As I've previously and unashamedly stated, I'm an id fanboy through and through. It's a tough calling that involves long periods of waiting, frantic pacing/nailbiting and playing through old glories like Doom, Quake, Wolfenstein and... well, their sequels. Luckily we id faithful have Rage to look forward to. Brendan's preview will fill you in on the graphics and general setting- and we were lucky enough to be shown a developer walkthrough of a few sections of id's upcoming shooter. Note that we were hands-0ff for the demonstration (and were not allowed to take pictures or video), but I'll refer to the player character in first person from time to time for immersion's sake.
The demo started in a small settlement clinging to life on the side of a mesa. Ruined buildings and rolling red hills dominated the bleak landscape. Leaving the safety of the small town (after putting down a couple of rogue bandits with a some well placed pistol shots), our tour brought us to a lone quad bike waiting outside. After hopping aboard and driving down the desolate road, the imposing sight of two massive armoured cars hoved into view. Cue the vehicle demonstration.
Vehicles are broadly classified into three tiers, each of which boats massive successive upgrades to both durability and firepower. The Tier 1 buggy (essentially a glorified quad bike) is designed to be a nippy little first car, but once you get to Tier 2, life starts to get a lot sweeter. It's essentially an off-road racer with a couple of turrets, but our guide laughed it off in favour of the Tier 3 behemoth. Seen Mad Max? You know the score. The Tier 3 vehicle was once a massive muscle car... but huge steel plating, massive chainguns, rocket launchers and an enormous leering skull has since transformed it into a speedy manoeuvrable tank. When you start the game proper, you'll need to gradually acquire parts to build and upgrade your vehicles from scratch, but for the purposes of the demo we hopped into into the Tier 3 deathmobile and hit the road.
Driving was a drift-heavy, donutting affair with plenty of enemy buggies to throw down on. Handbrake turns essentially allowed us to circle-strafe around adversaries- and powerful homing rockets pulverised our hapless targets into twisted wreckage. After some boosting and a couple of gratuitous jumps we reached the town.
The towns in Rage have a dynamic community that opens up to you as you become well-known. Starting as a stranger, you'll do favours for the townsfolk and eventually unlock harder missions and greater respect. The architecture was cobbled together from plate metal and old machines (think Rivet City crossed with Fyrestone), and houses several weapons and vehicle vendors who were ready for business. Discovering that bandits were threatening to poison the town's water supply, we dove into the town's well.
You've seen this footage at E3, so I won't sweat the details. I will, however, stress that id were keen to label Rage as an "action shooter" rather than an RPG of any kind- and there wasn't an inventory or stats screen to be seen. Weapons and items can be swapped and fashioned out of quick D-pad selections and radial menus, keeping the action tight and focused. Turrets, the wingstick boomerang and even a remote-controlled car bomb can be easily selected and deployed using a quick button press.
Finally the demo skipped on to the Dead City, a massive metropolis that's been gutted by the asteroid impact. Before too long a horde of axe-wielding mutants clawed their way out of the ground, proving to be easy to put down but extremely swift at darting in and out of combat. A massive mortar-wielding ogre soon smashed his way out of a building to shower the area with rockets, and interestingly, the smaller enemies were careful to avoid the blast radius while pressing the attack. A handy rocket launcher soon put paid to the abomination... but on cue, the ground shook as a gargantuan, mutated brute loomed over the surrounding buildings. The ten storey-tall monstrosity roared, howled and bared its teeth- and the demo ended.
Graphics and gameplay are looking absolutely rock solid even on a large projection screen. In fact, there was only one minor issue that managed to rear its ugly head... but everyone in the audience couldn't fail to notice it. Rage takes its visual cues from Mad Max and other postapocalyptic experiences-and on more than one occasion the words "Borderlands" and "Fallout" could clearly be heard in hushed German whispers amongst the audience. Even a quiet rendition of "I don't want to set the world on fire" and "there ain't no rest for the wicked" occasionally wafted down from towards the back. Whilst it's absolutely unfair to call Rage derivative (since Borderlands and Fallout are based on the same source material), the visual resemblance is absolutely and immediately striking. id have always stamped their games with a unique and unmistakable feel... and to be honest with you, Rage simply doesn't have it yet.
However, this isn't the end of the story. Luckily, our guide hinted that Tim Willets and the creative team are working on an entirely new visual aesthetic that will completely change both the gameplay and the surroundings towards the second half of the story. Whilst they expertly resisted my fawning, gushing attempts at interrogation, I was left with the impressionthat a hyper-futuristic or lush paradise might well play host to the latter portion of the game.
Or hell might open up its cavernous gates. It's an id game, after all.