Rage Preview (Xbox360)

It was quite a simple affair really. Get in to Bethesda’s London office, sit down, watch the stunningly cool opening, play the first two hours of Rage, leave. Apart from Coke and biscuits that was it. Simple, no fuss, how preview events should be. Just a great game and you. Oh yes, and I should clarify – that’s my first two hours of Rage. Everyone else seemed to end in a completely different spot to me, and it’ll certainly be very different for you too.

Right in the eye for that guy
There has been confusion regarding what Rage actually is, so I’ll try and clear things up. It’s an FPS first and foremost, but with driving, car combat and some light RPG elements. Despite some similarity to Fallout (particularly with Bethesda publishing) the game is not properly open-world, although you do have a large amount of freedom with where you go and when you do things. It’s certainly not a linear shooter despite having plenty of traditional FPS sections.

I’m going to get what will almost certainly be one of the biggest criticisms of the game out of the way now, then explain why it doesn’t matter (at least to me): it is very reminiscent of Borderlands. A post-apocalyptic FPS with RPG elements, cars, a Wild West theme, towns to explore, weirdly stylized characters who give you missions, odd gangs, and a general freedom to explore – although not too much freedom. If you loved Borderlands you may well cry foul when Rage is released.

So why isn’t it a problem? For starters, I didn’t care for Borderlands and I utterly loved Rage. Rage is single-player focused, has better shooting, a greater attention to detail, not as over-complicated, and does a lot better at setting up world, story and characters than Borderlands - which was all about the loot. Playing Gearbox’s shooter alone is pretty boring. id Software’s is exciting, fun, and feels like it has a purpose. You want to help these people, and you also want to survive, not just get a gun with +5 Fire.

The guns you do get though are fantastic. Sure, the pistol seems a bit weedy at the start, but purchase a Monocular (half a pair of binoculars) and suddenly you’ve got a mini sniper rifle. The Shotgun packs a meaty satisfying punch, and may well go down as one of the best shotguns since F.E.A.R.. The Sniper and Assault Rifles do what you’d expect, but it’s the much-advertised Wingsticks that I loved most. Get direct line of sight on an enemy, throw, dead with a boomerang sticking out of his eye. They cost money though, so use them semi-sparingly.

Ah yes, there’s a barter system. Told you there were RPG elements. You can trade with various dealers at various settlements and buy guns, ammo, upgrades, and various supplies (such as grenades, medkits and wingsticks). It’s all simple to use, and you’ll be probably going back for ammo and wingsticks most often. Oh, and there’s a special one in Wellsprings for your vehicles.
The vehicles (yes, plural) play an important part of Rage, so if you’re some sort of weird anti-vehicles in FPSs person this game isn’t for you. At the start they’re just about getting from A to B, but stick a minigun or rocket launcher on them and suddenly fun vehicle combat comes into play. There are also optional races/vehicle challenges which get you money and upgrades for your various buggies.

So, what’s next on our checklist? Oh yes, enemies. I got to try out my range of weapons (not the Crossbow unfortunately, since my time elapsed before I could fire it) on three gangs – Wasted, Ghosts, and Mutants. Mutants are the brainless swarms of vicious monsters that seem to pop up in every non-COD FPS, Ghosts are athletic and use the environment well, and Wasted are the cockneys. Consequently the Wasted are the funniest to fight, yelling stuff like “I’ll get you, you wanker!”, but they’re not stupid.

The AI is of pretty high standard really. They’ll work together, making sure to take completely different cover points so that they’re not bunched together and easy pickings for your sniper rifle/monoculared pistol. When enemies take cover they make sure no part of them is showing, and will adjust that cover as you move around them. If you manage to knock one off their feet by shooting their legs, they’ll crawl to cover. Impressive. Oh yes, and they react to where you shoot them accurately.

Should I bother talking about graphics, apart from saying a need to buy a new graphics card? I usually have to whenever a new id Software game comes around anyway, but damn this is looking fine, and is much the same on 360 and PS3. The world stretches out into the distance and it’s all detailed, and towns like Wellsprings really show just how old Fallout 3’s engine is looking now. Characters are all slightly stylized, which might be a bit of an engine concession but will ensure the game keeps looking good. Animation’s just plain excellent and wouldn’t look out of place in a Pixar film.

There are two things I was geeking out about that I discovered which I’ll share with you now. Firstly, there’s a Nightmare difficulty mode. Hopefully it won’t be as punishing as Doom 3’s health-drain and more akin to Quake’s, but still – woo. Secondly, and this will come as a relief to old-school FPS fans, you can pick up and carry all the weapons at once. Hooray. On the PC you can select weapons (and change bullet types) with the number keys as usual, but standard across all platforms is a radial menu which should come as standard in every FPS if you ask me.

Bad things beyond the Borderlands similarities? Nothing that really mattered, but there were still some things that irked me slightly. First and foremost, there were invisible walls beyond barriers. This was a bit unnecessary, especially as just beyond the invisible wall was a sheer drop, but there’s also no way to jump over catwalks or other small fences so you have to go the long way round. Furthermore, something that really perplexed me was that you can’t pick up enemy weapons, just their ammo. Oh well.
The mayor of Wellsprings seems like a shifty chap. Never trust a man with a monocle...

Other than those things, Rage is looking and playing mighty fine. The sign of a satisfying preview is once you’ve finished playing it, you’re cursing the fact you have to wait before you can play it again - Rage most definitely has that. It’s definitely my tip for best FPS of 2011 even ahead of the great behemoths of BF3 and MW3, which are so popular they only need abbreviations. We’ll find out if Rage will become as ubiquitous with the FPS genre as Doom and Quake this October on PC, 360, and PS3. I’m betting it will.

Most Anticipated Feature: Trying out that excellent crossbow, as I didn’t get a go with it. Dammit.

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By nocutius (SI Elite) on Aug 02, 2011
Another game that will require me to buy a new gfx (to play on high settings). The list is slowly getting long enough to justify the expense.
By bosnian_dragon (SI Core) on Aug 03, 2011
I have to agree on that Nocutius.
By unsilviu (SI Core) on Aug 03, 2011
My new GPU literally arrives in 10 minutes(hd 6850 replacing 8600gs :P)... I'm positively tingling with excitement!