How would you like to have a two hour hands-off demo of RAGE compressed into roughly 40 minutes? That's what Jason Kim and Matt Hooper treated us to at PAX East this weekend. RAGE hasn't been played that much since it was first announced, and we certainly haven't been able to get our hands on it yet. Here in Boston, they showed off more of the game as Jason drove us through the levels, and Matt talked about what we were seeing.
The last time I saw the game was at QuakeCon last summer, where they took us through a hands-off demo simultaneously running on the Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, and the PC. They took us through some simple vehicular combat, showed off a few desolate environs, and then went into the town of Wellspring and into the sewers below the city to solve some problems. You know, through gunplay. Which is the way you negotiate in video games.
The point of the session was a tour through the wasteland, and you start off at the top of a lonely, windy gorge, part of an area called "Ghost Territory." A couple of statues topped with Longhorn skulls dot the immediate landscape, and the howling winds tell you that this probably isn't a friendly place. You're tasked with a quest to "Retrieve Buggy Parts," so you can fix up your ride. There is a buggy nearby, one of the Class One (the lowest level) vehicles, and you can drive on to your next location, noticing a towering, decrepit freeway looming overhead.
From there, we headed to an area called "Ark Emergence," and it was there that an NPC character told us, over and over, that the sewers were very dangerous, and that you shouldn't go down there. I don't really need characters telling me over and over than I need to stop myself from dropping down into dank and dark sewage tunnels, but, hey, good looking out.
You can interact with other NPCs here, including the sassy and curvaceous Loosum Hagar, who teaches you about the usefulness of Wingsticks, which are the tri-bladed boomerang weapons you'll find throughout the game. After letting you toss a few at wooden targets, she tells the nearby vendor that it's okay to sell you some. Of course, you'll definitely want to pick some of these up, as they kill quickly and silently.
From there, we jetted off on a sort of turbo-fied version of the Mongoose from Halo, and a moment of unexpected mirth occurred when Jason accidentally drove into a barrier, catapulting his character, rag-doll style, a few dozen yards out of the vehicle. Ouch. Needless to say, he didn't survive. From there, we jumped to the "Dam Facility" where we spent time battling endless hordes of mutants, and then, after a quick tour through Wellspring, we picked up a quest to take out a Remote Control Bomb Base.
During this quest, we headed stealthily into a factory where they build remote control car bombs, which you use to drive through shafts and take out the entire facility. While you're there, you pick up the ability to engineer and use RC bomb cars as well, which come in handy throughout the game. After more driving around, including a look at one of the Class Three vehicles, which are bristling with armor and armaments, we skipped ahead (and unfortunately missed an entire section of car combat) to the "Dead City," which is an enormous, vacant wasteland of skyscrapers and buildings.
In here, after taking out more multiple mutants (that all look somewhat like Gollum) and a mid-boss who had a whip-like tendril for a right arm, we then headed into a central area where we waited on an extremely slow door to open. Then, they took us down to a boss battle with a gigantic creature with a partially exposed brain pan and an opening on his chest that would occasionally offer up access to his innards that didn't react well to our missile shots. That’s where our demo ended, right with the bad guy about to go down for his crimes against humanity.
What I learned from all of this is that RAGE is extremely gorgeous. I mean, the environments, the environmental effects, the sky, and the large open environments all look stellar. Totally jaw-dropping. But, the enemy AI, and the game mechanics, all feel a bit dated. It's like a gorgeous, gold-edged picture framed that's being used to hold a dusty painting. Not to say that RAGE is bad, and obviously the game is still a work in progress, but I was more impressed by the environs than the gameplay, and I want my games to both look and play well. We'll see how things change the next time we check it out.