Quake and Doom makers id Software may be treading well worn post-apocalyptic territory in Rage, but for all the grotesque mutants and post-cataclysmic disaster, this Mad Max-style story of survival looks like... fun.
Some of that may be due to the bright, blue-skied environments rendered by the developer's id Tech 5 engine. There's an uncommon feeling of randomness to Rage's organic and obsessively detailed cities, sewers and rocky desert wastelands. It smacks of a less stylized Borderlands, thanks to its first-person perspective, drivable dune buggies and shantytowns.
The dusty, dirty streets of Wellspring, a "cornerstone of trade and economy," are contrasted by the bright orange and blue of neon signs. The gruff, burly grease monkeys hovering over dune buggies are complemented by the occasional cute gearhead girl. Vending machines and colorful graffiti pop out from earth toned environments. Rage looks like the most enjoyable post-apocalypse in which to hang.
Similarly impressive was the lifelike nature of Wellspring's human inhabitants. I tend to think of id as capable at creating a believable hellspawn, less so for its ability to shape and animate a normal human face. Rage has me rethinking that.
Our eyes-on demo of Rage in Las Vegas started in much the same way our Rage at Quakecon demo did, revisiting much of the same people (Crazy Joe), places (the desert vistas) and things (the deadly, mutant-slaying boomerang known as the Wingstick. This, however, was my first time seeing Rage's driving in action, a segment more linear and stiff than I was expecting.
After a walk through the varied and winding streets of Wellspring—my notes tell me I like the ambient effects, like the sound of leaky pipes dripping and gnats flitting about fluorescent lights—we watched our first mission in Rage play out.
Apparently, some nasty bandits have designs on poisoning Wellspring's water supply. Not cool. Fortunately, we had a friend in Carlson, the administrator of the facility. He was kind enough to loan the player a set of electro bolts for our plunge into the well, just one ammo type in Rage's weapon "toolbox."
Id Software's Tim Willits says the developer wants to offer a massive variety of weapons, ensuring that in "nearly every new environment, the player gets some new toy or some new gadget" with which to experiment.
Those electro bolts, combined with the ankle deep water of the well, made for plenty of fried bandits.
While the deadly recipe of electricity and water was of great help, the bandits in Rage exhibit a few neat defensive and offensive tricks. Enemies are dexterous in their cover tactics, leaning left and right from behind columns to maintain cover, instead of foolishly stepping out for better exposure. They're also adept at "dynamic traversal," exploiting their surroundings for movement. In one section of the well, a metal walkway was above the player, with bandits swinging down below, leaping off walls to disorient the player and test their aim. Some sneaked behind the id Software rep controlling the demo, evoking less than fond memories of Doom baddies popping out of thin air—or "monster closets"—only this time it was AI-controlled acrobatics at play, not convenient teleportation.
Id's Tim Willits moved onto another level, without much in the way of visual special effects, like the watery well from the previous section. What the dam facility did have, however, were great examples of Willits' claim that "gone are the days of space corridors that look like every other space corridor you've been in." The rooms and walkways here looked chaotically realistic.
The combat here looked more traditional, with enemies seeking cover behind all manner of obstacle while the player deployed walking spider-like Sentry Bots to flank them. Those walking turrets helped to easily overpower a dozen or so bandits as id staffers pushed through the level.
Two more weapons at the player's disposal were the explosive radio controlled cars that can quickly clear out a room of mutant bandits from a safe distance and the automated turret. Players can craft items like these if given the right components and collectible schematics. If these player-created weapons are destroyed, their remains can be harvested for parts.
Willits and crew shined a bit more light on the story of Rage, discussing the nanotrites that live within both player and enemy. One of the key story pillars, id said, was that almost all survivors of the world-changing disaster have been injected with these microscopic machines. The player will use them to his advantage, but Rage's storyline touches on how the powers that be use the nanotrites to control people and mutants against their will.
One aspect id didn't touch on was Rage's multiplayer side. The developer says that its working through that right now, but felt it was too early to get into the specifics of what Rage will offer from a multiplayer standpoint.
Rage is shaping up to be a delightful post-asteroid-nearly-destroying-Earth shooter, in part thanks to its highly detailed, lovingly rendered world. Is it full of 12s? Hard to tell, as Rage's gameplay looks solid enough, but we haven't gone hands on with it yet. Until then, eyefuls of Rage will have to suffice.