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Preview: RAGE

id's new FPS. Read all about it here.

A couple of years ago, id Software began developing RAGE – a FPS with big ambitions. At the time, id were working under the control of EA. They have since been acquired by Zeni Max Entertainment – who also regained the rights to RAGE and subsequently announced that Bethesda will handle the publishing duties – and the game looks like it could become one of 2011’s biggest titles.

RAGE is set in a post-apocalyptic futuristic period where water is tainted, the landscape baron, towns look make-shift and dangerous clans and mutants share what’s left with settlers and resistance fighters, all capped off with a dangerous and mysterious force known as ‘The Authority’ playing the top dog. You play a survivor from an ‘Ark’ – a chamber buried deep within the earth in an effort to preserve the human race from the Asteroid that has since destroyed life as you knew it.

It is an FPS and, yes, it is set in a post-apocalyptic world, so you’ll be forgiven for likening it to something like Fallout, or even Borderlands, but you should know that RAGE looks like it will be more than able to stand on its own among those massive titles.

Running at 60fps, RAGE has the potential to become the Xbox 360’s best-looking title and may even sit up there with Uncharted on the PS3 (from what I’ve seen). This is in no way an over-exaggeration on my part. The textures, lighting and environments are stunning and it’s clear that the game’s engine, id Tech 5, is providing the developers with a platform that can keep up with their ideas and ambitions. From the rocky red cliffs and canyons of the surface to the damp dark sewers below, you will be taken through beautifully-crafted locations that really do feel ‘real’ and genuine. Whilst they may not be the most original environments for a game, they are finished off with a level of detail that makes them feel revitalised and fresh.

The game will be split into two main areas; the one that we were shown is called Wellspring. Built over and around a water source (hence the name), Wellspring is a large town with bars, shops, garages and even a speedway race course, which is easily recognisable by a huge Gorilla statue guarding its entrance. All of these offer you the ability to change and adapt your game.

As an Ark survivor you will automatically enter the game wearing an ‘Ark Suit’. Whilst this sounds quite cool, wearing an Ark Suit in the wastelands is a bad idea as you will draw the wrong kind of attention to yourself. So, this is where the Outfitters come in handy. Change your clothes and blend in with the crowd – The Authority offer huge rewards for survivors of the Ark Project.

The speedway race course will also allow you to race and hone your driving skills, which will come in handy as vehicles will be present throughout the game, offering a break from the FPS side of things. You’ll start out with a buggy and it will be with you throughout and, yes, it’s armed. You’ll find yourself racing across the deserts and rocky terrain, all the while shooting your foes and battling on four wheels. The handling appears good and more and more vehicle options will become available as you progress.

With WellSpring sitting on a valuable and rare, clean water source, it’s not surprising that the first piece of action we were shown was based around a hostile clan trying to sabotage the well. After being called to the Sherriff’s office you will descend into the sewers to save the day.

The hostile clans will change from area to area and if, you‘re observant, you’ll be able to tell which clan is which based on markings and decorations. On this particular occasion the clan in question was the ‘Ghost Clan’. Bald, toothy, agile and lightly armoured, the Ghost Clan definitely appeared to have numbers on their side. But play it safe and clever and you can outsmart them.

For a damp, water-logged environment such as a sewer, what better than electricity to defeat your foes with? How about a huge crossbow with electrically-charged tips? Yeah, we thought you’d like that. Sneak around unnoticed and you’ll soon get used to combining water with electricity.

The weapons in RAGE are another of the game’s major features. As mentioned above, you’ll have a massive crossbow at your disposal with different ammunition available such as the electro-bolts and steel-tipped bolts. Also in your arsenal will be the tried and tested shotgun and pistol. All sound and look great and there is a real sense of weight and power behind them, too. You will also wield something called a ‘Wing-stick’ – an elaborate kind of throwing star which will inflict a lot of damage on your opponents. The Crossbow is one of the larger weapons that id call ‘Ragey weapons’. These are big, loud and brutal. No further details were given about what else we can expect but they did say that The Authority uses more sci-fi style weapons.

As well as your typical guns, RAGE will offer you the chance to utilise secondary technology such as Turrets and Remote-Controlled Car Bombs. There is no mystery there; they do exactly what you think. Place the car on the floor and you’ll be given control, drive into a room full of enemies, detonate and wait for the dust to settle before gazing upon the carnage. As well as stationary Turrets you will also have four-legged sentries which will move around and fire at anything that moves. These mobile sentries will be familiar to fans of Doom 3; this is where their origins lie.

But it isn’t all about things that fire and explode. Items such as ‘Lock Grinders’ will also play a part in how your game will unravel. Again, there is nothing mysterious in this name, but if you don’t have these with you, or you haven’t created them, you will not be able to access certain areas. Collect and salvage parts in order to follow ‘recipes’ and create these items that will aid you in unlocking sections of further game play.

Another element to the game comes in the form of Nanobot technology. As a futuristic character from the past, visiting a less-than futuristic future (hurts your head a little, doesn’t it?), you will have nano technology in-built as part of the Ark project. Nanotrites are what will resuscitate you when you die and glimpses of the technologically-advanced past will be visible in the form of computers in various locations. The Authority will also possess some of this advanced tech, which may be one of the reasons why they reign supreme.

All-in-all, RAGE is looking like a substantial RPG/FPS that will more than likely become another favourite among gamers. I asked RAGE’s creative director, Tim Willits, what will set it apart from Fallout or Borderlands apart from its graphical edge and he replied with: “the fun factor”. It isn’t taking itself too seriously but it will also be providing an in-depth experience. With features such as a game show enabling you to become a contestant and win prizes and money, the game gives you the freedom to take your time and experience everything without any time restraints.

The menus and in-game HUD are simple, effective and unobtrusive, complimenting the overall game design. Sound and music is also crisp, loud and very effective. Guns sound impressive, ambient sounds and music are superb and you will even get the odd burst of western-style soundtrack.

All of these features will remain the same on all versions of the game, whether you’re playing on the Xbox 360 or the PS3. The game is currently running off of four platforms using exactly the same asset material. If you’re wondering, the other two platforms are PC and Mac. They did state that currently, and I stress the word ‘currently’, the game is more stable on the PS3. It was being shown on the Xbox 360 and there didn’t seem to be any problems whatsoever.

The only difference between the different console versions of the game is that those who purchase it on the 360 will have two disks. This shouldn’t pose any problem, however, as Tim did explain that a major story change will call for disk 2 and that there should be no reason for you wanting to go back after taking that step.

I was also able to quiz Tim on their DLC plans for the game as it is provides a perfect platform for follow-up material. At this stage of the development they had no concrete plans but DLC is definitely on their agenda. Multiplayer is also high on their agenda with online MP and Co-Op play being built into the game.

Finally, for those wondering about the game’s name, use capitals. It’s RAGE. It’s bold, it’s brash and id are hoping for it to sit among Quake and Doom in gamer’s affections.

RAGE is due out in 2011. Developed by id Software, Published by Bethesda.

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