The worst has come to pass. Not aliens, not zombies, not an over reaching big brother government, an asteroid is coming and there's little we can do to prepare and nothing we can do to stop it. The year is 2029 and the human race is about to become an endangered species. Fortunately for you, you're one of the few selected to be part of the Ark program, a series of shelters with cryo chambers housing the best and brightest of humanity.
On the 23rd of August, the Asteroid strikes, taking with it the vast majority of the human civilization, but thanks to your frozen, underground state, you survive. You awake much later to find that your pod was the only functioning one; everyone else in your Ark is dead. You emerge from the husk of the previous civilization to find a new one has grown in its wake. A world of mutants and warring clans, defending their post-apocalyptic homes from one another and entertaining themselves with combative car races. This is the world of Rage and it's where you start your game as the nameless, and history-less protagonist.
The world of Rage is rendered with the id Tech 5 engine, the fifth in its line of development. When first announced - and still now, somewhat - the main draws of the engine were its ease of use for developers and the MegaTexture aspects. This latter feature allows for the use of very high resolution textures, up to 128,000 x 128,000 pixels, without impacting performance. This also helps with cross platform development as content doesn't need to be designed individually for each one. This should mean that the game will look pretty much identical on the Xbox 360 and PS3, with perhaps a few extra visual tweaks for the PC since it has more powerful internal hardware.
id Tech 5 also incorporates the usual modern standards for lighting and shadowing, including the use of shadow maps, HDR, bloom, volumetric lighting, radiosity, soft particles, pixel shader effects, post processing, dynamic water, physics based cloth simulation, motion blur and more. However, one aspect that is a welcome addition for PC gamers is the engine's support of multi-threading.
Current system requirement suggestions are:
Minimum System Requirements
· OS: Windows XP, Vista or Windows 7
· CPU: Core 2 Duo 2.4GHz or similar Athlon
· RAM: 2 GB
· HDD: 15 GB free disk space
· Graphics: 265 MB Graphics Memory
· Sound Card: DirectX 9 Compatible
· DirectX: Version 9
Recommended System Requirements
• OS: Windows XP, Vista or Windows 7
• CPU: Core i3-550 3.2GHz or similar
• RAM: 4 GB
• HDD: 15 GB free disk space
• Graphics: 512 MB Graphics Memory
• Sound Card: DirectX 9 Compatible
• DirectX: Version 9
Supported Graphics Cards:
Minimum - nVidia 8 series or above
Recommended - GeForce GTS 250 or Radeon HD 3870
While mind blowing when it was first shown off in 2007, the tech 5 engine is less awe inspiring in 2011, but it's still very pretty with some impressive vistas showcased so far. However with trailers of Rage showing the game in action, its actually the animations that seem most impressive now. Mutants move very realistically and with interesting tactical purpose. The smaller ones make their way over surrounding cars and scenery, as opposed to just spawning, entering the game area and then progressing towards the player character. While they do so, if you happen to wing them with a glancing snap shot, you should see the enemy react realistically; not just in typical ragdoll fashion, but with some consciousness. They might hold the wound or dive for cover to protect themselves. The key though is that all these animations can be interrupted, and they flow from one another allowing for what feels like a more solid combat experience.
One aspect of the game that was initially championed quite heavily - though later revealed not to be as predominant - is the racing side of things. Here, id Software have been influenced heavily by titles like Burnout and MotorStorm. Vehicular combat is commonplace during racing and driving sequences, meaning realistic damage models were necessary. It appears that there will be several destructible parts to its vehicle, allowing for bits to break off; though whether this is purely a visual effect, or one that will affect the car's performance is still anyone's guess.
Rage is a first person shooter first and foremost, with some racing elements thrown in. However, in a similar fashion to games like Bioshock, players will have a feel of RPG-like progression by unlocking new vehicles and weapons and from the character developing throughout the game. John Carmack and other developers have been keen to champion the use of the game's inventory system which allows players to customize their weapons. This will mostly be in the form of ammo choices, but there will also be upgrades and other tweaks that the player can augment their arsenal with.
However they're not the only part of the game that receives upgrades over time. Your vehicle can be improved with new parts, weapons and other items that you gain by completing races and missions, giving you the money to buy certain tweaks. Think pod racer, but grittier.
If that image makes you conjure up thoughts of Tatooine's dusty, desert surface, that's sort of what you have with much of the Rage wasteland. This large expanse of, arid gaming world is the space between levels and the free roam area that allows you to move around and experience the game of Rage in the order you want. While id Software have been keen to put out there that there is a somewhat linear (as they would call it, "cinematic") story to the game, they also have made it clear that it allows the player to explore the world in a fashion that makes sense to them. Chances are this isn't going to be fully sandbox, as that's not what this title is about; but it seems like there will be some free roam elements to it.
However, desert sandbox or no, there are plenty of other interesting areas to explore and experience within the Rage universe. While they've only been hinted at with trailer footage and some basic discussion in developer diaries, there's enough to go on to get a rough idea of some areas that will be available for exploration. The most iconic one seems to be an abandoned city, complete with many, many car wrecks, collapsing skyscrapers and other damaged structures. There's also several mutant and rebel camps that players will be privy to, including what looks like a game show arena, an underground sewer system (though id Software has said that only those who purchase the game new can access this area), an abandoned fair ground and more.
Many of these areas go part and parcel with the varied enemies found in rage. While they can technically be split into three categories: mutants, bandits and the Authority, they can be dissected into several smaller groups, each with the own feel and environment. The mutants are for now rather unknown in origin, though there are guesses being made by developers plugging the story and forum fanboys alike. These humanoid creatures attack with basic weapons, but they're fast, and they vary in size, from small imp like creatures, to hulking giants.
Then there's the bandits. These groups of humans are separated out into clans that have become isolated enough since the asteroid hit to have their own look, personalities and combat styles. Some of the revealed ones so far are the Ghost clan, that are very acrobatic, the Wasted clan that are noted for their comedic look on their bleak situation and the Shrouded clan that utilise remote control explosives. There are others hinted at, but these are the most discussed thanks to their unique qualities.
The Authority is the final group that players will combat. A well trained, well equipped fighting force that utilizes technology far superior to the clans and mutants, suggesting some sort of residual governing body left over from before the asteroid strike. They behave in a much more militaristic fashion and will require different strategies to take down successfully.
Fortunately Rage players have access to quite a wide variety of weaponry. Along with the usual shotgun, machine pistol, revolver and their customizations, you have the "wingstick." Essentially a boomerang with blades attached, the wingstick is an offhand weapon that can be thrown while wielding your usual gun. It's fast and accurate, and because it tracks your target cursor, even if you miss on the original throw, on the way back it's more than capable of cutting your foe in half.
Beyond these staples of the FPS genre and the post-apocalyptic Aussie throwback, players can also make use of automated gun turrets, explosive remote control cars and even a spider drone fitted with a machine gun; easily one of the coolest weapons I've seen in an FPS for a long time. The more complicated weaponry and upgrades for your arsenal can only be made after purchasing or "acquiring" the schematics for them. After that, you need to have the parts to put them together. These are found throughout the game world meaning there will be some farming to do.
While the single player experience is the real meat of this title, Bethesda and id Software have seen fit to add some multiplayer components to the game. These include several specifically designed co-op levels which see players working together online or locally (split screen ftw) to achieve certain goals that are integral to the lore of Rage. Each coop mission involves exploring the backstory of the game world a little more. One level sees players disarming explosives that could potentially destroy a crucial water supply. This historic event is hinted at the single player, but can only be experienced in the cooperative mode. Players are able to revive one another and utilize the same varied arsenal found in the single player, though the combative experience is likely to be tougher since there will be two guns blazing for your team; it's only fair the odds are evened.
While it might come as a surprise to id Software veterans, there is no player vs player, on foot deathmatch in Rage; in fact, no multiplayer combat at all, that is, outside of vehicles. What is being made available are car based game modes including: Team Rally, Chain Rally and Vehicle Deathmatch. Each of these involves players taking to their chosen vehicle and racing around courses, shooting and ramming one another while completing certain objectives. There will be a Call of Duty style unlock system for added weaponry, and plenty of visual tweaks to show off your unique flair as a post-apocalyptic Death Race 2000 enthusiast.
While not everyone will be pleased to learn of the severe limitations placed on rental or used copies, Rage is certainly shaping up to be a game that most will enjoy fully. Sure there's no player vs player deathmatch, but that can be found in any online FPS. Rage has vehicles, mutants, some varied weaponry, an interesting post-apocalyptic world to explore and if John Carmack's enthusiasm is anything to go by, quite an interesting story to behold. It's been a long time coming and it has a lot to live up to, but so far, Rage looks set to deliver.