Rage Multiplayer First Look Preview -- Story-Based Co-Op and Vehicular DevastationBy Jake Gaskill - Posted Apr 19, 2011
For Bethesda Softworks’ big BFG 2011 media event last week, id Software gave attendees two extremely welcomed new looks at its post-apocalyptic FPS Rage: the first demonstration of the game’s multiplayer modes and our first hands-on playthrough. Spoiler: both were pretty damn impressive, but for now, we're going to focus on multiplayer.
The major reveal at the event was obviously multiplayer, and easily the most surprising part of the reveal was that, despite id’s pedigree in the competitive multiplayer shooter space, Rage does not include any head-to-head, on-foot multiplayer. Instead, it features two distinct offerings: a vehicle-based mode and a narrative inspired co-op portion. While co-op might not sound terribly out of place, a vehicle-only mode definitely falls into the unexpected category. But as Rage’s game director Matt Hooper explained to us in our eyes-on demo, it just made sense given Rage's overall structure and design.
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“Every time you make a new game...the coolest parts of the game are usually the ones that, ‘Wow. Wouldn’t it be cool if?’ or ‘Wouldn’t it be cool if we did this? Why can’t we do that?’ Both of the online [components] were things that, we were looking at the single-player game, and we had our badass cars with the armor and the weapons, and it was one of those, ‘Wouldn’t it be cool if I could jump in this thing and a friend of mine could jump in and a couple more could and we could battle it out?’…What we didn’t want to do was throw couple of guys on foot and they’re fighting and call it our online offering…We wanted to make it uniquely Rage.”
The vehicle-based multiplayer, aka Rage Combat Rally, looks like a bizarre mix of Mario Kart and Twisted Metal, with each player strapping into an arsenal-heavy buggy and engaging in explosive car-to-car battling. It supports up to six players (at least that’s the goal) and will feature several variations such as deathmach/team deathmatch, Chain Rally (where you score points based on how many rally points you collect), and some others that aren’t known just yet. The map total is still being worked out, but there are currently five playable in the game, but that might grow for the final build, with the potential to add more later on via downloadable content.
What id is particularly keen on with the non-standard head-to-head variations in combat rally, like Chain Rally, is that they aren’t simply all about blasting your buddies’ rides into hundreds of flaming bits (although, that’s a blast too).
“We have straight vehicle deathmatch, which some people really enjoy,” said id creative director Tim Willits, “but...having the dual objectives, we’ve found, is just more fun. So we want to focus our efforts around there.”
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And the effects of those efforts are hard to ignore, as we watch a quick three minute Chain Rally match. In these matches, each rally point you hit increases your multiplier by one, so if you hit four rally points without dying, you’ll earn four-times the standard two points you’d normally get for a kill. Catch is if someone kills you, they get your multiplier, and whoever is holding the highest multiplier in the match is instantly viewable on everyone’s screen, making them public enemy number one. A lot of work has been put into how the vehicles handle, and, based on what we saw, and a simple single-player race that we played later on in the day, the handling feels about right. It’s not too weighty but not too floaty either. I’m not sure how the controls feel during combat, but for straight racing, they did the job nicely.
On the co-op side, things are a bit more traditional but no less impressive. As has become more and more common recently (Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood, BioShock 2, the upcoming Red Faction: Armageddon, etc.), Rage’s co-op multiplayer, aka Legends of the Wasteland, has a narrative connection to the single-player story. So, for instance, the mission we watched cast us as two members of gang who are referenced in the story mode as having infiltrated an enemy stronghold to secure some plans and disarm various bombs set up around town. In co-op, you get to see/play that scenario. As Hooper explained, while co-op will shed light on Rage’s overall narrative, “it’s not these monumental, ‘Oh, well! That really makes sense now!’ It’s just kind of these cool little fiction moments. It’s better than just throwing two guys in there. It gives you a sense that you’re doing something meaningful.”
The setting for this particular mission is Wellspring, a setting players will be familiar with from the single-player portion. In this scenario, enemies have taken over the town, and it’s up to you and your friend to bust in their and clean house. Right now, there are around eight co-op missions, and it supports split-screen play.
When the mission starts, we move into a narrow street with obstacles and way too many unfavorable hiding sports for enemies. As you’ve no doubt seen in various gameplay videos and screenshots, Rage is an absolute stunner, and even in the midst of the batsh*t insane firefight that soon erupts in the street in front of us, the framerate and effects stayed consistent throughout.
We lay waste to countless raiders and a chain-gun carrying mini-boss as we progress through the mission. At various points, one of the teammates would be on the verge of death, and it was up to the other player to revive them in time. Eventually, one of the players ended up on a balcony with a sniper rifle while the other player was in the street down below. It was up to the sniper to provide cover for the other player to advance, but as chance would have it, that didn’t exactly happen, and the mission was a bust.
Still, what we saw gave us more than enough fuel to light our anticipation fires for a good long while now. Hopefully, we’ll be able to go hands-on with the co-op at E3 2011, so stay tuned for that. And also stay tuned for our first hands-on impressions of a handful of single-player missions coming up later today.