What's So Special About Rage

There are people who are excited about Rage, the next game from id Software, makers of Doom. And there are people who say they don't get it. It's a first-person shooter. With car combat. What are these people missing?

"There's nothing that we're doing besides technology that really hasn't been done before," Rage creative director Tim Willits told me during a recent interview in Dallas.

That should have been a jaw-dropper. The rules of Game Hyping 101 mandate a game developer profess that their game does something new, that it twists gameplay this way and that. When a new game isn't inventing, it must surely be re-inventing something.

Nope. Rage is amazing technology and a simple game design. It is id's new technology drawing possibly the most detailed graphics yet seen on PC, PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360. It is also a wasteland action game with elements you can imagine: first-person corridor shooting, dune buggy races, car combat in desert canyons, towns like the already-shown Wellspring full of mission-givers and mini-games. People testing the game tend to use a lot of the boomerang-like Wingstick, Willits told me.

On paper, this is one plain game. In execution - like when id ran the game on three big screens, one for each platform, live at QuakeCon 2010 in Dallas - it makes fans of Doom and Quake roar. Willits has no gameplay secret he is withholding. Nope. The greatness of Rage would be, he says, in its pieces and in its glue. "It's the implementation of how it all fits together," Willits said. "The technology allows us to do more and have more diversity than you find in other games."

Even Willits' claim that Rage lets the developers do "more" doesn't lead to the normal game hype, nor even to the normal new-game reality of seeing hordes of enemies on a screen that five years ago would have shown a handful. "More," Willits says, is "diversity of gameplay from the races, to Wasteland combat, to mini-games, to the Authority, to Mutants, to Bash TV [Editor's note: we previewed Bash TV last year] . I mean, our goal with Rage is, when people spend their $US60, for people to say, 'You know what, I got $US60 worth of game. This thing's fun. This thing's awesome.' And we're not talking about our multiplayer, but it definitely has a cool over the top Rage feel to it. So, you're right, more is not 'more particles' it's not 'more enemies', it's gameplay and all the stuff you do in the world."

When Rage was demoed at QuakeCon it exhibited a lot of that diversity. Its dense cities looked different than its deserts. Its combat looked variously open to gunning head-first or setting up turrets to do the damage, using your fists or rolling a radio-controlled bomb car to do your violence for you. Enemies looked different and - we'll have to trust the designers on this one for now - supposedly think and fight very differently. In our interview, Willits showed me cards that had drawings of four of the game's four main enemy factions. "The Shrouded clan fight much differently than the Scorchers do, or the Waste or the Ghost," he said. "In other games you basically say, 'Okay, these are the humans, they all fight the same.' We've really made an effort that if an area looks different, if we've given you something new to play with, then the guys better be different."

For all that detail, we literally only know the half of it. Rage will have two halves. All of which has been shown - from desert to dam to a ruined skyscraper city - are all from the game's first half.

"The second part of the game - we call it Wasteland 2 for lack of a better term - does have a much different look to it," Willits said. "The main town doesn't have any western feel to it like Wellsping does. You finally have a chance to face the Authority. The artists have been working on that over the past few weeks and it looks totally cool."

All of this game running on id's beast of a new graphics engine will be available for gamers in 13 months. During QuakeCon, though, that three-screen, three-platform demo did produce the standard concerns that the versions of the game would differ. Visually, it allayed that fear. All three versions looked impressive. Loading times, which seemed to be an issue for the PS3 build during the presentation, are due to some fiddling with sound files, Willits said, and will be remedied. And what of the prospect of the Xbox 360 version needing multiple discs? "The single-player campaign is going to be on two disc," Willits said of that Xbox 360 version. "You'll play through the first one. There's a logical part where, now I'm moving on to the second chapter. When you switch the disc there's no reason to ever put disc one back in. And if you're playing on the PC or PS3 you're never gong to go back anyways, so you don't get an advantage."

Id doesn't want to get too bogged down in tech talk. At QuakeCon, Willits and even uber-programmer John Carmack protested that id is not strictly the technology company people say they are. They can be creative. They can nail aesthetics, action and adventure.

Rage may prove to be special, maybe not in terms of gameplay, but in terms of a game that can satisfyingly transform the reputation of id Software, giving players a better wheel, if not a re-invented one.


Comments

    "John Carmack protested that id is not strictly the technology company people say they are. They can be creative. They can nail aesthetics, action and adventure."

    What a load of crap! id has and always will be just a great engine tech company. They have never made any games that had great gameplay.

    I am curious about Rage though as that game won heaps of "Game of Show" awards at E3.
    The only thing that I saw original in that game was how one of the clans that has the parkour ability and takes advantage of the surrounding environment by jumping, ducking and sliding around the place.
    Everything else I've seen before in previous games.
    Heck! Even the mutants have the same bloody faces! With such an advanced engine surely it's not that hard to give each mutant a different face! Even Rare managed to give the Commies in Goldeneye 007 a pallet of different faces! (BTW Happy 13th Birthday for tomorrow Goldeneye 007!)

    Ok that's enough rant for the morning...

      "id has and always will be just a great engine tech company. They have never made any games that had great gameplay."

      Now THAT is a load of crap. Doom? Quake 2? Quake 3?

      Quake 2 is one of the most memorable games from my childhood, as is Doom, and not just because of the graphics. The single player campaigns were fun and atmospheric.

      Regarding Quake 3, even though I was never really a fan, even I have to admit that they absolutely nailed the gameplay. No other first person shooter emphasises skill as much as this game.

        And here are my reasons:

        Doom - I played up to Episode 4 and got really bored. It was basically going from Point A to Point B shooting the same old aliens. Yawn. Never bothered finishing the game.

        Quake II - one of id's better games but it was a few years too late in originality. There were a few PC games that had similar gameplay (sorry can't remember them ATM) as well as Goldeneye 007 on the N64.

        Quake III Arena - id must have grown a few more brain cells as they finally figured out their singleplayer games weren't on par with other games such as Duke Nukem, Goldeneye and Unreal hence they made a multiplayer only game.
        QIIIA was a good game but not GREAT compared to the likes of Unreal Tournament and that came out earlier!

        id was a leader in technology but a follower in gameplay.

    It will be interesting, when Halo was announced it was ridiculed a bit for offering no single 'new' thing, but no title before had brought everything into a single game and balanced and honed it the way Bungie did with Halo. There is a chance that this will be similar in that it just gets everything right, and all in the one place.

    Someone should put together a bible of things that are just-not-right in FPS games, (like the aforementioned identical faces).

      Halo was another overrated game.
      However it did offer a "new " thing which was the seamless integration of vehicles and I agree with how they honed everything and did it just "right".
      Everything was well done except for the level design.
      I would have given it a 7/10 and not 9/10 like most publications.
      Halo 2 and 3 is a different story and I would given them 9/10 and 8.5/10 respectively.

      Ooh I like the idea about the things we don't like in a FPS.
      Dave, maybe you can put this in the next "Tell Us Dammit"? :-)

        The big thing about Halo was that it seemingly set the standard for FPS on consoles, and introduced mechanics (such as vehicles, regenerating health, 2 weapon inventory, focus on multi-player) that pretty much every other console FPS has copied.

        You could argue that Goldeneye on the n64 came first, but when you take off your rose-tinted glasses you'll notice that Goldeneye was flawed with bugs, the terrible n64 control scheme and was fairly featureless. (PS: I still love Goldeneye despite these flaws!)

          Halo 2 was the one that had regenerating health and a lot of games during that time did too. Not sure who was the first in implementing it though.

          I do agree that Halo 1 was probably the game that set the standard with 2 weapon inventory and of course vehicles.

          Oh and I liked Goldeneyes control. It was perfect for me.

        Halo 2 over Halo CE? Really? I'm a Halo fan and love them all like you would your children, but I always felt that Halo 1 wasn't all that inventive, but everything it did it did right. Even level design, I know there were a lot of repeating hallways and rooms, but looking past that there were some really cool moments in (forgive me if I don't get the names right) Assault on the control room, Truth and Reconciliation, The Maw, the whole level of Silent Cartographer I loved.

        I found the second game didn't improve on the first very much at all. I thought the levels felt much more linear. They probably actually weren't any more than the first one, but it felt like everything was scripted. Much prefer the first.

          The Silent Cartographer was the only great level I loved in Halo and that's because the design structure was similar to a lot of other great games.

          I had the do a bit of research for the names of other levels and to be honest they weren't that great. All been seen and done better elsewhere.

          I agree Halo 2 was more linear but it was well made. Each level lead to the other perfectly and you were constantly entertained.
          The only thing I hated, which are the obvious ones - Arbiter levels and stupid cliffhanger ending.

    This looks like Fallout (3) meets Quake with Cars.

    Looks like Borderlands without cell-shading

    I think this preview/interview is a little too glowing for something that is trying to show that the developers aren't trying to hype Rage. Seems like the author gave it all the hyping that any other developer would have.

    I don't mind the look of Rage, looks to be a solid and good game. However some of these comments, that are supposedly not hyping but being totally honest seem a little silly.

    "Diversity of gameplay"? All I have seen so far is walking around and shooting stuff, and driving around and shooting stuff. Sure there's races, but that's still just driving around. GTA4 had races, how many people actually did them? They really weren't that much fun. Minigames in games are also a dime a dozen, in fact as I already mentioned GTA4 had plenty of them, most of them pretty crappy. I like the concept of having lots of things to do in a game, side quests, ways to build your character's skills, ways to gain money or fame or new items.

    Some games do this well, I always found that there was plenty to do and explore in say Oblivion or Fallout. I will wait and see if Rage is one of these games, but I haven't seen anything yet that looks like it will be more than running/driving and gunning.

    So this is basically Borderlands?

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