This year was my first E3 and luckily I was able to obtain an invite to a Rage demonstration session behind closed doors. My story was posted on my main site (HookedGamers.com) but it was heavily edited due to the editor's wish to keep preview stories on only three pages. Needless to say I didn't agree.
So here, for your reading pleasure, is my full, unedited preview of Rage, Id's first new IP in almost a decade and, in my opinion (though I hate to use the cliche), a Fallout-killer.
Note: this article is a bit of a double-edged sword. It is very long but is however probably the most comprehensive depiction of the demo show at E3 2010. Knee Deep in the Dead
As I sat alongside other journalists and developers alike in the cramp theatre within Bethesda booth I was struck with a bout of both curiosity and anticipation as to the title that would be shown only momentarily. After all, Bethesda and, by extension, Id Software had been relatively absent from the PR market as of late and if there was ever a best time to strut your stuff then I can think of no better a place than the 2010 Electronic Entertainment Expo. What I was in for however was something that would ignite a childhood glee that had long since disappeared years ago. This giddiness appeared culminated in a near squeal, much to my embarrassment, as a crossbow arrow found its mark in the head of an insane mutant.
Rage is something I've been looking forward to for years now. As Id's new flagship title it also served as the first new intellectual property to be made by Id in ten years. Given that this was the same developer that ignited my passion for gaming as a child with the Nazi stomping wonder that was Wolfenstein 3D it is needless to say that I do hold some bias toward the Dallas developer. While Rage did not have an official hands-on experience on the E3 show floor this year, despite having been shown as early as E3 2008, Rage did have a behind closed doors presence within Bethesda's squared off booth. Bethesda and ZeniMax were kind enough to allow me to come by Tuesday afternoon and the excitement that I left with after having experienced 30 minutes of the new IP was the perfect end to a rather hectic day. A New Wasteland
Rage is set apart from the most of the other Id titles in a similar vain to Id's semi-remake of the 2004 classic Doom 3. Set in the not too distant future, Apophis, a real life asteroid, is bearing down on Earth with almost no hope of escape for the citizens of the planet. With all other plans failing, the governments of the planet unite in a last ditch effort to ensure the survival of the human race. Creating the Ark series, a network of automated subterranean vaults, the best candidates from every corner of the globe are selected and placed in them in a state of suspended animation with the hope that, once the smoke has cleared and life is capable of continuing on, these lucky souls will be able to reestablish civilization. Of course, like any governmental plan, nothing ever goes the way it is planned.
The player character awakens years after Apophis has taken its toll on the planet and long after humanity has begun to rebuild. Stumbling out of the malfunctioning Ark, the player's character awakens to find his roommates all dead, never having even seen the light of day. Leaving the Ark, the player enters a vast wasteland that nature is still trying to fix. While the overall goal of Rage's story has yet to be revealed, the player's actions will help determine the fate of those who live in the wasteland. The Remains
E3 2010 served as the first time Id Software felt comfortable showing off their latest title, the first major production in six years, and the limited exposure setting of the Bethesda theatre was more than enough to whet the appetite of those who have wanted to explore a post-apocalyptic wasteland that did not have Fallout in the name. Rage's demo lasted thirty minutes and consisted of four different sections of gameplay and environments to explore, a selection that we were told shows a balanced taste of the Rage experience. The first area shown was the wasteland proper and the home of Crazy Joe, a drifter whose intelligence was questionable and whose demeanor was not exactly genuine. Warning us of ravenous mutants, the demonstrator exits the hut only to be attacked by the denizens who had been mentioned only seconds ago.
The mutants, one of several factions present in the world of Rage, are anything but friendly and are far more likely to tear you to shreds than anything else. These unfortunate souls are the remnants of those who survived the fall of Apophis but became the unfortunate victims of the strong radiation that engulfed the world thereafter. The mutants are nothing more than dangerous animals now, their humanity long since having left them and they now serve as one of the primary threats to the remaining survivors that litter the wasteland. While the demonstrator is able to dispatch them with a pistol and assault rifle, he takes his time demonstrating the power of a thrown weapon known as the wingstick, a bladed version of your typical boomerang. One thing is made clear in this quick combat demonstration: threat of mutants hunting in packs establishes them as a force you don't want to go against without plenty of ammo.
Let�s get this out of the way right here and now: Rage is nothing short of gorgeous. The demonstration we saw that afternoon was running on the Xbox 360 rather than the PC platform for which Id is known for. The demo ran a smooth at a smooth 60 hertz and never for an instance showed any sign of slowdown. Upon seeing the game in combat I knew that, no matter what platform you choose to experience Rage on, the result has to be spectacular.
After dispatching the mutants the player character enters a modified dune buggy and drives off through the monument valley-esque environment. Driving is something very new for an Id title as the limited extent of the previous Id driving experience was limited to a couple monorail trains in Doom 3. The new driving system seems competent and about as easy to utilize as that of any other driving title out there. The vehicular combat portion of the Rage driving experience however is something that only a handful of titles have ever been able to successfully create, the most prominent title being the Twisted Metal series. As the player follows a waypoint on the HUD two others approach and attack, firing off machine guns and rockets. Luckily however this dune buggy has been modified with semi-automated machinegun turrets and, by centering the screen on a fleeing target and pulling the trigger, the turrets track the targets and unleash a wall of hot lead upon the vehicles, destroying them. As the formerly intact, now smoking and flaming, buggy reaches the gate to Wellspring, the local population center that pumps water to the surrounding area.
Wellspring is the site of another feature that Id experimented with and is radically expanding: NPC interaction. NPC interaction has only really been previously done by Id in Doom 3, wherein during the beginning sections of the game prior to the demonic attack on Mars you could interact with some NPCs and do a little exploring. This time around however Id is making these characters persistent though they are being intentionally vague when it comes to alignments with or against them but it was confirmed that side missions are available to those who repeatedly interact with them. Id did reveal however that players will be able to purchase and sell weapons and items found throughout the world as well as participate in various gambling minigames.
After having explored the town for a little bit, the player enters a water pumping station where an alarm is going off. After meeting the engineer assigned to ensure the upkeep of the vital resource the player is informed that a group of bandits known as the Ghost Clan have broken into the tunnel system beneath Wellspring and are ransoming the water supply. After accepting the mission, the player descends into the tunnels below. With a Gun at My Side
Within the tunnel system the familiar game design that Id built its reputation comes to the forefront as the long, cramp corridors forebode close encounters with less friendly citizens than what you found above ground. Lain back against the wall are the bodies of two guards sent to negotiate with the bandits; they never had a chance. The environment we�ve just entered is stunning in the level of detail present. As a water pumping station you�d naturally expect to see walls and puddles of water. The water details shown however are nothing short of beautiful: sheets of it slide down the walls, puddles realistically reflect the light and environment around them, and large maws of it create waves as you wade through it.
As the player progresses through the tunnel we begin hearing the sound of bandits chatting to one another as they pick a corpse clean of valuables. It is here that we are introduced to a new weapon: the crossbow. While bows are nothing new to games the power of the weapon in Rage cannot be understated. As the player sneaks up to the rim of the stairs to peer down on the soon-to-be victims of the new weapon our demonstrator loads up an electric bolt into the crossbow. The electric bolt works almost exactly like the trap bolts utilized in Bioshock: you shoot it into the water and any enemies that are in it are electrocuted. As the demonstrator looks over the edge of the stairs, we see the two bandits standing in a pool of water oblivious to our presence. Taking aim, the player fires the bolt into the pool, electrocuting them instantly.
The bandit threat isn�t over however; just feet away in another room stand another two bandits, these two unaware of the death of their compatriots outside due to the stealthy nature of the crossbow. It is here that we are introduced to a new aspect of Rage�s gameplay: item creation.
Rage is a swift departure from the Id norm in many ways as hinted at by the game design mentioned above but nowhere else is this more present than in the game's experience system. Just like that found in many modern RPGs, Rage allows players to learn new skills and create new weapons and abilities based on their interaction within the environment. For example, utilizing tools and items found in the environment, the player was able to construct an RC car with bombs attached to it using a blueprint found earlier in the game. Driving it into the room, the bandits have no more time to react than the ensuing explosion sees them explode into a fountain of blood and sinew. These new items and tools can be constructed at any time meaning no need to go looking for a special room or a work bench: if you need it and have the prerequisite tools necessary then you are good to go.
As the player progresses through the tunnel system, taking out a dozen more enemies he becomes trapped next to a treatment processor. As the Ghost Clan horde approaches the demonstrator deploy another device: an automated turret. This turret in particular is a lower end version that can be enhanced further after finding more blueprints. As such the turret only fires in bursts and take a little bit to reload. The help is invaluable however as they player constantly has to turn and take out enemies that approach from seemingly every direction. As the horde finally stops attacking, we�re given a short breather before moving on to the next level. The Ways of War
From the tunnels of the water pumping station we are whisked away to another level a little later in the game. We have been sent to an auto shop to retrieve some car parts necessary for making a new dune buggy. The building however is infested with bandits, these ones more advanced than the Ghost Clan and having no qualms about carrying fire arms.
The ensuing level play out like any other shooter on the market: moving from room to room, taking out enemies along the way. The AI in Rage is definitely smart: I�ll give it that. As we enter one of the rooms we are attacked from behind by an enemy that had flanked our position. After taking them out we proceed further into the area. Given that this building was above ground when Apophis hit it is in a state of decay. Case in point the demonstrator is able to kill an enemy with a well placed headshot thanks to a hole in the sheetrock of a decaying wall. His hidden buddy takes notice of this though and blows open the door only to be dispatched by a burst of assault rifle fire.
Proceeding further into the building the numbers of enemies are increasing. Luckily, the demonstrator has another tool at his disposal. The player deploys an advanced version of the automated turret seen in the previous level. This version however fires faster and is mobile. The design of the turret is almost exactly like the lifesaving spider sentry bot from Doom 3. As the player and his robotic companion head into the next areas, taking enemies out all along the way, the robot is destroyed upon entering the final room where cars are in various states of disrepair. As the player presses forward a trap is sprung and an enemy armored car charges at us. The demonstrator takes cover and is able to take out the gunner and the other remaining bandits. Pushing past the car, the player retrieves the necessary auto parts, ending the level.
While the level was relatively short compared to the other two the final level Id was to show off was something entirely different. Citizens of the Ruins
The final level Id was to take us to is currently called Dead City and, as you�d expect, the name is pretty descriptive of the overall feel of the level. Located a good distance from Wellspring, Dead City is a former major urban center from which no visitor has ever returned alive. We were about to find out why.
As the demonstrator trekked forward through some jagged terrain we came across the remains of a former cityscape. Ruined buildings dotted the skyline and dozens lay collapsed upon one another covered in dirt and rust. The feeling of silence is ominous yet the player strides forward and jumps off the large rock barrier and enters the streets. As he does so a ravenous howl splits the air: the mutants are coming.
Taking up arms, the player begins a desperate stand against the horde, upwards of half a dozen surrounding him at a time. As he holds out a wall of debris bursts out from which appears a far larger mutant than the rest. Easily ten feet tall, this behemoth wields a grenade launcher which is squarely pointed at the player. While the player continues to take pot shots at the larger creature while trying to fend off the smaller ones. The larger one fires erratically, some of his shots just whishing by the player while other accidently killing his compatriots. The player is eventually able to kill that larger mutant and the scene dies down. The battle over, the room takes a collective breath of relief, if only for a second.
That�s when we notice the ground starting to shake. The pounding on the ground is loud and it is with such force that dust and small bits of debris fall off the remains of the building next to the player. Something is approaching, something even bigger than the large mutant dispatched moments before. The camera pans around in an almost nervous fashion, scanning the horizon for enemies, the assault rifle fully restocked on rounds and ready to fire. Inside I can�t help but feel the same apprehension I did as a child watching the glass of water ripple with each footfall of the Tyrannosaurus Rex as it arrived on screen for the first time in Jurassic Park. As the camera pans around to a street corner a giant hand broaches the edge of another building. The mutant is easily five or six stories tall and is easily one of the most imposing creatures Id has ever created. As it turns to the corner, it turns its head and notices the player. With a mighty roar, it begins the attack only for the demo to end. No One Will Hear You Scream
Our short time with Rage was nothing short of wonderful and is easily my number two experience at E3 2010. While we were only given a small taste of the overall Rage experience Id Software�s Matt Hooper, the man who narrated our thirty minute demo, said that in the coming months we would be given more information on even more parts of the game to be revealed such as the racing portion you can do with your buggy, the various side quests, and the inevitable multiplayer segment. He did say that details regarding the multiplayer are forthcoming, giving this writer the opinion that, should you want to get a taste of Rage yourself, you need to come to this year�s Quakecon in Dallas.
Overall though Rage seems to be shaping up quite nicely and looks to provide a fantastic alternative to Bethesda�s already incredible Fallout series for those who want a more focused, semi-linear experience. Rage doesn�t release until sometime next year so let us all keep our fingers crossed that that time is sooner rather than later.
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