Rage New ImpressionsBy Abbie Heppe - Posted May 04, 2010
At first look, Rage appears to be an unholy trinity of Borderlands, Fallout 3, and BioShock. Since that involves traversing post-apocalyptic wastelands, vehicles, weapon modifications, and engineering crafty elements of destruction, you might wonder what sets Rage apart from those other games. Well, Rage has been in the works for quite some time, as has iD Tech 5, the updated iD engine technology that is the foundation for Rage and, eventually, Doom 4. For those who don’t get excited over sexy new game tech, I’ll illustrate how noticeable the engine is within all the trappings of the game. The initially arresting component of the demo is the sheer amount of detail in the world. Tim Willits, lead designer and iD co-owner, joked that “perhaps too much time” had been spent in the details, but it’s certainly apparent in the game’s locales. Of course, that’s a combination of the engine’s abilities and the art and design of the game. The world feels like it actually has people living within its borders. But sure, we see an awful lot of pretty games in this day and age, so there has to something more, right? Glad you rhetorically asked.
First, the backstory: Rage takes place in a post-apocalyptic Earth, devastated by the impact of the Apophis asteroid. Thanks to Google search, I’ve now learned this is an actual asteroid that scientists fear may strike Earth in 2029 or possibly head back for a second try in 2036. At any rate, I’ll sleep well tonight and see, kids? Video games is learning! Anyhow, in preparation for the event, the government stored its best and brightest away in underground Arks to ensure the survival of humanity. You are the lone survivor of a horribly damaged Ark, and you emerge into a vastly changed Earth populated by fellow survivors of the asteroid's impact…some of which are horrible mutants. Yes, the Fallout comparisons are inevitable, but Rage does many things to divorce itself from the obvious similarities.
That brings me to the exciting part. As a huge fan of shooters, and iD shooters in particular, I’m always excited when a game does something I haven’t seen before. This became apparent as we left the open world and embarked on a mission. There’s a lot of combat variety in Rage, through engineered weapons (like turrets and a toy car with a bomb strapped to it), environmental kills (electrocuting water, etc.) and your arsenal of guns. But I was not prepared to see how the AI moves through the world and reacts to damage. There are many clans in the Rage world, all with their own attributes, and the one we saw were particularly acrobatic, swinging down from the pipe fixtures and flipping off walls as they executed attacks. Most impressive was when the player turned down a hallway and one came in, bouncing off the walls before roundhouse kicking our character in the face. They quickly knocked down turrets and got right back to their primary target; so quickly, in fact, that we didn’t get a good chance to see the turrets in action. But hey, that’s good AI, and I can’t wait to see what surprises the rest of the game has in store. It’s amazing to think that every enemy and NPC in the game is mo-capped and animated so carefully.
Rage is certainly a distinct break from the corridor shooter one might expect from iD (though last year’s Wolfenstein began to play with open-world elements), and it already hints at more story than Quake, Doom and Wolfenstein combined. There is a massive body of fiction behind Rage and it’s hard to tell what’s more impressive: the technological advances that we expect from iD, or the massive feat of storytelling that’s traditionally absent in their games. Rage has absolutely made it onto my “most anticipated games” list.