id Software knows first-person-shooters. Hell, they practically created every expectation fans have when they see two floating hands holding a gun onscreen. But, it’s been a long time between new concepts for them. Through new iterations of the Wolfenstein, Doom and Quake franchises originated by id have come out in the last five years or so, it’s been a long time since they brought an all-new concept to the stage.
That concept came to be known as the post-apocalytic FPS Rage. It was previously announced as being an EA-published title but that deal fell through. Bethesda acquired id and Rage found a new home. As creative director Tim Willets and design director Matt Hooper took up their microphones, they explained why the time was ripe for why a new IP from id. Willets said that they looked at the current technology and what it’d allow them to do insofar as the evolution of the developers themselves as gamers. Willets said that id also wanted to change the expectation of what an id game could be. Of course, the game in question would have to be built around a first-person-action core.
The technology that makes all that happen would be idTech 5. It’s a cross-platform solution; the demo we saw was on 360. Rage takes place on an Earth where and an asteroid’s struck, wreaking environmental havoc and changing people into mutants. The goverments of the world formed an organization called the Authority and they built giant Arks to preserve huge chunks of the population. All Ark inhabitants were injected with nanotrites, which regenerate health. In Rage, you control a character but whose Ark malfunctioned and you’re the only survivor. The Ark suit that you wear marks you as a valuable commodity and you’ll be hunted for a reward. You find out info like this through NPCs. “If you just move around the world,” Willets said, “the story takes care of itself.” What he meant by that is that the backstory dynamically unfolds. You learn about the Ark suit marking you as a target, where to go for vehicle repairs, and other crucial plot points during gameplay. No cutscenes here.
As the demo started, the player finds himself stuck in the desert wasteland. The goal was to and find your way to Wellspring, the big town to the East Once there, Hooper accepted a mission from the local Wellmaster–the man in charge of the town’s H2O– to stop bandits from poisoning the water supply. Here, we got a chance to see Rage’s gnarly weapon designs in the form of a burly, almost-steampunk pistol and an elaborately-decorated crossbow. The combat that followed was fast and crazy. Amidst all the gunplay, Hooper launched a thrown blade called a wingstick, which slices enemies to pieces and comes boomeranging right back to you. Of the ammo type for the crossbow, we saw were electrobolts that you can use to electrify the water and zap enemies. Despite all the fanciy weapons at your disposal, you will, of course, take damage. Lots of enemy classes threw themselves at Hooper while he was playing, pale acrobatic ghosts with a martial arts melee focus and soldiers who ducked in and out of cover among them. When you get up from being downed, your suit throws off an area charge that zaps surrounding enemies for much-needed breathing room.
You may want to dismiss Rage as yet another game with a post-apocalyptic desperado vibe but there’s a reason that it’s post-apocalyptic. Id co-founder and all-around genius John Carmack got ideas off of NASA geographical data he had access to and that sparked ideas of vehicles with weapons and over-the-top sci-fi action ideas. While Rage will be an FPS, there will be vehicle combat and racing too. Hooper hopped into a dune buggy, which look to be fairly responsive. The driving and vehicular combat happens in a third-person camera view. Rage will also feature what they’re calling quick-use engineering items. This class of gear includes exploding remote-control car drones, auto-turrets and sentry bots that seek out enemies and gun them down. These quick-use items won’t be all-powerful, though. Sentry bots are spider-legged robotic shooting partners that roam through the environment killing enemies; but enemies will take them out, too. You’ll also see enemies smashing the turrets you set up in a battlefield. All of that debris after a firefight is a good thing for Rage players because the game’s world operates on a salvage-based economy. That means that parts that you find during your travels will buy you goods. The game’s also got a disassembling feature that lets you salvage your own equipment. If you disassemble a quick-use item that didn’t take damage, you can get the whole item back to use later.
idTech 5 seems like a supple, lightning-quick game engine. It’s not being used to create just a corridor shooter. The environments we saw ranged from big, wide-open vistas to cramped underground lairs. Along with the variety of unique, hand-crafted locations, idTech 5 allows for robust movements and strongly emotive expressions. Watching the NPC interact with the player was more than just entertaining. It felt like watching the threshold of a new evolution of digital acting. The aim didn’t seem to be to replicate reality but rather to make the world seem hyper-real.
Rage stood out as the biggest surprise during Bethesda’s BFG preview event. While speaking to id co-founder Todd Hollenshead after the presentation, he said that the team’s treating Rage as a “daddy’s home!” moment for the FPS genre. If the whole game experience gets the polish that the levels we saw get, Rage might just vault to the category of must-play games in 2010.