.
Then there’s Subway Town, which isn’t a town lined wall to wall with shops offering supposed healthy baguettes; it’s actually a well crafted and fantastically realised underground town. With subway cars transformed into bars, neon signs lighting the passageways, the ever-present dripping of water, gushing steam clouds and a whole array of freaky posters lining the walls; it’s a town that not only fits with the whole apocalyptic feel of Rage but is a good reminder of the creativity and originality that the team have injected.
As far as the hands-on goes, we got the chance to take a whirl through the multiple stages of Rage’s Crash TV – which is essentially a horde style mini-game that exists within the confines of the game – and even took the buggy out for a bit of a spin in a circuit race. Interestingly, the buggy controls surprisingly well and pulling off sharp turns while using the auto-targeted missiles and picking up various pick-ups along the way will be second nature after you’ve spent more than a minute on the controller.
In terms of actual on-foot, story related FPS action, we headed deep into the realms of Dead City, tackling gigantic mutants and wave after wave of pesky mutants – the wingstick is a sublime weapon here and so long as you catch it after throwing it, you can pretty much use them all day long without fear of running out of supplies – as well as heading into some abandoned apartments to take on the tattooed Shrouded Clan. It was here where we actually got chance to test out the blueprint and creation system as well, which so long as you’re attentive and pick-up the wide array of items dotted around, should pay dividends in the long run. One of the most interesting missions we tackled had us delving deep into the dank tunnels of what could have been a water plant to destroy some bomb caches with a variety of tools – namely those RC bomb cars. Kaboom! It should be worth noting as well, that after destroying our second out of three bomb caches, we had to focus our angst on a huge solder wielding a chain-gun and donning more armour than one of Oblivion’s horses.
It’s all well and good though if the game can run smoothly at 60 frames per second and have some of the most detailed textures we’ve seen in a shooter of this magnitude – it did suffer from a few texture pop-up issues though, but we hope they’re smoothed out by launch – but the real question is, how does it play? The short answer is, surprisingly well, although I say surprisingly, it shouldn’t really come as a surprise because id after all has been doing this longer than you’ve been able to say the phrase “frame rate junkie.”
With its smooth and fast-paced gameplay rocking at 60 frames per second with no drop in the action and its tight and responsive controls, Rage is a sheer joy to play. Granted, it’s a little finicky switching ammo types and weapons mid-fight, but such is life when you take a PC developer and give them a controller to work with. It was the same with Crytek and Crysis 2.
I would say that our only concern at the moment is whether id Software can keep the gameplay fresh from start to finish. The diversity in environments does help, as do the gadgets, but I can’t say I was impressed by the enemy types we came across i.e. mutants, bandits from various clans and the Authority – there were probably a few more, but most of the bad guys you sent back to whence they came, could be categorised by one of those three descriptions. They do have different fighting styles – mutants swarm you, bandits use cover and the Authority kick your ass… yes, that’s a style of combat – and their animations and AI are second to none, but fighting the same sort of enemies over the course of a lengthy single-player campaign could get tiresome.
Aside from that though – and the texture pop-up that popped up on more than one occasion – everything is in good stead for id Software, Bethesda and Rage. From a shooter perspective, the controls are super tight and incredibly responsive, proving that id still has the tenacity and drive to create a superbly controlled shooter. Throw in gadgets and some really unique towns and id could be set to rise to the top of the genre once again. The real test will come though in whether id can keep the gameplay fresh from start to finish, and that’s something that’s almost impossible to call at the moment. Did we say how incredibly smooth it was though running at 60 frames per second and how impressive its texture mapping was? Yes? Oh, well it can’t hurt to say it again. It’s the Jessica Rabbit of video games; edgy and bright with great skin, and plenty of sparkle.
Rage is scheduled for a September 13th and September 16th release in North America and Europe respectively.