Rage has been in development for a long time and is nearly ready for release, but is the PC, PS3 and Xbox shooter worth the hype?
T3 has been salivating about Rage, the upcoming post-apocalyptic shooter from Doom and Quake developer id Software, since it was first shown as a tech demo at Apple’s WWDC in 2007. A handful of E3 showcases later, not to forget the teasing iOS Rage HD that pushed the iPad to its limits, and we were very excited indeed. Now, 15 years since id Software’s last new IP and two months ahead of its international release, T3 has had its hands all over it. Well, the first two hours of the Xbox 360 version at least. And it really is very good indeed.
First impressions First things first: if you’ve played Gearbox’s post-apocalyptic 2009 shooter Borderlands, this is very familiar territory. You wander around dusty, forgotten terrains called things like ‘The Wasteland’ popping mutants with an array of increasingly powerful weapons. You do errands for dodgy-looking types to build up your desert buggy, which you throw around the dirt tracks like a not-as-good-as-MotorStorm sub-game. Areas of activity are conveniently cordoned off so said buggy can’t progress and you have to infiltrate on foot. And only once you’ve completed a set of errands can you advance to the next settlement, and so on. Indeed, the beginning is so similar, you could be forgiven for thinking this is how Borderlands would have turned out if it hadn’t had the drastic last-minute, post-Fallout 3 art change that altered it from a gritty and grubby also-ran to gut-busting comic-book daydream.
That’s not to say that Rage is free of humour – John Goodman’s weary baritone is instantly comical, and there are some sly head nods to previous id Software and publisher Bethesda’s games (a Doom mug here, a Fallout Pip Boy there) – it’s just that this is a more serious take on the typical dust bowl shooter. Action is frantic at times, as you’d expect from anyone responsible for Doom, and the mutants less sympathetic, more homicidal maniacs. They take to the walls and ceilings like they’ve just escaped from that cave in The Descent, your weapons initially so poor that you come close to death before you’ve even really begun. T3 initially thought it was a bit rubbish as usual, but it turned out to be a necessary part of the tutorial. We think.
The bigger picture But then it clicks. You upgrade your pistol with an eyepiece and suddenly you can target properly, so the constant need to ransack mutant forts becomes less heart damaging. You collect some wire and some cogs and suddenly you can fashion together a lock opener, among other paraphernalia that can be made by your fair hands on the fly. You hit your first boss-like battle, as a lunatic in a machine gun-rocking car tries to cut you down to size in a post-apocalyptic Kwik Fit garage, you switching between shotgun blasts and long range shots as mutant tyre-fitters intermittently leap in front of your sights. You get a boomerang with blades on that you administer with a flick of the right shoulder button. And that’s even before you’re sniper-rifled up…
Just as we kick into the ‘I could play this all weekend’ part of the demo, T3 gets to Wellspring, Rage’s first main dwelling and reminiscent of Fallout 3’s Megaton if it was inside and didn’t have an enormous bomb in the middle of it. You meet the mayor, you have proper conversations that aren’t about fetching supplies, you get new clothes (choose a character type), you sign up for finding missing people from job boards, and start getting your speedway licenses, which lets you add weapons to your buggy, from mini-guns to rockets. And then our demo ends, and we instantly want more.
The sum of its parts... Like a very grubby evening spent between Borderlands, Fallout 3 and Doom, Rage is quite gloriously the sum of its parts, making an instant impact as a shooter with depth rather than an RPG with guns stuck on, and it promises so much more. With id developers reckoning that it takes their own staffers 20 hours to complete, you’re looking at a 30-hour game for most simpletons, and we could tell we’d barely scratched the surface. For some, familiarity may breed contempt, and Rage is undeniably very familiar in places. But what’s important is while the setting can feel a bit done, the action never does. Sure, these post-apocalyptic shooters really need a new lexicon – as well as Wastelands, there’s so much recycled metaphorical terminology knocking around (if there’s not a Vault, there’s an Ark). But no one does real close-quarters combat like id Software, and no amount of VATS or ever-regenerating weaponry experienced elsewhere can change that.
Video: id Software talk about the enemies in Rage:
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