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id's Rage Out In 2011, Looking Fine On Console
by Brad Shoemaker on
Yeah, an id game looks really impressive. You must be shocked!
Even a year or more from release--id has shockingly broken its "when it's done" tradition by actually stating firmly that this is a 2011 game--Rage was running at a rock-solid 60 frames per second on the 360. That may not sound like a huge feat, since that buttery smooth performance level has come to define the fast and precise shooting of the Modern Warfare series and its imitators. In those games, Infinity Ward made a lot of smart decisions between visual fidelity and frame rate to keep the experience smooth, wisely prioritizing playability over graphical flash.
But Rage is really a damn fine-looking game. It's almost startling to see a game that looks this good running this smoothly on a console, when most developers instead seem to prioritize more visual effects with a target of 30 frames per second these days. Chalk it up to some of that old John Carmack magic if you like, but it's at least exciting to see a game hitting high levels of both image quality and performance on a console at the same time, to say nothing at all of the gameplay itself.
Content-wise, id designers Tim Willits and Matt Hooper weren't showing much new stuff; they were still focusing on the town of Wellspring that I wrote about at QuakeCon last year. But I did get a little firmer impression of Rage as an open-world first-person game that lets you roam around and pick up missions from quest givers in what looks like a fairly loose manner.
One mission began in the office of the town's well-keeper. In the asteroid-decimated, irradiated wasteland, clean drinking water is in short supply, so this guy was understandably peeved that a group of Ghost Clan bandits had broken into the underground waterworks and were holding the down hostage under threat of poisoning the supply. In id fashion, the mission consisted of simply heading through the tunnels below and eradicating the bad guys, who navigated the level geometry very acrobatically by vaulting over railings, jumping down from higher ledges, and so forth. id says these behaviors are all dynamic and will happen differently each time you play a mission, which will hopefully vary the action a bit.
This being an id game, don't expect a lot of wild, imaginative weaponry in your primary arsenal. There is in fact a shotgun in here, and a pistol, and a machine gun--and while I didn't see one in this demo, I would place good money on the presence of a rocket launcher. But id is at least giving you the chance to tweak out the existing weapons with different types of ammo. In that underground level, there was an electrified bolt available for the crossbow that, naturally, you could use to zap groups of bandits hanging out in puddles of water. Later on, I saw a heavy-duty round for the pistol called the fat boy that will effectively one-shot all but the heaviest of enemies.
It might sound esoteric to laud a game's user interface this far ahead of release (if at all), but I really appreciate a snappy, responsive UI in an action game, and Rage has one. The console-style pop-up menus for weapon and ammo selection animate really quickly and get out of your way as soon as you make your selection, and they have a stylized, computer-interface sort of look to them, as if they're being displayed on the inside of your retinas. Similarly, the red damage effect around the sides of your vision forms a sort of cross-hatch pattern that makes it obvious you're taking damage but doesn't obscure your field of vision (which some other shooters seem to do these days). Indeed, id says that these effects tie into the nature of your character as a survivor of the underground "Ark" program, and have some kind of story-related connection to internal nanomachines you received as a member of that effort.
All the demos id has shown of Rage so far have been tightly controlled enough that I need to get my hands on the game and roam around for myself to form a clearer picture of exactly what it is as a whole. But the disparate snippets I've seen have me hoping that this is id breaking out of its corridor-shooting comfort zone and taking a stab at something a little different. Looks like we're down to only around one more year before we can grab the final product and find out.
While you wait, check out what information Hooper was willing to divulge while speaking to me on, uh, a rotating love seat. Yeah, I don't know either.