The Delight is in the Details: ID Software's Rage

Rage. It may not look like much, but wait until you see it in action
This years E3 is just around the corner (look for my coverage next week) but the usual E3 hype has already begun with developer after developer dropping teasers, hints and in some cases just jumping the gun early and putting whole five-to-ten minute presentations out on the web. In sifting through all these inevitable teasers I recently got a wonderful surprise in the form of a game that until this point I'd only been looking at with mild curiosity: ID software's Rage.

Every year at E3 we see the usual run of FPS games, which fueled by the markets constant consumption, seem to grow in number every year. Unsurprisingly as a result, I find it hard for myself to get excited for a lot of these new titles. Already before E3 I've seen trailers for X-COM (looks unimaginative), Modern Warfare 3 (looks just as poorly made as the last one), Resistance 3 (can they tie together that story at all), Fear 3 (Just...can't raise...excitement), a new Aliens game (after the last one why be excited)...even most of the rumored shooters fail to grab any real feeling from me (a Halo remake already).

Don't get me wrong, I'm interested to look at Battlefield 3 (primarily because it's trying to deliver the game Modern Warfare shot in the back 6 releases ago) and Prey 2 has an interesting concept (albeit one that we've yet to see any gameplay for) but up until yesterday I found myself completely bored by most of the trailers coming out of the pre-E3 hype. Then I saw the new trailer for Rage.

We've seen them before...
I'm not going to lie, on the surface Rage looks like any other post-apocalyptic FPS/Adventure game. Wake up years after a global calamity on a primarily desert world that bears a striking resemblance to Pandora from Borderlands? Check. Fight against mutant bandits who travel around in packs looking for trouble, sometimes with gun-toting dirt buggy's? Check. Mysterious and heavily armed paramilitary group? Check. Yeah, it all sounds fairly standard.

However, once I saw the new seven minute gameplay trailer that ID released this week I realized that there was much more to Rage then the initial teaser videos and screenshots had made me believe. Hidden behind the occasionally bland graphics (post apocalypse brown again) and seen-before concepts is a wealth of gameplay that puts Rage far above any other shooter I've seen in recent memory.

Hello Pnador--Fallou---Rage! Yes, we've seen this before, but Rage does it better.
Take for example the AI. AI is one area where modern games have been (for the most part) severely lacking. One of the casualties of the search for "bigger better graphics" has been the modern enemy AI, which these days amounts to "shoot-at-player/run-straight-at-player-while-shooting/hide-behind-object-then-stand-and-shoot." These AI's are boring (also very easy to code and shoot, part of the reason many people like them). Rage's AI on the other hand, acts smart. They duck back into cover and move if you're shooting at them. They duck and roll to throw off your aim. They even will (as shown in the trailer) dodge thrown knives, leaping around at a dead run to keep your bullets from finding their mark.

Rage also showed some other nice gameplay touches. I appreciated the fact that each time the player switched specialty ammo he was required to unload and reload his weapon. I enjoyed the clever weaponry, ranging from classics such as the electrobolt (which electrifies water bound enemies nicely) to new weapons such as the MindBolt, a remote detonated explosive that takes control of the body you fire it into, allowing you to launch them at their allies before detonating the explosive. The spread of options available seemed fairly wide, both in level layout (praiseworthy with lots of cover and neat set elements that are usable, not just pretty) and in player options (so far we've been shown both a stationary turret the player can deploy as well as a four-legged spider bot, complete with gun, which will crawl up walls and over cover to get at your opponents).
Better Ragdoll and body physics make combat far more real.

Even the ragdoll and character models are one step past other games. We're all familiar with the ragdoll physics of a limp opponent, but Rage takes thinks one step further with more believable body and bullet physics. At several points on the trailer we see impressive realistic responses to injury, such as one scene where the player shoots a rushing bandit in the arm with his pistol. The bandits arm snaps back as his weapon flies out of his hands, and as the bandit stumbles in pain, the player shoots him in the leg, causing the bandit to stumble to the ground. There was a lot of this in the trailer, with enemies clutching weak limbs and crawling for cover or having their weapons shot out of their hands. We've seen similar stuff before, but never in anything this fast paced or new.

Overall, despite the tired story and setting, Rage has placed itself on the top of my radar by showing off something few other games do these days: new gameplay. There are enough wrinkles and innovations brought together in what they've shown here that for once I'm genuinely excited to see more of Rage. As this years E3 winds up with promise of a lot of talk and hype, I can at least come away feeling satisfied in the FPS department by ID's newest step towards keeping shooters fun. It couldn't have come from a more fitting company.

Here's to a successful E3, with plenty of Rage to go around. See you on Monday!


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