Hands-On Preview: Rage

By Alec Meer on April 18th, 2011 at 3:24 pm.

It’s more complicated than I’d suspected. But then I’d suspected something about as complicated as pouring milk into a glass, going on recent id form. The result is something that both does and doesn’t feel like an id game – it’s got the almost slippery high-speed movement on their pre-Doom 3 titles, it’s got a certain tangible familiarity to weapon-faves such as shotguns and machineguns, it’s got scampering mutant-monsters that seem to pop out nowhere and swipe at your back. It’s also got wide-open spaces, a crafting system, puzzles of a sort, optional objectives and freeform roaming. It’s id but it idn’t.

Rage has been an awful long time coming, which doesn’t entirely help my already confused feelings about it when finally, after so many years, I get to sit down and play the thing. Borderlands and Bioshock having already come and gone means significant elements of what it’s trying to do (primarily racing’n’shooting and mix’n’match combat style) don’t arrive with the sound and fury they might have done a couple of years ago. At the same time, there’s a real relief to playing something that isn’t entirely stupid, given all the Call of Duties and call of Duty-likes we’ve had to endure over the last couple of years. Rage’s main interest is clearly in being a really well put-together shooter, rather than in being an event game, as has been the case in the past. This is a different id, one that isn’t riding on the coat-tails of its legacy or frothing about crazy promises of a new age it can’t really live up to. This is an id that simply wants to make a very good game, and I’d say they’re on course to do that.

If there’s a familiarity to spending a mission scoping through cramped, crumbling indoor spaces and shooting pop-up monsters, it’s offset by being able, to some extent, pick which mission and when you play it, and by a far greater emphasis on resource management. Ammo is on the scarce side, and must be looted from bodies or occasional pick-ups; speciality ammo such as electrified shotgun shells is even scarcer. You could just burn it as soon as you get it, but as the fights ramp up you’re going to regret it. Especially when the mutants are replaced by The Authority, a heavily-armed, mysterious, well, authority who are up to no good in this post-asteroid strike Earth. They may have something to do with the mutants, it’s implied, and they’re certainly not happy about an Ark survivor (that’s you) wandering around and nosing into their business.

From the masks to the static-garbled radio chatter (and to the fact that the first section with ‘em in I’m shown is an assault on a prison), it’s very hard not to think of Half-Life 2’s Combine when you see Authority goons, but they’re a whole lot harder to take down than those City 17’s relatively frail soldier-bullies. They’re chucking some manner of laser bolts all over the place, they’re protected with energy shields and they generally seem a whole lot more on the ball about killing you and not being killed by you than the ten-a-penny mutants. They’re also backed up by recharge points that teleport in reinforcements until you can get close enough to destroy ‘em. That’s why you should be hanging on to an arsenal of ultra-ammo. The mind-control bolt from your crossbow-thing, for instance – grabbing the psychic puppet strings of one of these armoured mystery men, and walking him away from his mates as he staggers like a drunk, eventually appearing to explode. failing that, if you’ve got one to hand you could steer an explosive remote control car over to a pack of them. Does the job nicely, that.

If you don’t have one to hand, you could build one. As well as ammo, Rage’s world features a vast scattering of collectable components, which can in turn be assembled into various tools and temporary weapons. The spider-bots are probably the most instantly entertaining, scuttling across the floor and stabbing their spike-like robotic legs into the chest of anything unfortunate enough to get in the way. Bandages are less exciting. I don’t think anyone cares about bandages in anything, apart from Ian Bandage, creator of the bandage.

Then there’s the lock grinder, a one-shot item which can deal with some of those damnable locked doors that are inevitably untroubled by your vast array of firepower. Some doors are necessary for progression, but some simply guard secret stashes. So it’s a gamble – you might have a lock grinder, or enough of the parts necessary to build one. Those are in themselves precious, however, so do you definitely want to spend them on what might just turn out to be some boggo bullets? Like I say, Rage’s core play is very much in the id paradigm, but there’s just that little bit more complexity and reasoning to it.

Non-murderous NPCs play a major part too, with the prison break mission seeing you accompanied by the robo-legged leader of the resistance. It’s loosely an escort quest, with you defending the chap from the Authority while he tinkers with security systems, but he’s not entirely unengaged in the fight and is excellently animated – for instance, bashing open a storage crate to grab a weapon, performing dramatic slides into cover. Alyx he’s not, but it’s a world away from the lonely trudging of Doom 3 and Quake IV. As is the sudden arrival of a huge, manta raylike Authority airship, dropping soldiers with jetpacks around me. It’s big and intense and modern – “it’s a maximalist sci-fi game”, my notes at this point read. “It’s chasing the extremes, not the nuances. It looks, feels very expensive.” That’s what past-me wrote about four days ago, and who am I to argue with that guy?

Rage is due for release on September 13 this year. More to come on Rage shortly- specifically, all about multiplayer.

, , , , .

58 Comments »

Sponsored links by Taboola
  1. Ace Jon says:

    [citation needed]

  2. DrGonzo says:

    Edit:
    Possibly, Simon1987 doesn’t understand the correct usage of a more than symbol?

  3. Seb says:

    You sound so depressed. I know it’s not a Wot You Think, but… what did you think?

  4. Cyber Rat says:

    I’m being wary of RAGE as much as I am of Skyrim. It all sounds good, but given Doom 3 and Quake 4, I’m careful not to get burned again.

    • StingingVelvet says:

      Yeah, I don’t know why a few years later everyone acts like Doom 3 and Quake 4 were terrible. I loved both games and both games got great reviews (on PC anyway).

    • Springy says:

      Wasn’t Quake IV made by Raven? I mean, they and id have a long history, but you can’t blame id (or credit them) for that one.

    • Cyber Rat says:

      Sorry, but I didn’t like either of them compared to previous id titles. Doom 3 was too predictable in regards to what it wanted to do and after a while got progressively boring. Quake 4 was pretty meh as well IMO. If you enjoyed the games, good for you. I believe id can do much much better than that. Carmack is a tech wiz and both D3 and Q4 were great tech wise. Not so much in other aspects.

    • Cyber Rat says:

      @Springy: it seems it was actually co-developed by Raven. I guess you learn something new every day :S Ok, I take the Q4 comment back somewhat.

    • ResonanceCascade says:

      Quake 4 wasn’t co-developed by Raven and id any more than Jedi Knight II or Soldier of Fortune were. It was made by Raven, period.
      I also kinda dug it, but that’s just a matter of taste.

    • Very Real Talker says:

      I liked Quake 4 a lot. It is a game that loses momentum towards the end though. I think games with good momentum are the half-life 2s and portal for example.

    • Grey_Ghost says:

      I felt obligated to also mention I like Quake IV, quite a bit actually.

    • Navagon says:

      @ Springy

      You most certainly can blame id… partly. Raven employees have spoken out about how they had to deal with a very heavy handed approach from both Activision and id on both that title and Wolfenstein.

      For their part id wanted both games to be very typical old school manshooters. I think that Wolfenstein in particular hints at what Raven could have achieved if the shackles were off.

      But the Raven was no match for the vultures; so we’ll never know.

    • MattM says:

      Why isn’t Q4 on steam anyways?

    • Navagon says:

      There might be some kind of ownership issues. Despite being a Bethesda owned entity id self publish their games on Steam. Activision, being the owners of Raven, published Quake 4. So there’s probably a bit of a conflict of interests there.

  5. squareking says:

    I hate losing a single biosock in the dryer.

  6. brog says:

    Alec, Alec.. Your last few posts have made me want to play mainstream games again. What is going on?

  7. Orija says:

    So, Alec, you guys weren’t shown Brink by Bethesda or is an article for it going to pop-up soon?

    Edit: Yes, they were and it’s going to pop-up this week. Alec answered in another article

  8. Matt says:

    Why, that’s the order in which those studios released their first games in the first-person-shooter genre!

    (assuming ‘Biosocks’ is an upcoming FPS from an unproven studio, of course.)

  9. Pop says:

    You’re missing Free Radical, Crytek, GSC, Epic, Croteam, People Can Fly, Infinity Ward, Looking Glass and a few others

  10. Number47 says:

    Irrational Games > GOD

  11. Ian says:

    That’s SIR Ian Bandage to you, Meer.

  12. Godsmith says:

    You must have overloaded the “>” operator.

  13. Godsmith says:

    All who googled Ian Bandage, raise your hands.

  14. Orija says:

    To the guy recommending Raven, Wolfenstein 2k9 was atrocious..

    • Echo Black says:

      I found Wolf 2009 alright, despite it being a blatant console port (first “id” game in which I couldn’t opent the dev console right away. Also you had to navigate the menus with the arrow keys)

  15. pakoito says:

    I’m pretty sure I’ve played this game before.

  16. Jad says:

    If you don’t have one to hand, you could build one

    Is this a Britishism, a mistake, or a joke that I’m not getting? Because it sounds like “one on hand” should be in there instead.

    In other news, I continue to be excited by this game. I don’t expect my mind to be blown by it, but if you expect that from every game you’re going to be disappointed very frequently. A solid shooter with some interesting bits and good gameplay is never unwelcome.

    • westyfield says:

      It’s an expression. I don’t know if it’s only used in the UK but that’s possibly the case. It’s a shorter way of saying “have one in your hand”. “One on hand” sounds a bit clumsy to me, but it’s likely another UK/US difference.

    • Jad says:

      Ah then this must be a a US/UK thing. When I read that, I thought “Hand it to whom?” (as in, the sentence “If you don’t have one to hand over to your friend, you could build one” makes sense to me — “hand” being a verb when “to” is in front of it). Whereas “If you don’t have one on hand, you could build one” sounds perfectly natural to my American ears.

    • The Colonel says:

      I would read it as another way of saying handy

  17. Ogun says:

    “It’s id but it idn’t.”
    lol

    Looking forward to this again after reading a bit about it. Wasn’t a fan of Q4 or D3 – they both seemed like a step backwards.

  18. Casimir's Blake says:

    Let’s see how linear it is. Ever since Return To Castle Wolfenstein (which was, admittedly, a bloody good FPS), iD have been completely unable to make a non-linear game.

    I don’t think they have it in them to make an FPS/RPG hybrid a-la Stalker, but I suppose we’ll see. The mission video RPS posted today shows a competent “serious” FPS (really good start guys, applause for that), but also a lot of destroyed shells of skyscrapers which I fear the player will not be able to explore.

    • ResonanceCascade says:

      FPS games id DID make:

      Wolfenstein 3d
      Doom
      Doom II
      Quake
      Quake 2
      Quake 3
      Doom 3

      Games id didn’t make:

      Return to Castle Wolfenstein
      Wolfenstein (2009)
      Quake 4

      Can we please judge this company on their own merits, people?

      edit: whoops, that wasn’t supposed to be a reply to this, but coincidentally it’s fitting. :)

    • Casimir's Blake says:

      “Id Software, the creators of Wolfenstein 3D, oversaw the development and were credited as executive producers.” – from http://http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Return_to_Castle_Wolfenstein

      Close enough for me.

  19. slight says:

    @Godsmith. Oh SNAP! ;)

  20. Shadrach says:

    Excellent, I think this is the game I’m most looking forward to this year, I expect greatness and from the look of it I shall receive.

  21. Mario Figueiredo says:

    Id is the one company I don’t care about quality. I just buy their games on principle.

  22. Echo Black says:

    Hey, look, it’s the Crimson Lance

  23. vodka and cookies says:

    Hmm sounds interesting, to be honest not been impressed with the marketing on Rage though will probably end up buying it anyway.

  24. Kolchak says:

    I’m excited to play this game of course, but it’s pretty damn sad to see an ID Game with Regenerating Health and Strawberry Covered Screens. Regenerating Health allows you to play like an idiot to an extent since you’ll go back to full health no matter what as long as you get past a battle. So I’m rather bewildered that ID would have one survival aspect with limited Ammo but never have the player give a damn about his health.

    • Premium User Badge

      Mo says:

      It also allows designers to create levels and set pieces knowing that the player will have full health. Older games would do this by spamming health packs before major set-pieces, which seems like an inelegant hack in comparison.

      I’d certainly much rather take regenerating health over playing bits of a level over and over again because I happened to quicksave with 20 HP.

    • edit says:

      Mo – True enough, but those ‘quicksaved with little health’ situations can be the most tense and engaging for me. As long as the game is designed so that it’s possible to proceed without taking damage if you are careful enough (which, IMO, should always be true).

      I remember quicksaving with 1hp several times during first playthroughs of HL2\HL2:Ep1\HL2:Ep2 and being on the edge of my seat while I tried scraping through the next section without taking damage. I’m open to either approach to health as long as it makes sense within the game’s design though. I’ve tended to enjoy non-regenerating more I think, as it makes me play less frivolously.

    • vodkarn says:

      “It also allows designers to create levels and set pieces knowing that the player will have full health. ”

      I’m not sure that having designers not have to consider the difficulty of map pieces to be helpful. I, personally, think level design has gone severely downhill with the introduction of regenerating health. Think Halo, Gears of War, even the Vegas series. We went from somewhat open maps with different ways to move around, to set-piece maps where every room has Chest High Cover strewn about. Maps have become much more interchangeable instead of free-flowing and well crafted. I found Gears of War, for example, to be INCREDIBLY easy because I just shot anything melee first, and then hid behind a 4 foot high wall whenever I was injured. As opposed to Quake, say, where I’d have to dodge more, become more focussed as my health dropped – and finding healthkits became a happy and fun experience, instead of literally stopping to drink my coke while my character is fired at, but is in no real danger.

    • The Colonel says:

      Regen health and Chest High Walls have had the most devastating effect on game development – they actively hinder evolution of AI. Until the next gen consoles come out with more processing power and multiple cores we’re probably stuck with shitty shitty gameplay.

    • BobsLawnService says:

      Actually chest high cover and regenerating health allow console devs to slow the game down to get over to problems of the slow and imprecise console controller. As long as the next gen consoles keep the control scheme it is not going away.

    • Grape Flavor says:

      @vodkarn
      Funny though that Halo (1) is thought of as the inventor of regenerating health when technically, it didn’t even have it.

      Halo had regenerating shields. Health was handled in the old-school manner, medpacks and all.

    • Echo Black says:

      Regenerating health is pretty terrible on MP. I always felt cheated when I landed a 94dmg long-range kar98 shot in COD2 CTF and my target nullified it simply by moving to cover for a little bit, then popped back to retaliate at full strength

  25. BreadBitten says:

    Looks like this game is turning out to be EXACTLY what I had expected it to be, a big, brash game that I can spend countless hours in just dicking about in the world…! =D

  26. BobsLawnService says:

    I’ve been looking forward to Rage for years and it looks likke it is going to deliver. Then again I’m one of the few people who thought Doom 3 is the best corridor shooter ever made and its only fault was being made at a time in which corridor shooters were no longer fashionable.

    Anyway, back to anticipation. I feel like a kid again looking at these screenshots.

  27. Daryl says:

    I had pretty much written this off as a generic wasteland/post-apocalyptic-themed FPS. I like the sound of having to conserve ammo. However, assembling nick nacks from stuff you find around the world is usually a turn off to me. I can never tell what I am and am not supposed to create, if anything ends up being useful at all. It ends up feeling like a useless minigame. I’m more interested in it now than I was before, but not enough to get excited over.

  28. edit says:

    Looks nice, I just hope there is plenty of character interaction, and for that matter environmental interaction with some physics.. It always feels a little off when you have a crumbling, fragile looking environment that nonetheless remains unaffected by barrages of rockets.

  29. Creeping Death says:

    “But then I’d suspected something about as complicated as pouring milk into a glass, going on recent id form.”

    I wouldn’t call Doom 3 recent…

    Anyway, I’ve been waiting for something on this for a while, I remember hearing about it back when Borderlands was originally announced and getting the two muddled up ^^

  30. Premium User Badge

    drewski says:

    I’m pretty much excited about all of Bethid’s games. WHY YOU SO GOOD?

  31. tailzdru says:

    Staring eyes 3/?

  32. porps says:

    i’m really hoping for the first good id game since quake3, but i certainly wont be rushing out to buy it just because it’s id as i did with doom3.