Rage Hands-On Impressions -- A Silky Smooth Shooter This Way ComesBy Jake Gaskill - Posted Apr 20, 2011
For BFG 2011, id Software gave us our first look at the multiplayer offerings for its upcoming Mad Max-ish shooter Rage and let us go hands-on with some previously seen missions and showed us a couple new sections from the latter part of the game. We’ve been waiting to get our hands on this game from the first time we saw it in action, and, boy howdy, was it worth the wait.
The first mission we played through started off in Wellspring, a dusty, rusty outpost with a couple colorful characters scattered about that will help you get you on your way. We find out through a conversation with a local mechanic that our main objective is to retrieve some missing parts to repair our broken down buggy. After speaking with a local woman, we gain access to the game’s bladed projectile known as a Wingstick. We hone our skills on a nearby target range, and hop on our ATV of sorts and cruise towards a nearby dam to look for spare parts.
- PREVIEW: Rage PAX East 2011 Preview
The environmental design on display is Rage is simply phenomenal. The world drips with detail, and cruising along the cracked and winding road on the way to the dam, passing underneath the massive, overhanging remains of a bombed out freeway overpass does nothing but drive home this point even further. It took a minute to get use to the somewhat sticky vehicle controls, but once we realized that we just needed to give ourselves a bit more space when passing past obstacles, we were fine.
After reaching a dead end, we hopped off and proceeded into a treacherously narrow alleyway made from a mix of metal sheeting and the natural rock face it’s carved into. Winding through the corridor, we encounter our first enemies. Rage’s AI has been a point of conversation since the game was first revealed, and for good cause. Even based on the few shootouts we encountered in our hands-on time, it’s clear that you are going to have to stay mobile and be on your toes at all times if you want to survive, and it’s because of the nimbleness and varying tactics of the enemies you’ll encounter.
The more brainless enemies, i.e. the mutants, have no problem running straight at you and scaring you to death with their horrific banshee shrieks. For these guys, we employed the classic id playstyle of backpedaling and unloading on them with the shotgun. Pro tip: aim for the legs. For raiders and other higher level enemies, you’ll have to be much more tactical. Not only will the enemies take cover and take it well, they will also retreat if too many of their buddies have been killed.
One of the most memorable moments from the hands-on time was the retreating animation for these enemies. They sort of peel away from cover and scurry to get to a safer spot and then wait patiently for you to come to them. It actually took some time to retrain my FPS jaded brain to believe that if I just set up shop in front of the upcoming doorway, I could just wait for enemies to come pouring dumbly through it, blast them, rinse, repeat. But these guys had no intention of leaving their new cover inside the next room and were instead now doing to me what I have spent so many years doing to the AI in shooters.
In one of the eyes-on levels we were shown, we also got to see the tactics employed by the jet-pack wearing members of “The Authority,” the token evil entity that players will face off against throughout the course of the game. Not only are these enemies more strategically aware, but they also have beefier defenses, which makes them seriously formidable foes.
It also can’t be overstated enough just how smooth this game handles. Yes, id Tech 5 is capable of generating some of the sharpest and most detailed graphics seen this generation, but it was how the game felt that most impressed me, because it was something I didn’t consciously notice until I had actually put the controller down, which took some serious willpower I don’t mind telling you. Turns out, as id Software creative director Tim Willits told us in an interview, there’s a perfectly good explanation for why the game’s controls are so silky smooth.
“The cornerstone of Rage and id Tech 5 is 60 hertz game,” Willits explained. “Now, a lot of people don’t know what that means, but basically we run our logic and physics faster than most other games. So when you push that button on your controller, you get instant feedback, and that gives you that sense of realism, a sense of being there, the sense of connection…There’s a lot going on under the hood that a lot of people don’t realized.”
While blasting fools with gorgeously rendered and smooth handling weaponry, Rage also features an extensive economy and item building systems. Similar to Fallout 3, you’ll find all manner of objects in the world, from electrical parts to paint cans, that can be used to build big and better items. For instance, we encountered a locked door and had to build a lock grinder out of random gear parts to break through it.
In another level, one we also saw in our PAX 2011 preview, we had to infiltrate a facility and take out some bomb caches using RC cars strapped with explosives. For this section, there were fully built cars that you could pick but also plenty of spare parts to build your own. The cars fall into the secondary weapons category along with grenades and sentry bots and can be deployed by hitting the left shoulder button. The cars are great for sneaking up on enemies and blowing them to gooey bits, but it's also the perfect way to do recon on upcoming areas.
Once you drop the car, you then hop into a third-person view over the mini-car and are able to drive it around. You can detonate it at any time, or wait for an enemy, or yourself, to shoot it and blow it up. The sentry bot is another one of these secondary items, and they are like nimbler versions of the four-legged bots from Doom 3. The bots are great too because they will climb over obstacles, perform jump attacks on nearby enemies in addition to being able to mow down foes or provide a distraction so you can move into flanking position.
We also got to try out one of the races available in single-player called the “Dusty 8 Roadkill Race.” It was a pretty straigtforward, Mario Kart-ish rally around a mountainous, dusty course that snaked over and around red rock caverns. Our weapon of choice was a devastating projectile rocket complete with lock-on capabilities. While we definitely caught the business end of a number of enemy rockets, we also dealt some serious damage of our own on the road to victory.
It’s a huge relief knowing that Rage’s gameplay, at least based on the hour or so we were able to check out, is on track to be just as impressive as its stunning visuals and arresting art design. Whether it can sustain the same level of satisfaction and fidelity over the course of the ambitiously varied and expansive campaign remains to be seen. Hopefully, we won’t have to wait too much longer to spend some more buttery hands-on time with one of this generation’s most anticipated shooters.