E3 2011: 10 Thoughts on… Rage (PC, MAC, Microsoft Xbox 360, Sony Playstation 3)

One of the games on display at Bethesda’s booth, and the only one immediately playable, was id Software’s upcoming Rage. The game was on display last year in video form, but this year there was a fully playable build available for perusal. As one would expect, Rage is a first person shooter, which makes use of id’s new id Tech 5 engine, and as the first game on the market to make use of this, the game has a lot to show off. It’s also the first game id Software has directly handled the development of in years for a console and PC market; while games like Quake 4 and the most recent Wolfenstein have been handled by id to various extents, they were also handled by other developers extensively, most notable Raven Software, and Rage is their first major solo project since Doom 3. As such, there are a lot of hopes going into this game that it’ll be something special, and having had a chance to play it… well, let’s take a look, shall we?

1.) The world of Rage is very pretty, insofar as a hulked-out, post-apocalyptic world can possibly be such a thing. The id Tech 5 engine is absolutely fantastic, of that there is no doubt, as the game world looks great and really features some heavy detail that helps bring the experience to life. Enemies and NPC’s are animated very well and look very lifelike, the game environments are very well designed and look very good, and the weapons all look lethal in your hands. The game also sounds very good, with lots of little ambient touches, some solid music, and some great voice acting to round out everything nicely.

2.) As the game starts off, a distinct sense of familiarity sets in, as I have to go and talk to some sort of mechanic about fixing my ride. He sends me off on a quest to recover various components to fix my vehicle, which generally involves me having to go to some sort of bandit camp to gather the pieces, mostly by slaughtering the bandits who have the pieces I need. After taking on the mission, I leave the area, hop on a nearby ATV and… hey, wait a minute…

3.) … this game is Borderlands! I mean, okay, it’s not EXACTLY Borderlands; that game had an involved level up system featuring different character classes, skill trees, experience points and an inventory for picking up weird and spiffy guns, and none of that is in Rage, but the rest of it? VERY hard not to compare the two. Both games feature a large amount of time spent talking to NPC’s and taking on quests from all indications, both games feature post-apocalyptic landscapes and traveling through said landscapes, both games feature messed up bandits and mutants and such… it’s a fairly apt comparison to make, to be honest. Even the aesthetics are very similar, though the visual styles couldn’t be more different, at least.

4.) What Rage does do differently is that it incorporates a system that allows the player to make their own gear. Basically, you can find trash and such out in the wasteland that you can assemble into new gear, which can, in turn, help you plow through the wastes more easily. Truthfully, I found that I spent most of my time making “lock grinders”, or tools that ground down door locks to allow me access, but the option to make more complex gear to help in the quest is nice, at the very least.

5.) The in-game pathfinding and navigation, however, is somewhat less so. After picking up the mission I need to take, the game directs me to a random pathway off of the beaten path, which is fine enough. However, trying to enter said path is a bit of a mess; after hammering every button to figure out what the jump button is and getting no response, I go through the list again a couple more times before one of the buttons makes the character jump, finally. I don’t know if this was a controller or a game issue; based on the fact that this controller was probably held by hundreds of people before me I’d assume the former, but either way, it was concerning. After this, I figure out that the way I’m trying to go isn’t even the correct one anyway and find the correct path obscured somewhat off to the side, which is… frustrating, a little bit. Correct pathway now discovered, I walk off to my next objective.

6.) Once inside the bandit camp, that’s when combat proper begins. The game gives you a pretty good compliment of weapons to test in this demo, though from what I tried none of them were the weird and wacky sort from the video demo above; just your typical pistols and shotguns here. The game does allow you to select from up to four weapons on a radial dial, and select from up to four ammo types on another, so you’re given different ammo types for each weapon depending on the situation. I was given a few heavy damage rounds for the pistol to test out, and as promised, they did ventilate my enemies rather nicely, but there weren’t enough to really have fun with, and the ammo types aren’t fully integrated into the demo at this point.

7.) The combat itself is pretty rock solid, all in all, as the guns are very impressive in both visual and aural effect, and the enemies are rather hardy and take a good amount of punishment before dying. Punching into an enemy with a shotgun is good times all around, I find, and the demo satisfied that need with no difficulty, so there is that.

8.) The mechanical creation system in practice isn’t too bad, all in all. You just open up the menu, pick the recipe you know, and the game does the rest. You’ll find items you can use in these recipes literally lying around in the game world, and the game highlights them for you, so you’ll have no trouble finding the items you need, though you might not always have everything you need at the time.

9.) The level layout of the bandit camp was interesting enough, though the rooms kind of ran together at a couple points and it was hard to know if I was missing something, as I got to the end of the stage and realized I was missing a component for the item I was supposed to build. An examination of the area revealed that either I was not missing anything or I couldn’t tell the rooms apart to a level that I missed the same thing twice, but as this was the end of the demo it wouldn’t have mattered if I’d had the piece or not, so I guess it’s kind of a moot point.

10.) id Software has some good ideas in Rage, but I can’t help but feel that the game is mostly just going to draw comparisons to Borderlands, which, in fairness, aren’t unwarranted. It’s not that the game doesn’t look good, because it does play well for the most part and the visuals are great, but conceptually it’s very reminiscent of Borderlands in a lot of respects and, aside from its mechanical assembly system, doesn’t bring a lot else to the table. There will be some online play and co-op missions to take on, but only time will tell how the game is received, and at this point, it’s shaping up well enough that first person shooter fans should keep an eye on it.

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