I found myself looking into a lot of smaller games at PAX East, but there were plenty of huge AAA titles on display and id Software’s Rage was one of them. In development for many years, this is the newest id game and is based on a new IP and a whole new engine dubbed “idTech 5.” Up until this point I kept looking at Rage and thinking it is simply a prettier Borderlands, I could not be more wrong.
Rage is set in a post apocalyptic world and has you in the role of a member of a group that took refuge in facilities called Arks during the world ending event (an asteroid hits the planet after careening off the moon). Like the Fallout series, the goal for these survivors is to exit the Ark and rebuild, when you exit you discover that the world is full of mutants and pockets of civilization and you need to find your way.
The hands-off demo I was part of didn’t really dig into the story, instead they were trying to focus on the combat mechanics, the driving, the mission structure, and the inventory/economy system. Unlike most (all?) id games there are many characters you can interact with as you progress through the game. Some talk to you, some threaten, some beg, others offer missions or warnings. The characters are well presented and have a very distinctive look, not uncanny valley, but not cartooney either, somewhere in between which is a good compromise.
As the demo progressed we were introduced to the various hooks of the world and right off the bat the graphics stood out. Id has always been known for being ahead of the curve graphically, but this is their first console/PC simultaneous launch and they have adapted to this challenge brilliantly. Played on an Xbox 360, the game looked absolutely stunning. Sent in an outdoor area filled with toppled bridges, dessert landscapes and rugged ridges everything popped and has amazing detail. Little touches like swirling dust, ambient skies, and detailed structures stood out as did the wide open vista (something id has never been known for). The world is also fully traversable, meaning if you see a bridge, you can get to it.
Next, the demo brought us to a vehicle — the vehicles are rendered very well and some have mounted weapons. He drove around for a bit and demonstrated on the basic challenges like a jump which, once he landed, awarded him with a challenge completion. The developer mentioned that there will be many challenges based around kills, tricks, missions that will reward players for trying various things. The driving was very smooth and further demonstrated the beauty of the engine. The graphic fidelity was amazing as the landscape soared by at a brisk 60FPS.
We were then shown one of the first settlements you will find and how you obtain the glaive-like object called a Wingstick. This weapon can be selected and thrown any time and is a quiet kill choice for when you don’t want to attract attention. You obtain the Wingstick by completing a challenge proving you can actually use it. Once you obtain the Wingstick you are given an opportunity to try the first combat mission in the game which deals with handling some menacing bad guys who have a stockpile of stuff you need to get some of in order to build a buggy.
This introduces yet another system in the game, the economy, building, and upgrade system. The economy is built around scrap or parts, as you find them you can either use the parts for building or upgrades or sell them for items or currency. As you progress and find weapons you can also find plans to build certain things like weapon upgrades, different ammo types, or items to assist in the world. In the demo we were shown exploding ammo and a kit that can unlock doors explosively. You can purchase these items or build them on the fly as you require them. This depth is something that we have never seen before in an id software game.
The enemies in Rage start out as what you expect, mutants, crazed warriors, and armored thugs, but eventually in the demo we saw some huge mutated creatures (as tall as buildings) that really differentiate this from your Fallouts or Borderlands. The enemies also had some terrific AI, hearing you attacking their companions, taking cover, trying to flank you, and other intelligent behaviors.
This game is also a very M-Rated one which is important to mention. The violence level borders on gratuitous, but you need to think about the weapons being used and realize that it fits. The Wingstick decapitates, the exploding ammo gibs the enemy and limbs can be removed if the shot hits right. All of this is represented in a way that elicited cheers from the crowd during the playthrough.
Rage has been in development for a long time but it looks like the wait will be worth it. This is id’s best looking game to date and it also looks to be the deepest one they have ever made again. From everything I have seen this will destroy any talk that id only makes great engines with a game loosely wrapped around them. Rage is launching September 13, 2011 on the PS3, X360, and PC and this newly converted fan will be buying it day one.