Rage preview: 3 hours of bandit blasting, weapon crafting and buggy bouncing
Rage, the first major project id Software has undertaken since 2004’s Doom 3, is out very soon, and PS3 Attitude has been getting hands-on with it.
We have spent just shy of three hours playing Rage, and during that time we sampled the opening sections and a mission approximately six hours in. We spent a lot of time bouncing buggies, blasting bandits and crafting weapons. It gave us a good feel for Rage’s gameplay, world and structure.
We won’t reveal anything Earth shattering, but we will explain some light details about the missions and story, so it’s best to stop reading now if you’re looking for a completely pure experience. We hope you won’t though.
Rage opens with a gorgeous cut-scene, which explains why the world has turned into a hellish wasteland. The gist is: on the 29 August 2029, an asteroid landed on Earth, destroying most life, except for small pockets of survivors. Rage’s protagonist survived because he was part of an underground Eden Project, living in a status pod on an Ark.
We take control of the character as he awakes from his pod in a damaged and malfunctioning Ark. We’re taken through a standard early-game tutorial, the kind you normally find in an FPS – “move the right stick to look around” and “press this button to interact with the machine” etc. We’re using an Xbox360, but it’s standard FPS controls.
After a moment confusing about where to go next, we leave the Ark and step into the scorching sun, blinding our sensitive eyes. It is clearly an excuse to show off id Tech 5’s impressive lighting capabilities, but it also lures us into a false sense of security. We give a small jump as a bandit comes out of nowhere to attack us.
Thankfully, an unknown source saves us by putting a bullet through the bandit’s head. We get up, look around and spot a rough looking guy holding a rifle and hanging by a buggy. The guy is called Jack Hager, and we learn that he has freed us from the pod. He’s pretty rude, which annoys us (did he save us just to have a whinge?) but we get over it.
We get into his buggy and go for a drive. He tells us that he is risking his life by saving us. We pass some bandits along the way, but manage to avoid a confrontation, but it’s clear the wasteland is a fractured place, where different groups are fighting for control and confrontation can occur at any moment. We continue driving until we reach Hager’s luxurious home. It’s an abandoned petrol station, where he lives alongside other badland settlers.
We’re given a mission by Hager to enter a hostile bandit area to do some killing. In return, he’ll make sure we get some decent kit. He says that there is “something special” about Ark people We don’t know what that is yet, but we do know that our character’s body is packed with fancy nano technology.
The bandit area is quite far away, so we jump on an ATV. It handles surprisingly tight and we enjoy the kick the boost offers. Our first time using the boost, though, ends in an embarrassing crash. Our player goes hurtling over the handlebars and flying through the air. It’s pretty comical.
The Vehicles are a great addition because Rage’s maps are pretty big; they are a neat way to get from A-Z. There is also racing later in the game. We didn’t get to sample it during this preview session, but it looks promising.
We reach our destination after a short drive, roam inside and the first things we find is a dead body on the floor. The corse is in a mangled state but that doesn’t stop us from looting it to collect extra ammo. We look around the room and discover shiny objects around. It’s mostly junk, but we hoard it all anyway.
We stroll through a series of corridors until we come up against our first real enemy. The moment actually takes us by surprise and we get killed. It’s not our most glorious moment, it has to be said. The bandit came running at us furiously and landed a number of bludgeoning blows. Maybe we’ve become too accustomed to enemies hiding behind cover 15 feet away.
Our death at least gives us a chance to sample Rage’s unique death mini game. It asks you to line up a series of switches with the right and left stick before confirming using the shoulder buttons. You do this a few times before moving on to a second part, which expects you to press the triggers at the moment two arrows land on the right spots on a horizontal bar. The amount of health you have when revived is determined by how quickly and accurately you perform. Also, as an added bonus, the guy who killed you gets electrocuted (if near). He did deserved it.
We were clearly not supposed to have sampled the mini game at that point, because the next stage sees us being ushered into a set-piece moment that leads to our death. It’s not an issue; we’re happy to test the mini game again anyway, and we’re pleasantly surprised by how intuitive it is already feeling. This basically leads us to the end of the level.
We head back to Hager’s compound to inform him of our spectacular work. However, the base was attacked while we were away so our welcome is less than rapturous. We’re given our kit and asked to do another favour. The nurse needs more supplies to helped the injured. We’re sent, with a note, to a nearby village to collect the supplies.
We speak to one girl at the camp first, though. She is hosting a wingstick challenge, which basically asks us to throw a boomerang styled weapon at some targets. We pass with flying colours meaning we can now buy wingsticks from the shop. We head down to the shop and buy a few and sell off some of the junk we’ve acquired. Thoughts of Fallout 3 are creeping into our head. It seems, just like in that game, our junk is worth something.
We are now half-an-hour into our session and we feel as though we’re only just getting started.
We head off to the next camp and we’re greeted with a less than pleasant reception by a guy at the bottom. Apparently strangers like our guy aren’t welcome. We head up the ladders anyway in search of the person Hager asked us to find. When we find her, she asks us to complete a favour she will give us the supplies. We are asked to track down a missing person called Juno. We have the option to say no, but we suspect we won’t get very far if we don’t. We’re happy enough to get our hands dirty anyway.
As we try to leave, another guy stops us to ask favour as well. The radio tower near this village has apparently went down, and he wants us to investigate. He says he’ll give us a shotgun if we do it. It’s starting to become clear that the mission structure will all be quest-based.
We decide to head over to the radio tower first, partly because it is close and partly because we have no idea where this Juno person could be. We head across the road and walk through a series of linear passageways until we head inside the radio tower building. We run into some hostility inside. It’s our first chance to sample the shooting over a prolonged period. Thankfully, we’re showing much more style than we did earlier.
The shooting is fantastic and clearly Rage’s strongest attribute. The guns feel nice and punchy and have just the right amount of recoil, and they sound devastating too. It also features some decent hit detection animations. Land a bullet in a bandit’s leg and he will react as thought he’s been shot in the leg. The same applies with all body parts. Sure, they will stand up to many more bullets than any human actual will, but it still adds a great sense of physicality to the action.
The enemies are proving to be a satisfying foe too. Many of them won’t stay static or hide in cover 10 feet away, instead they are mobile; they came at us quickly, grasp on to poles on the ceiling and flip themselves over. They are moving targets and they’re hard to catch.
We discover a scope attachment next, which we use to upgrade our pistol. It significantly helps our aiming. We continue though the level, using our scope to land head shot after head shot until they are all dead. This mission was considerably longer and more satisfying than the last one; however, we still can’t but feeling restricted, as though the game has yet to free us from its shackles.
We reactivate the radio tower and then handily discover Juno, killing two birds with one stone. Not literally, of course. We then head back to the camp to claim our rewards. We receive a shotgun and our supplies. The supplies are given to us in raw form along with an engineering list.
Rage has a crafting system, which allows you to combine your raw materials to make other items and weapons. In this instance we combine cloth rags with an anti-septic formula to create bandages. It’s a nice system, which should add new layers to the game as we progress. Later in our session, we combined various items to create a lock grinder. This allowed us to get to previously unreachable areas. You won’t find key items in these areas, but you will find valuable weapons and ammo.
We head back to Hager’s camp to offer the bandages to the nurse. Our reward this time is our very own buggy. It’s a broken buggy though, and Johann, the mechanic onsite, doesn’t have the spare parts to fix it because they were stolen by bandits. This, as we’re sure you have already guessed, leads us into our next mission: retrieve the buggy parts.
The mission takes us deep into bandit territory, and we spend the next twenty-plus minutes firing our way through bandit after bandit. It’s very linear but we don’t mind; we’re really enjoy the feel of the game so far, so we’re more than happy to stick with it.
We’re now starting to experiment a little with different weapons; the grenades especially useful for causing a mess. However, it’s the wingsticks that we’re most fond of. They can take a bandit’s head clean off. It’s very similar to the boomerang used by the Feral Kid in the Road Warrior.
It’s not the only thing taken from that movie. It’s clear Mad Max’s world is Rage’s primary influence. It can be seen in the way the wastelands look, in the lawless dog-eat-dog nature of the badlands and even in the crazy punkish outfits worn by the bandits. We just hope that the car sections in the game can even come close to living up to the ones in the movie.
We’ve now worked our way through the bandit base and collected most of the car parts. A lot of bandit are dead, but we don’t feel much remorse. The mission ends with our first real mini-boss/set-piece moment. We’re facing up against a brute, wielding a turret on an armoured car. He is ably supported by bandits on the ground.
We tuck in behind cover while he fires and jump out to do some damage while he reloads. This continues for a minute or two until his health meter runs down to zero. In truth, it’s not the best moment in the game so far. It feels forced and cliched. Hopefully the rest of the boss battles are better.
Afterwards, we collect our final buggy part and head back to Hager’s base. We give the parts to Johann, who uses them to fix the buggy. We then spend the next five minutes driving around the wasteland, jumping over ramps and generally being a bit silly. We can’t head too far out of reach because we’ll get shot to death by some heavily armed goons.
We leave our game for now and jump to a section six hours in. We’re not sure what happened in the last few hours, but we know The Authority has arrived on the scene, and we know we need to rescue someone from the Authority Prison.
We are now much better equipped than we had been previously. In our inventory we find a rocket launcher, sniper and assault rifles, a striker crossbow and a heavy-duty assault rifle. We also have more gizmos, including an RC car bomb, an EMP grenade and some spider turrets and regular turrets.
We also have new ammo for some of our weapons, such as fatboy rounds for our pistol. The fatboys kill with one shot so they are very useful, but our favourite ammo belongs to the crossbow. The crossbow boasts lighting and mind control arrows, and the latter kind is very pleasing. The mind control arrows do just as they say; they allow you to take control of an enemy’s head . Once in control, you can then direct them towards other enemies before making them explode. Nice.
We’re finding the EMP grenades to be the most useful piece of equipment for this level though. The Authority soldiers are equipped with electric shields that leave little room for you to aim at. The best way to defeat them is to either disable those shields by using an EMP grenade or to distract them; the various turrets are very good for drawing enemy attention. It’s smart game design that encourages smart tactical thinking.
We are also now coming across some light puzzle sections. Some of the doors are blocked by lasers, and we need to find their main terminals and deactivate them by using an EMP grenade. The terminals are sometimes hidden in awkward areas, so it’s not always completely straightforward. Our supply of EMP grenades is starting to run short so we craft some more.
We play Rage for a bit longer, rescue the guy and kill plenty of soldiers, until our time comes to an end.
Our enthusiasm was slightly waning by the end of the first section. It was maybe a little too linear for our liking and it felt like the reigns were still on. We are delighted therefore that we managed to sample the Authority Prison level, because it reassured us that it will pick up speed.
We see a lot of potential in the crafting system and also in the mission structure, if it loosens up. Racing should also provide a fresh new gameplay twist once it becomes available.
It is clearly a very solid FPS, but it’s impossible to judge at this stage how successful it will be. It could go either way, but we’re confident id has enough up its sleeve to make this work. They did, after all, invent the genre. They know their stuff and we can’t wait to sample their finished product.
We’ll be back soon to give our final verdict.