PAX 2011 - RAGE Preview
It's hard to beat Rage's pedigree. id Software's latest shooter comes after Wolfenstein, Doom, and Quake…and then a whole lot more Doom and Quake. But where id defined and then redefined the genre throughout the nineties, they seemed to lose track in the 00s. Doom III tried to be scary, but wounding up feeling like Luigi's Mansion. And Quake, well, its last game, developed by Raven Software, barely registered on the Richter Scale.
To juice things up, id Software is introducing a brand new IP with a new genre focus: driving. That's right, Rage is still a shooter, but it also incorporates vehicles and racing elements. But you knew this. What you didn't know is that Rage is dedicated to kinetic motion even when you aren't on an ATV or in a buggy, and that a good deal of Bethesda's Fallout aesthetic has favorably leaked into the setting and style of Rage's dystopian post-'pocalyptic landscape.
You start off in a cryogenic pod having survived a major asteroid strike on earth, and emerge into a rocky wasteland full of jagged cliff walls and ruined industrial equipment. You're instantly jumped by a couple monstrous men, and just as quickly saved by a sniper in a dune buggy, who beckons you to "Jump in!" Thanks, John Goodman! (That's who's voicing your savior, you see.)
Goodman laments that his actions may have doomed him and his people as he drives you to his dusty HQ. No sooner do you get out and walk into the broken down diner where he lives than he essentially says "Now take that gun, and go kill EVERYONE who might retaliate against us." That's right, you emerge from a pod, and are immediately sent on a crazy murderous errand. It's like most video games, just without less foreplay.
You grab the gun, jump on an ATV in the garage, and drive to the bandit hideout. The driving is fun and fast! You can jam on a turbo button for more speed, and you never need to use the brakes if you don't want to. This is not realistic riding, but it is fantastic. The bandit hideout is through a door which leads to an instance in a broken down hotel. You shoot everyone up, collect dollars and bullets from their bodies, and then zip-line back to the entrance over the areas you just shot through. The one interesting thing about this area is the fact that your enemies nimbly charge you, ducking, rolling, and wall hopping, and even when you've slain them, they continue to crash toward you, embracing not only death, but Rage's more mobile look and feel.
Once you kill all those bandits, you have to go find medical supplies, which requires you to kill other bandits, and introduces you to a second group of outland friends. And then you need to fix a car, and sure enough, bandits have the car parts. Fortunately, for this mission, you're outfitted with a shotgun. You also have bandages, which you can hotkey easily and quickly heal yourself to full no matter how hurt you are. Combined with the shotgun, you can just wade into a room full of bad guys, splatter them, and heal up every time the screen turns red – or at least as long as the bandages last. You feel a little like Mike Meyers would if he had a shotgun. And to continue that analogy, you'll rise up again even if you run out of bandages and are gunned down. After a quick analog stick or mouse-based mini-game, you're back on your feet with a modicum of health.
The car parts dungeon also featured a boss - an ugly bandit stationed in the back of a pickup truck, armed with a chaingun. You have to hide, hit a button, wait for a gas tank to be sent over his head, and shoot it, blowing him up. (Or you can just headshot him repeatedly, if you like.)
From there, you head back to town and probably get a new car. I don't know, my time was up. I would like to point out one other feature though: you get little boomerangs called Wingsticks at some point, and these can be used to stealthily kill bad guys from distance. However, to use them you have to get a tutorial from a cute girl at the first outpost. She just stands there, looking out-of-place hot, and offers to show you how to use Wingsticks. You play the game, she says you did great, and then she sends you on your way. She's probably the only cute girl for a hundred miles, and you'd like to say more, but she just stands there staring at you blankly. If you say something, she replies with something like "Want to play again?"
That's right. She's a booth babe WITHIN a game. We're sure she eventually gets kidnapped and you have to rescue her, but after several equally awkward interactions with real girls whose only purpose was to briefly show us how to play a game, we couldn't help but notice the similarity.
We also couldn't help but notice that Rage is a fun game, and we can't help but wonder to what extent the driving, shooting, and motion all blend together as you continue in your quest. We'll find out when Rage is released this October 4th for the PS3, Xbox 360, and PC.