Video Game Preview: id Software’s RAGE

Alex gets his hands on the new post-apocalyptic game from the people who brought you DOOM and QUAKE.

In Rage you play as a survivor of a meteorite impact in 2029 that decimates the world. He has been entombed in one of many cryo-pods (creatively named an Ark) that were supposed to house a massive number of people to repopulate the Earth. Your silent protagonist wakes up to find that he’s the only survivor. Oops. What’s worse, he enters the world to find mutants, raiders, and all the usual dangerous folk you would think to find in the ruined remains of the world.

Right after he leaves his Ark and sees the destruction all around him he has his first (and what’s almost his last) encounter with one of the new denizens of the world, before he’s saved by a nicely placed bullet shot by one Dan Hagar. Dan’s a good guy but a bit of a nutty badass, which is appropriate because he’s voiced by none other than John Goodman. He’s got a little town set up nearby with a few people and lots of guns to protect them so he brings you over, giving you tips about what you can expect in this brave new world,.

The first thing he does however is ask you to commit mass murder. Despite the fact that the Ark was supposed to house important people (scientists, scholars, etc.) our hero seemingly has no problem picking up a weapon and eradicating a large village’s worth of human beings. Preservation of the human race!

You get a pistol and head out to clear an area of troublesome bad guys. After you complete your first job you’re given a hundred bucks and more jobs open up. It’s a familiar format. Every person you run into has their own problems (side missions) that need fixing, and some offer you various perks, more so than cash. For instance there’s the mechanic at the garage who offers you his old dune buggy if you can bring back some parts (and kill another dozen people). As you travel the world you’ll collect all kinds of loot to collect and kill many kinds of baddies.

Rage does combat quite well, which you should expect if you know anything about id games (hint- they like their guns). Over the playtime I got my hands on a pistol, machinegun, sniper rifle, shotgun and even a crossbow. They can all be upgraded in various ways by purchasing items at the store- I got a nifty scope for my pistol before finding the stronger weapons. Weapons can also take different types of ammo with various tradeoffs. Stronger ones might give you a few less rounds in your magazine, for example. Ammo is a precious commodity at first but soon you’ll be slinging all kinds of weapons, which thankfully can be easily switched right in the middle of combat.

The enemies fight very well. The first guys you’ll find don’t even have pistols, just knives and their speed. They’ll run and jump and twirl around in order to escape your sights, spinning knives about and screaming maniacally as they attack. When you face guys with guns you’ll be surprised how smart they seem- taking cover and shuffling positions as you advance. The combat is quite fun.

One thing you’ll love about each of these areas that are chock full of enemies is that they always have a quick way back to the beginning- typically a zipline that you can ride back to the entrance. It’s very welcome in a genre that usually sees you fighting back through the same enemies you just killed and getting lost just trying to leave the damn place.

The game world is definitely beautiful. Despite it being a familiar location for gaming there’s one helluva draw distance and the ruined cities certainly look the part. I didn’t get to see too much of the overall world, though, as in the first few hours you’ll only see a couple of towns and a handful of enemy enclaves. It’s too big to walk around and thankfully you’ll get lots of vehicles to tool around with. You’ll start off riding on a dinky little ATV but things change when you finally get a dune buggy and drive off to the next town.

In town you’ll do a few missions to gain the favor of the locals (the Mayor and Sheriff in particular) but then be allowed to see what else the game has to offer. One of those things are races. id obviously considers the vehicular sections almost as important as the shooting ones, and you’ll be able to gain all kinds of new cars and equip them with lots of weapons and upgrades. In town you can race in time trials, standard races and even a little bit of car combat. Expect lots of chainguns, missles and boosts in the races, as it’s all about the arcade-style combat. The more races you win the more things you can purchase for your vehicles, and it’ll definitely get you ready for the stuff to come later on in the game.

But Rage has a large hurdle to overcome and that hurdle’s name is Borderlands. It’s hard not to have flashbacks to Gearbox’s excellent title- just take out the cell shading and you’ve got another brown/grey world with a silent protagonist doing missions and taking out raiders in a post-apocalyptic desert wasteland. Even the beginning few hours of Rage mimicks the experience (and flaws) of the start of Borderlands, where you trudge back and forth completing missions before finally getting a car and moving to the next town to find more stuff to do. The constant backtracking is obviously there to ease gamers into the world but it had the side effect of making the world seem very small. You’ll visit the same locations multiple times, only to ride the familiar route back to your home base.

One other large complaint are the ridiculously far-apart auto-save locations. One journalist complained that he died and his save was a half hour back- I died at one part and had to complete a quest I had already beaten. Hopefully they’ll fix this for the final game.

But the combat and world is a ton of fun and one would imagine that things will only get better in the hours of gameplay to come. Along with the single player campaign there are some big multiplayer modes planned. One is a six player free for all vehicle combat match that sounds like it could be a blast, and while it’s a shame that there’s no co-op for the main campaign there will be two-player co-op missions based on stories you hear as you play through the game.

Rage will hit your town on October 4th.