id Software basically invented the first-person shooter genre. Some primitive attempts existed before id took to the market, but Wolfenstein 3D and Doom are basically the forerunners of the genre. Some of their later games, such as Quake, are still so popular that they're played to this day. It's been quite a while since we've seen anything from the originators of the FPS, and even longer since we've seen a new IP instead of additions to pre-existing franchises. Rage, id's first new IP in 10 years, has the makings of something special. Part of that has to do with the amazing visuals provided by the id Tech 5 game engine, but id still knows what FPS fans want and plans to deliver with a very good game.
Rage is set in the distant future. An asteroid is heading toward Earth, and there seems to be no way to stop it. The governments of the world band together and start the Eden project, which will have 12-member pods inserted into the ground to preserve the best humanity has to offer and facilitate rebuilding once everything is done. It's more than a little similar to the vaults from Fallout, although hopefully with less social experimenting. Players begin as a member of one of these pods who is awoken by an earthquake that destroyed his "ark" to discover that the asteroid didn't quite wipe out all life on the planet. Humanity survived in various small groups, and bandits roam the land. New governments are trying to spring up and take over the postapocalyptic Earth with salvaged technology. As if that weren't bad enough, the asteroid caused people to mutate into strange Gollum-like creatures who seem eager to tear apart everything. It's not a very nice world, and you're thrust headfirst into it to find a way to survive.
We're told that Rage is going to be fairly light on the plot. It won't be lacking a plot per se, but players will be encouraged to discover things for themselves, and the story will be presented in a subtle way. There won't be lengthy cinematics or huge paragraphs of text. The world and details are presented in the way that things are designed. If something seems out of place, players are supposed to question why. We saw an example of this with a holographic game in one of the first towns, which looked distinctly more modern than the rest of the area. It's this way for a reason, and players will discover why a postapocalyptic world still has modern video games. This is pretty good news for people who just want to play their FPS games without having to deal with lengthy plots getting in the way of the shooting. There is a story to discover there, but players are free to ignore it without having to worry about overly verbose cut scenes getting in the way.
The first town we saw was Wellspring, which is a postapocalyptic shanty town comprised of scraps and remnants of metal. It's called Wellspring because it's the only place in the area with working water. Wellspring's a very busy-looking town, with lots of different kinds of things going on at once. People are gambling via a holographic game machine on the street, you can purchase weapons and parts from merchants, or you can attend or compete in races. There are a ton of other things that you can do, but sidequests are the most important. Unlike Fallout or similar games, there doesn't seem to be a lot of room to role-play in Rage. Missions are more akin to Borderlands or an MMO, where you go up to a client, he gives you a brief overview of the mission, and you choose to accept it or turn it down. For our brief demo, we saw a mission in which the player is tasked with defending Wellspring's water supply from a group of gang members who want to poison it.
With this, we got our first lengthy taste of action in Rage. In many ways, it looks like a traditional first-person shooter, which isn't a surprise since id Software basically invented the genre. It's a modern shooter, with regenerating health and controls clearly designed to function on a console as well as a PC. There are also a lot of neat little elements that have the potential to make it stand apart. The enemies who are trying to poison the well are a group called the Ghost clan. They're dedicated to quick, acrobatic moments and close-range combat, and they close in on you with blinding speed. The neat thing is that they actually move rather acrobatically. They bounce Prince of Persia-style off walls and leap over objects in ways that don't appear to be scripted. We're told that the enemy AI is designed to take advantage of the environment, which should lead to some interesting fights. Later on in the demo, we see the Wasted clan. For unrevealed reasons, all of the Wasted speak in cockney-style accents and are fixated on cars and vehicles. They seem to be less deadly than the Ghost, although that could be because the Wasted's game segment is earlier in the game than the Ghost's area. Their fixation on vehicles means they will attempt to use them to kill the protagonist.
We also got a glimpse at the weapon selection. It looked like a traditional FPS selection — including pistols, rocket launchers and shotguns — but there are different ammo types. For example, you can switch over to "Fatboy" pistol ammo, which is more powerful but also rarer. Some of the ammo types are designed to take advantage of the environment. Before going into Wellspring's well, the player is given a bunch of electrical crossbow bolts. As you can imagine, water and electricity don't mix well, and this allows the player to electrify Ghosts that are standing in or near pools of water. There are also special weapons that you can build from blueprints and items in the environment. One is an RC Bomb Car, which is a remote-controlled toy with heavy explosives strapped to it. Another, the Spider Turret, is a walking deadly turret that can be used to blast enemies and assist you in a fight. You can even pick it up and reuse it later. Our favorite is the wingstick boomerang, which is a powerful but close-range weapon that can decapitate an enemy and return to the player's hand.
We also saw a vehicle segment. Early in the game, you attack the Wasted to get parts for a dune buggy, and once you build it, you can drive it around. That's not really going to help you much since it's unarmed and unarmored, but by doing sidequests, earning money and selling things you find on enemies' bodies, you can earn cash to upgrade your buggy with guns and accessories. It looked not unlike Borderland's version of the Mad Max-style postapocalyptic buggy, but with a lot more customization and variation involved. You can get in and out of the car at will, which is quite handy as the game allows for exploration. You can get out and investigate anything that catches your interest, allowing you to find new sidequests or rare items. The world is "open, but directed," so one shouldn't expect a giant Fallout-style area to explore, but at the same time, Rage isn't a completely linear game.
Dead City was the final segment in our demo, and it's the most breathtaking area. Dead City consists of the crumbling remains of a major metropolitan city. Skyscrapers are half-intact, and the entire place is a graveyard. It's also filled with mutants who want nothing more than to gnaw on your head. We venture near the entrance and are promptly swarmed by a huge number of ghouls. Then a huge mutant appears, armed with a grenade launcher. This beast ate three high-powered rockets before it hit the ground … and right behind it is another, even larger monster. That is where our demo ended, and it gave a pretty good example of the kind of escalation we can expect. There may be tons of human-sized enemies, but id hasn't forgotten that people like fighting giant monsters as well.
Rage is pretty easy to compare to games like Borderlands or Fallout. They're all postapocalyptic adventures that borrow heavily from movies like "Mad Max." but Rage stands out because it isn't trying to be an RPG. It has some RPG elements, like an economy and loot, but they're simplified and serve as a way for the player to get new weapons and tools. Rage is a first-person shooter at heart, and since the developer is id Software, that's not a bad thing. FPSes these days try to be so many different things that it's nice to see one that is satisfied with just being an FPS. id Tech 5 also makes the game look absolutely stunning, so it's difficult to not feel that Rage can be amazing.
More articles about Rage