Over the years, Doom and Quake have been the first-person shooter games that people associate with developer id Software. But the studio has shifted gears to work on Rage, its first all-new property since Quake and a postapocalyptic action game. We finally got the chance to see the game in motion, including the on-foot shooting gameplay, the behind-the-wheel driving, and the story and quest elements.
Rage takes place in an alternate future where the world is recovering from an asteroid hit. You play as the sole survivor of an "Ark," one of several subterranean structures outfitted for about a dozen inhabitants and built by the government to survive the calamity. Though not all of the story details have been made clear, id has revealed that because of his background, your character's body is full of wondrous nanotechnology that will let his body automatically heal itself from injuries over time, as well as defibrillate itself should you fall in battle.
Your character has emerged wearing an "Ark suit," the distinctive clothing that you and your comrades wear, which will also draw unwanted attention from a mysterious and powerful entity in the wasteland known as the Authority. You emerge from the Ark to find a world much different from the one described to you because more people have survived than the government anticipated--cagey, rugged survivors scraping out a living in the deserts of the wasteland and fighting off encroachments from desert bandit groups and armies of angry mutants. You come under fire from bandits the moment you step out into the sun, but you're rescued by a trader named Dan Hagar and pressed into service to help the local settlements conduct trade with Wellspring, the largest hub city in the wasteland.
We began our demonstration with an area that comes up fairly early on--about two hours or so--in the game. Things started with a ride in our four-wheel buggy, which was apparently supplied to us by Dan. After a quick drive through the wilderness, we discovered a shack off the beaten path inhabited by Crazy Joe, a rambling nutcase wearing stained clothes and an enlarged foam novelty hat in the shape of a floppy alien monster. Joe will be one of a number of eccentric characters that id hopes players will find memorable, along with Dan and the other characters that give you odd jobs (and end up at odds with). We took two steps outside Joe's shack and found an ugly mutant skulking on the hill so we dispatched it with a toss of a "wingstick," a player-crafted boomerang that swiftly and effectively knocked out the brute before returning home. Apparently, Rage will have items you can craft and automatically build once you have both the formula and the parts, though designer Matt Hooper explains that the game won't have a giant list of junk. Rather, there will be a handful of useful and powerful items that will come in handy throughout the entire game.
After our brief conversation, we hopped into our buggy to head to Wellspring, but we were sidetracked by bandits driving similar buggies and witnessed our first onboard battle. The car combat in Rage looks fast and brutal, and because the buggies were extremely nimble and could make very sharp turns, the battle we watched was less of a back-and-forth joust and more of a demolition-derby-style smashup. All buggies were equipped with nitrous to grant instant bursts of speed, as well as onboard machine guns that chewed each other up part by part, sending fenders and headlights (and at one point, one of the buggies) flying through clouds of dust.
We dispatched our foes and made our way to Wellspring--a neutral zone where guns aren't allowed--to visit key locations, such as item shops and the local watering hole where you can take bounties to slay bandits. Wellspring is the location of your personal car garage, which will grow over time as you recover or purchase new vehicles. All vehicles will have four basic statistics: acceleration, suspension, traction, and armor--but you can swap out more or less any major part of your car to enhance its performance. These include stickier tires, a faster engine, and many different types of weapons. The town is also the place to meet key characters, including the mayor, a crotchety old Teddy Roosevelt-esque codger; the sheriff, a lean, tough-talking codger; and the race track manager, who is less of a codger and more of a race jockey. These key contacts are meant to be memorably quirky, but they will also give you a variety of missions that are kept on file in your character's journal. The next mission we took was to hunt down a tribe of bandits to the north known as the Shrouded Clan that was terrorizing the area with remote control cars armed with C4 explosives.
We skipped ahead to the tribe's base of operations, an abandoned military base with a network of tiny tunnels for remote control cars. Fortunately, the sheriff will hand you the plans to craft these cars yourself, and you can send out a few of your own RC bombers to sniff out the gang's stockpile of explosives. Although most of the game is entirely seamless with no loading screens, there will be very brief loads as you transition across areas, such as into towns and missions, but fortunately, bandits won't steal your car while you're on foot.
The military base was full of twists and turns, as well as orange-hooded bandits who first sent out a small squadron of exploding cars before hopping over the railing and attacking us. Creative director Tim Willits suggests that different bandit clans will not only have different colors and signage to mark their territories, but they will also have different combat behavior. The Shrouded Clan, being holed up in a military base, has a more-organized approach and fights in groups and uses cover intelligently, which would have provided a stiff challenge for a single foot soldier armed with shotguns and pistols. But even the Shrouded Clan bandits had trouble when we reached into our inventory and pulled out crafted "engineering items." We had personal stationary turrets, which sprayed withering fire on any nearby enemies, as well as four-legged sentry bots that not only have mounted machine guns, but can also walk right up to enemies and smack them in the face with a melee attack. With the help of these aids, we took down the installation full of bandits, even the heavy-duty bandits in full body armor, which flew off in pieces with concentrated fire.
After eliminating the bandits, we skipped back to town to visit the track, where we competed for "racing certificates," which are notes that can be won through various race events and exchanged for vehicle upgrades. Among others, Rage will offer time trials, head-to-head races, and bandit-hunting car events. Fortunately, none of the damage your vehicle suffers in a racing event will be permanent or carry over outside of the track, so when you put the pedal to the metal, you can go all-out. We took part in a time-trial-with-bandits race that moved at a brisk pace on a desert track covered with power-up items to boost our ammo and nitrous levels, and we took first place in the race to walk away with the prize money.
We then skipped ahead to a later part of the game, where our goal was to acquire a more-powerful vehicle only accessible in sponsored races. In order to get into a sponsored race, we of course needed a sponsor, whom we found in J.K. Stiles, a fat-faced, grinning media mogul and head of "Mutant Bash TV." This station broadcasts a Running Man-esque TV series that pits contestants against four waves of angry mutants armed with clubs, throwing knives, and fire-flinging jai alai paddles. This challenge is done on foot and takes place in a colorful warehouse-turned-funhouse, with various environmental hazards, such as floor spikes and a gigantic, rotating, blade-armed gorilla (yes, really). The challenge culminated at the fourth wave with a gigantic mutant that had a harpoonlike tentacle for an arm, which we brought down with about a bushel of grenades and a few bushels of shotgun shells.
Rage looks like it'll have a lot to offer--a heavy-duty on-foot shooting experience with lots of variety; an extremely fast arcade-style racer and car combat game; a graphical showpiece that uses the megatexture feature of the idtech5 engine to virtually stream a huge variety of textures into the game with very few performance demands; a story-driven single-player experience; and a multiplayer experience...to be determined in the future. Id describes the single-player game as "open but directed"--a game that won't necessarily require you to complete every single mission immediately and gives you the freedom to wander while keeping you along the path to completing the story. We'd describe it as an action game worth following.