“RAGE” is not “Borderlands.” It might look like Gearbox’s FPS/RPG in screenshots and gameplay video, but the two are extremely different games. They might both have dusty, Wild West settings, dune buggies and crazed bandits wielding sharpened implements of death. They might even both be FPS games. But the core gameplay is very, very different. After all, “RAGE” is an id Software game, and that brings with it certain expectations.
EXPECTATION #1: id Software Games Are Shoot First, Ask Questions Later
Even though you take on quests to earn cash, “RAGE” is not an RPG. It’s a shooter at its core. While there’s an open world feel when you’re exploring the badlands of the game, the moment you enter a mission zone, the game transforms into a corridor shooter. You may not be in a literal corridor, but the concept is still the same. You’re running from point A to point B and killing everything in between. There are other things to do in “RAGE,” but the primary focus is on this corridor shooter gameplay. “DOOM” fans will feel right at home.
The shooter gameplay feels excellent, as it should. The guns all pack a punch, amplified by some great animations from the enemies you shoot. They’ll grab where they’re shot, tumble to the ground and attempt to fire back with a pistol, for example. A shotgun fired up close will result in a instant flying corpse. To add to the depth, guns can be equipped with different ammo types. You can also activate sub-weapons like the wingstick, which is like a decapitating boomerang, or a remote controlled, exploding car.
EXPECTATION #2: id Software Games Look Really, Really Good
Since id Software designed the engine (id Tech 5) that runs “RAGE,” they’re obviously the company that would know the best way to implement it. That experience shines through every vista and on the face of every gorgeously-animated character you meet (including the very first one, voiced by John Goodman). It’s a very pretty world to look at from afar, even when you’re getting hacked to pieces by raiders.
I should note here that I was left with some concerns over the 360 version of the game that I hope will be rectified by launch. My hour-long hands-on session was peppered with some pretty harsh-looking textures and texture pop-in. From far away, the game looks amazing, but if you were to, say, walk up to a sign and try to read it, you’d find that it’s not much more than a blurry mess. Or, if you were to spin your character around 180 degrees, you might see the textures take a second to pop to a higher texture quality.
The game was initially planned for release in September, so I’m hoping the delay will help with these texture issues. Presently it’s the only thing keeping “RAGE” from being one of the best-looking console games I’ve ever seen. (I should note that I wasn’t able to test it on PC, which is likely to fare much better, depending on system specs.)
EXPECTATION #3: id Software Games Don’t Have A Soul
This last expectation could be argued, but there’s a distinct lack of humanity in id Software games. And no, I don’t mean that there are a lot of demons. The developer’s stories and characters tend to be devoid of charm, of wit. They make amazing shooters, but telling a memorable tale? That’s always been a problem for them.
Perhaps working under the same umbrella as some of the best video game storytellers in the world has changed things, as the world of “RAGE” is a world I want to dig into. The people you meet feel real, have distinct personalities and aren’t merely conduits for scripted dialog. I want to help this woman find out what happened to her son. I want to save this area from bandits. While the primary goal in “RAGE” might be blowing the heads off crazies, the reason you’re doing it is just as important. “RAGE” is the first id Software game I’ve ever played that has a soul.
I don’t want to mislead you. “RAGE” is still an id Software game. Guns are still the most important thing. But this feels like a more mature id Software. An id Software that has more of a story to tell than just an amazing headshot. Of course this is only after the first hour. What the rest of the game has in store will have to wait until October.