RAGE – Preview

It’s rather easy to get cought up in RAGE’s beautiful vistas and incredibly detailed environments. It’s easy to get distracted by the eerily pretty postapocalyptic world that it presents or the wonderfully smooth animations of the characters.  In short, RAGE looks bloody phenomenal. id Software, who helped give birth to the FPS genre as we know it, may have created the most technically impressive graphics seen on console to date, and so it’s far too easy to forget that RAGE is far more than just a pretty face. Remember, it’s what’s on the inside that counts. Still, if it looks good as well then you can’t complain.

Of course many gamers have already written off RAGE as the bastard love-child of Fallout 3 and Borderlands, and to those people I have just one thing to say; shut up and pay attention. Alright, I admit that it does actually have some striking resemblances to Borderlands as it fuses RPG elements with guns. But still, RAGE is its own game.

After a massive sodding meteor hits the earth and leaves the planet looking a bit beat up, it’s clear that life in RAGE’s world is not going to be easy. You’ll be playing a survivor who staggers forth from an Ark ,one of many such Arks that were sealed underground, each containing twelve people with some trait or ability which would help rebuild the earth,  and encounters a wasteland of a world, inhabited by people merely trying to scratch a living and mutants intent on scratching people. It’s a harsh world, but there are places scattered around that remind us of humanity as it once was; little towns where people have banded together to try to stay alive for just a little bit longer. Thanks to the staggeringly powerful engine that powers RAGE this is perhaps the best portrayal of a destroyed Earth gamers have ever seen. Who thought a wasteland could ever look beautiful?

RAGE is an FPS at heart, not surprisingly considering its creator’s pedigree, and that means one thing; shooting stuff in the face! a lot! Sure, the market is fairly swamped with FPS titles at the moment, but lets give id Software a vote of confidence here; these guys know FPS games.

So it’s not long into the game before you’ve got a gun in your hand and some pissed off enemies determined to show you that your life is going to be very short. id Softwares fingerprints are all over RAGE when it comes to shooting things; the movement is light and responsive, and there seems to be a considerable amount of tight corridor shooting on offer, though you will get into plenty of shootouts in the open wasteland as well. On the surface RAGE doesn’t really look hugely different from the other FPS games on the market, but it’s the enemies and choice of weapons that help set it apart from the crowd. While you’ve got your usual variety of gun wielding buggers intent on filling you with lead, they’re surprisingly smart when it comes to taking cover and giving you hard time. They’re also perfectly willing to work with some of the other enemies in the game, like a certain clan of bandits who have mastered parkour which makes shooting them in the face an absolute nightmare. The AI of the enemy is quite possibly some of the best around, giving them the feeling of being real people, albeit real people who want to kill you.

Since this is a postapocalyptic wasteland the guns on offer are  rather….errrr, rustic? They’ve been cobbled together from whatever bits and bobs happened to be lying around at the time. Along the way you’ll be able to customize your weapons and equip they with different ammo types so you can shoot more things in the face more often and with more success. But ammo isn’t exactly going to be in mass supply out in the wasteland, so careful use of your ammunition supplies will be vital if you plan on living past the first five minutes of your new life.

Guns aren’t the only thing you can kit yourself out with on your journey through the barren world. New armour can be picked up and equipped, as well as a variety of gadgets that can be crafted by finding the right parts give you a helping hand such as deployable turrets, remote control cars with bombs and a vicious boomerang that can slice heads off. If this is what life after the end of the world is like you can count me in. Assuming I survive the end of the world part.

Should you happen to succumb to your foes onslought (get shot a lot) RAGE does things a little differently. Instead of simply dying, respawning at the nearest checkpoint and running back for revenge, you’ll have the ability to revive yourself by using handy  defibrillator which also stuns any nearby enemies. This is done via a little min-game, but don’t go thinking it’s a free ticket from death; it has a long recharge time, so if you’re daft enough to get shot up again too quickly you’ll be respawning with an embarrased look.

RAGE also embraces some RPG elements; there’s loads of side quests to be undertaken, caves to be explored and bandit hideouts to be blown up in ever more spectacular ways. All of these locations are present in the large free-roaming wasteland environment that sports two large cities that serve as hubs of a sort. Bandit camps are a great source of loot, again displaying a rather RPG-esque similarity. Don’t expect to find a skill tree or levelling up system, though, your level of badassness is determined by what gear you’ve got, not what you’ve levelled up. Having the best weapons and gear seen in the wasteland will ensure your survival, so take your time when picking through those bandit hideouts.

But vehicles also play a major role in RAGE, with an off-road buggy being the only real way to get around the free-roaming landscape. These babies resemble those seen in the Mad Max films, with  a rather rough build-design. id Software are aware of the fact that not everyone will care much about the vehicles or the fact that you can take them racing around the wasteland, but should you decide that a driving lifestyle might just be your cup of tea, your hard-earned money can be used to purchase all sorts of upgrades for your machine to turn into the perfect handling off-road behemoth. But this could be RAGE’s weakest aspect as the off-roading seems to lack a sense of speed and the vehicles lean toward a very arcadey handling model hat just doesn’t quite fit right with the rest of the game. Let’s hope it gets tweaked for RAGE’s release.

If you fancy playing with a mate then RAGE is coming packaged with a series of co-op missions which are all based on stories you hear about during the singleplayer story. If you fancy playing a few more mates than the 6-player Combat Rally mode will be right up your alley. The goal is to blast around the arena styled map collecting Rally Points while shooting up your friends, or Xbox Live randoms, to steal their points. But for you  competitive multiplayer freaks there is no competitive option, a rather odd thing to be missing from an id Software game.

Currently the games developers are also promising a lifespan of around fifteen hours, which isn’t the longest game on the market, but in a world of four-hour FPS titles it’s a refreshing chance. That fifteen hours comes packaged on a whopping three discs, which, if you choose to install all three (though you opt to install just one or two), will come in at a terrifying 22GB of space. Most of that is taken up by the beautiful tech required to make the game look so awesome.

RAGE will also be coming packaged with that lovely online pass that so many companies love. But instead of limiting online access or something terrible like that, id Software have instead opted to lock out some singleplayer content. So, if you buy RAGE second-hand you’ll need to purchase a pass from the Marketplace, or you won’t be able to access certain areas. But hold on, don’t panic, these aren’t vital to the game and the entrances to these areas are actually quite difficult to find, so if you choose not to get the pass you can breathe easy in the knowledge that you’re not missing anything too important.

With id’s pedigree when it comes to the FPS genre I’m confident that RAGE will be one of the best titles of the year, providing some of the best AI seen in a shooter and plenty of that classic id blasting action. And it doesn’t hurt that it looks bloody good, too.

You can officially color me excited.

Categories: Previews

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