Rage: QuakeCon Hands-On Preview

Otherwise known as R(A)GE

If we told you that we recently had a chance to play an open-world post-apocalyptic first-person shooter with an emphasis on RPG elements and bloody combat, you’d likely ask “Which one?” In this case it would be id Software’s very own Rage, available to play at QuakeCon 2011 and a title that has every chance to shoot itself in the foot. We had about an hour and a half to get acquainted with Rage, and despite the initial sense of unpleasant regurgitation, we had a good deal of fun.

The opening kicked off with a large meteor crashing into the earth (a flash of pre-apocalyptic action, we suppose), followed by chaos. Hiding in some sort of stasis pod seemed to be a logical move in this situation, and the protagonist did so. Upon emerging from the chamber, however, it was discovered that this was no silly episode of Futurama: the world was smashed up, blew up, and beat up with reckless abandon. We took control at this point but stood no chance against the mutant forces of awfulness, so it was a lucky break when a survivor took pity and helped us out.

He and a small band of resistors lived out their days in a junky yet welcoming gas station (also smashed up, blew up, and beat up) and invited us to stay. The offer of companionship and a chance to go kill lots of bad guys suited us just fine, so we wasted no time in loading our pistol and driving a four-wheeler into the unknown.

If this situation does not look appealing, Rage might not be for you.

Our buggy was faster than a man with a mutant on his tail (we would know), especially when the boost was activated. Flying up ramps and launching the poor driver into walls was exhilarating, but the controls felt a little squirrelly, especially when using the all-too-sensitive brakes. Still, it got the job done, and we roared our way through the semi-open world with eager anticipation.

The mini-map pointed the way via a handy dotted line, and we were soon in enemy territory; only a pistol stood between us and a horrible death as angry survivors attempted to murder us. The shooting felt both responsive and fluid, rewarding us for paying close attention to our foes. They hid behind cover of all sorts, sometimes taking us on with blindfire, to make good use of the grimy environment. The bolder ones (including those with flaming bats) charged us with all their might, but a sound smack to the head sent them spiralling away. However, they used melee attacks of their own, so spamming the punch button did us no favours.

The animation was a highlight of our experience. Enemies limped away when injured or even fell to the ground and tried to shoot at us from their prone position. Of course, gore flew every which way, specifically when grenades were in use. We also found ourselves a shotgun and some sharp blades that could be thrown through the air, upping the count of beheadings substantially.

It's not the muscles, the scars, the belt of grenades, or even the tank tattooed on his chest; that mustache commands respect.

Rage wasn’t very tough on Normal difficulty, but when we did finally go down, a mini-game was there to pull us from death’s icy grip. By dexterously aligning the thumb sticks and nailing the timing on some button presses, our health was refilled relative to our (sloppy) performance. Whether or not this skill can be abused as an easy way out remains to be seen, but it’s a neat addition on its own.

While Rage’s combat certainly hit the spot in terms of solid, tried-and-true shooting, there wasn’t anything especially original about it. There are, however, some light RPG additions to spice things up: for example, junk can be salvaged and combined to make brand new items. We made ourselves a device to break locks and a nifty scope for our pistol, both of which came in handy right away.

We sold the extra contents of our inventory back at the base, purchasing some healing kits in exchange. The locals were also willing to teach us how to use certain weapons and hand out missions to complete, the latter of which move the story forward. Tips during lengthy loading screens told us to head off the beaten path and explore, but most of these excursion ended with dead ends or invisible walls; often both. These early parts of Rage might be more confined than later portions, but we didn’t see a whole lot of open-ended opportunities.

Many mooses died for this manly costume to live.

For such a thoroughly apocalypsed world, Rage managed to look spiffy. Character models were detailed to an impressive degree, set in a dusty land under a glorious sky. It’s often ugly, sure — but that’s the point. Our main concern was the texture pop-in that plagued even the nearest of surfaces. We only had access to the PS3 version, but it could use some polishing up before hitting store shelves.

We weren’t blown away during our time with Rage, yet the intense fights kept us pushing forward and yearning for more. Ninety minutes was hardly enough time to dig into this promising game’s many layers — we didn’t even touch the racing or multiplayer — but it’ll have to work hard to dig itself out of the potentially stale genre pit. Keep your eyes open and your Acme Mutant Repellent at hand as we rapidly approach its October release date.

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Written by Stephen K

A lover of video games in general, Stephen will happily play just about any sort of game on just about any sort of system, especially if it's a platformer or an RPG. Except sports games. Sports games are boring.

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