Hands-onMobile Forces

We take Rage's upcoming shooter for a spin. New screenshots inside.

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We recently had a chance to play a preview version of Mobile Forces, Rage's upcoming first-person shooter that mixes vehicular action with squad- and team-based combat. Based on the current version of the Unreal engine, Mobile Forces allows for fluid transitions between the two contrasting styles of movement, much in the same way that Bungie's Halo does. Once again pitting the age-old red and blue teams against each other, Mobile Forces seems like a fairly straightforward multiplayer-oriented shooter, but it strives to do many things at once, do them well, and do them in ways that few games have done before.

Before starting a Mobile Forces match, you're presented with a variety of options that help define your role in the conflict. Instead of having a defined role, such as sniper or medic, you have a number of slots that you can fill with a custom set of equipment, and the type of equipment you choose defines the role you'll play in the sortie. Getting to an ammo crate at any time during the match will let you replenish equipment and ammunition and swap roles to best fit the situation.

The weapons available in the game are a knife, a pistol, a rifle similar to an M16 or Colt Commando, a double-barreled shotgun, a turret-mounted mobile minigun, a rocket launcher, and a sniper rifle. In addition, you can pick up hand grenades, deployable mines, body armor, and adrenaline shots. Nearly every weapon has primary and alternate firing modes, which gives each equipment set a variety of options. The knife can be thrown or used to stab. The right and left barrels of the shotgun can be fired independently, or together for additional stopping power. The rifle can be used in automatic fire mode or a zoomed-in semiautomatic mode. The minigun must be deployed in order to fire, much like the immobile gun emplacements in Activision's Return to Castle Wolfenstein. The adrenaline shot can be used to refill your health, or it can be used to give a health bonus to a friendly player in need. Mines and grenades can be chucked or dropped for short-range use, while the alternate mode lets you put a lot of strength into the throw for unbelievable long-range tosses.

The vehicular aspect of Mobile Forces is a crucial element of the gameplay, much like in Halo. In the version of the game we played, there are two vehicles available, the buggy and the humvee, and each supports a driver and additional passengers. When you're driving or riding shotgun, the game switches to a third-person perspective. Some fairly exciting maneuvers can be pulled off with the simple control scheme, including powerslides and quick 180-degree turns. The vehicle physics in Mobile Forces seem solid, and we tested them firsthand by jumping our buggies off ramps and over the walls of a defended fort. Attacking the vehicles with timed mines and rockets resulted in flaming vehicle wreckage flying every which way, scattering individual pieces of debris around the battlefield.

The map we played was set in a desert area, and it had a distinct Western theme to it, complete with barrels and Wild West facades. Every side in our game had a number of AI bots that assisted the single human player, and interestingly enough, their AI routines gave each of the bots defined roles that they followed surprisingly well. One of the bots, for instance, played a defender role and tagged along with one of the human players, waiting at the spawn point while he equipped himself and shadowing his every move. The AI-controlled bots were intelligent enough to hop into a vehicle if you drove by them slowly enough, and they would defend the objective once it was obtained.

Mobile Forces should be compatible with all the mods and variants that will arise with other upcoming games that use the latest Unreal engine. There are already a large variety of different play modes, including deathmatch, capture the flag, captains, and detonation. However, the game should have a considerably deep single-player mode to go along with its already solid multiplayer modes. Stay tuned, as we'll have more on Mobile Forces as we approach E3.

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