Rage Hands-On Preview - Welcome to the Desert of the Real
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It’s not often you walk away from a hands-on preview session feeling unsatisfied. Disappointed maybe, underwhelmed, overjoyed or even thrilled. These emotions are normal. But unsatisfied? Not so much. Yet that’s exactly how I felt emerging from Bethesda’s swanky London offices a couple of weeks ago.

I had just experienced around two and a half hours of Rage, a big old chunk of it, from the opening cinematic, through the tutorials, to the early missions and races. I would have expected to have got a decent taste of what the game will offer when it’s finally released this October. Perhaps I did. But a cloud of doubt lingers regardless.

The opening couple of hours provide a great introduction to Rage’s mechanics, but nevertheless fail to reach the moment where it all comes together, where everything dovetails and the driving and shooting and exploration truly sing. It’s all a little rote, early on. Hence the lack of satisfaction. There’s greatness lurking within Rage, but whether it fully hits its stride remains to be seen.

The game opens with the story of Earth’s destruction. In 2038 an asteroid strikes the planet, leaving just a handful of survivors to create a new civilisation from the dust. Communities emerge, as do rivalries, bandits and mysterious, feral mutants. Trying to keep all of these disparate factions under their control are The Authority, a technologically sophisticated army with somewhat dubious intentions. They’re not especially friendly.

The player-character is clueless about all this stuff. Emerging from an Ark, a cryogenic sleep facility that has kept him safe from the carnage and savagery above ground, he stumbles into a world he doesn’t understand. Quickly set upon by bandits and saved at the last minute by one of the local townsfolk, the wheels are set in motion for an adventure that will see him weave between the surface’s various factions and attempt to find out what the hell is going on.

Once into the game itself, you’ll see that Rage follows a kind of bare bones RPG structure. Ramshackle mission-hub towns built from the rusty remains of pre-apocalyptic Earth borrow from the likes of the current-gen Fallout games and Borderlands, both in their look and purpose. This is another game where the burgeoning civilisation takes its visual cues from the iconography of the Western. So, you may have to run an errand for the Sheriff or the Mayor, or the owner of the local bar, as plinky-plonky country music echoes softly in the background. It’s not exactly inspired.

Neither does it ever really get going. This is because the early mission design is lifted straight from the Questing for Dummies rulebook. Go here, shoot these people, get a new gun. Drive there, deliver this thing, shoot a few more people. Maybe pick some loot up along the way. Return back and collect your reward, perhaps a new weapon, an upgrade for your buggy, or some cash. The early section lacks that spark of creativity that truly engages.

The mark of a great game is to mask the bare bones of the design, to cloud the fact that you are essentially repeating the same pattern over and over. This is usually achieved by way of distraction. Think of the amount of open games with large environments that send you off in one direction only to sidetrack you with other business, before getting you wrapped up in another battle or story. Once you finally make it back into town, MacGuffin in hand, you feel like you’ve earned something. You feel like you’ve been on an adventure. After battling my way through the first town’s missions and making it some way into those offered by the second town, I never experienced that elation.

The compact nature of the world doesn’t help. Scooting around on your buggy, it’s alarming just how close everything is. In one early mission I was given a sniper rifle and sent to take out a bandit encampment that was blocking access to another part of the map. Free up the route and a new town and new objectives would open up. So I loaded up on ammo and supplies and jumped on my buggy with sweaty-palmed anticipation.

But the encampment was literally around the corner. Perhaps 100 yards. Almost as soon as I pulled out of the garage I came under RPG fire and was turned to toast. The bandits live right on top of the settlement. Now, we’ve all moaned about open-world games and their long, dull driving sections, so perhaps it’s unfair to highlight issues like this. It’s what we always ask for, right? But the effect it has shatters the believability of the world. Geographically, the opening section of Rage is unconvincing.

All of which may sound overly harsh. But Rage arrives with a considerable weight of expectation on its shoulders. This is a game from legends of the development scene, a studio with a huge legacy in the FPS genre. When you claim to have redefined what the FPS can do, you have to deal with a degree of expectation.

But then the world in which id produced Doom is far removed from the one in which we live now. All of the missions and RPG elements and the open world are relatively new developments, far from the simplicity of Doom. Compared to something like Borderlands, from which it broadly borrows, what I’ve seen of Rage doesn’t quite hold up. Yet it gets some things spectacularly right. Strip away the structure, and the mechanics of Rage are really quite brilliant. In isolation, the technical wizardry of the graphics, the heft of the gunplay, the zippiness of the movement and the arcade accessibility of the driving are all top notch. When id play to their strengths you can see they are at the top of their game.

Let's start with those visuals. While the Western art design may be a little familiar, in purely technical terms, Rage is a beauty. Right down from the still blue skies and their wispy white clouds, to the dusty, debris-littered ground, it packs a distinct visual punch. It’s also worth noting that the character models are fantastically expressive. You’ll encounter a touch of texture pop-in, but it’s not much of an issue. There are not many better looking games on console. The combat too is ultra-satisfying. Even your first weapon, a relatively puny pistol, feels powerful. Scooting around from bandit encampment to mutant stronghold, blasting as you go, it has a meaty heft to it that never disappoints. Just like the other weapons you can augment it too, through acquiring different ammunition and attachments. Combine the pistol with some binoculars and some more powerful bullets and you have an acceptable makeshift sniper rifle.

So there is a kind of on-the-fly improvisation to the combat, all of which will help in the battles you encounter in the game. I faced off against bandits and mutants in the demo, the latter of which come charging towards you with an athletic prowess, cartwheeling and jumping around at speed, making them quite difficult to pin down. It makes for some great fights, especially in the more confined areas. It’s also aided by action that unfolds at a truly scintillating speed. At 60fps Rage is like iced lightening, slipping and zipping along at a fantastically brisk pace. This is id returning to the breakneck speed of their early games.

Health is dealt with in an interesting way too. Rather than bog-standard regeneration, the player-character is fitted with a kind of self-defibrillation kit. What this means is that if you are entirely depleted of energy you are quickly shifted to a mini-game in which you have to match thumbstick movements to the icons on-screen. Once you’ve made it through a set number of these against the clock, you are charged with hitting the left and right triggers just as a slider reaches a specific spot. The closer you get, the more health you will be rewarded with. It’s a novel approach.

And then there’s the driving. Tearing through the dusty wasteland on your buggy is great fun, thanks largely to the speed and accessibility of the handling. This is the kind of racing where slamming down on the brake stops you within a second, regardless of the pace at which you are travelling. This is racing where you can execute hairpin turns with little regard to boring, dull things like physics. You can chuck your buggy around this way and that with complete abandon. And it’s brilliant.

It’s also worth noting that you can drive your buggy into a wall at speed and be flung high up into the sky, flapping along the horizon like a man fired from a canon, before landing with a crunch. Perhaps I missed it, but this doesn’t seem to affect your health. Expect numerous amusing YouTube videos to pop up once the game hits. It’s great fun.

Anyway, Rage’s driving is more than just a way of getting from A to B (or chucking yourself through the air like a rocket-propelled penguin). Once you’ve earned your own buggy - a tattered, rusty old thing - you can earn upgrades for it by competing missions and competing in races. These races come in various different flavours, from straight-up point-to-point time trials to multi-buggy battles. More than just a throwaway addition, these races are at the centre of the experience, a nice diversion from the grind of face-shooting.

So with all these elements of the game present and correct, you can forgive me for waiting patiently for everything to come together in a truly exciting way. I felt it was there, just around the corner. Another thirty minutes maybe, or perhaps another hour and the disparate elements that constitute Rage would suddenly have gelled and a gloriously varied, nuanced game fuelled by a powerfully compelling narrative would emerge. But that never quite happened. Not in the first two and a half hours anyway.

Let’s hope the finished game delivers on Rage’s promise.

Rage is scheduled to release on October 4th in North America and October 7th in Europe.


User Comments

Forum Posts: 32
Comment #1 by SpudsOfSteel
Tuesday, August 02, 2011 @ 09:02:40 AM
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Just in time to satisfy my borderlands 2 thirst

Forum Posts: 11
Comment #2 by dark quasar
Tuesday, August 02, 2011 @ 09:11:31 AM
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That first pic reminds me of borderlands

Forum Posts: 58
Comment #3 by D4RK V1C3
Tuesday, August 02, 2011 @ 09:13:15 AM
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think you accidently left in a few question marks that need editing out :D
other then that, great read, not gonna pre-order the game tho, gonna wait till i know more if the game changes much after the first few hours

Forum Posts: 12
Comment #4 by Epic Gamer Will
Tuesday, August 02, 2011 @ 09:13:45 AM
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Looks great probably wont be able to get it day one tho.

~Charlie Sheen

Forum Posts: 51
Comment #5 by SumHydroponic
Tuesday, August 02, 2011 @ 09:17:11 AM
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I have this game pre-ordered, although this is making me think I should cancel and pre-order something different.

Forum Posts: 12
Comment #6 by FatallyDevoted
Tuesday, August 02, 2011 @ 09:44:20 AM
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hmmm i will probably keep my preorder but all the doubts are starting to creep up. im not quite sure what to think about that health defibulator mini game tho

Forum Posts: 1613
Comment #7 by Pearson
Tuesday, August 02, 2011 @ 09:52:00 AM
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I'll still get Rage when it comes out. I liked what I seen from "The Well" gameplay video on XBL. I hadn't played Borderlands, just Fallout 3 and Fallout 3: New Vegas, so I can't compare it to BL, but it does remind me of Fallout 3 and New Vegas.

Forum Posts: 30
Comment #8 by Man On The Run
Tuesday, August 02, 2011 @ 10:10:41 AM
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Seems good but im not purchasing games for a while as most will be £20 by Jan next year.

Forum Posts: 271
Comment #9 by the action frampton
Tuesday, August 02, 2011 @ 10:27:10 AM
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I predict the continuation of Bethesda fails. Not much more to add.

Forum Posts: 20
Comment #10 by Masterchief950
Tuesday, August 02, 2011 @ 10:43:48 AM
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@9 Umm nope not for this game sorry

Forum Posts: 1068
Comment #11 by The Bum-Mobile
Tuesday, August 02, 2011 @ 11:36:55 AM
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I've noticed that, while I adore the site, most previews here tend to be negative. Like I would any other preview, I'm disregarding this and looking forward to my pre-order.

Forum Posts: 330
Comment #12 by STONE DEVIL
Tuesday, August 02, 2011 @ 12:07:13 PM
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Never planned to get this on release day and this read only pushes it further back on the "to get" list. Halo Anniversary and Arkham I come.

Forum Posts: 0
Comment #13 by Devdawg17
Tuesday, August 02, 2011 @ 02:56:41 PM
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@5 go check out the preview, it seemed more into Rage than the author of this article and (no offense) a little more detailed as well.

Forum Posts: 296
Comment #15 by ViNyLek
Tuesday, August 02, 2011 @ 03:51:07 PM
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Sounds like first Fallout right from the start. I also wonder how this will hold up. Id is best known for making solid games for PC and not consoles. Either way I will have to wait for a while to find out..

Forum Posts: 16
Comment #16 by Sergeant2296
Tuesday, August 02, 2011 @ 04:16:44 PM
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Egg sandwiches :]

Forum Posts: 1
Comment #17 by Arkangel X
Tuesday, August 02, 2011 @ 04:45:41 PM
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This game is looking really good. I hope it provides a decent single and co-op experience. It looks more fun than Borderlands to me personally.

Forum Posts: 350
Comment #18 by bengals84
Tuesday, August 02, 2011 @ 07:08:20 PM
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@18 get that shit out of here!

Forum Posts: 26
Comment #19 by elsnoggler
Wednesday, August 03, 2011 @ 12:40:32 AM
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It isn't surprising to hear that a game that is derivative in every way feels a little uninspired and unrefined. I am still holding out for this game to really come into its own (and fill in the space until Borderlands 2 / Borderworlds / whatever).

Forum Posts: 53
Comment #20 by Coruba
Wednesday, August 03, 2011 @ 02:51:01 AM
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I traded fallout New Vegas in because it was a little slow and I wanted this to be my post apocalyptic feast game! I think despite the writers lack of amazement this game is gonna be awesome, can't wait to find the sick satanic cult style faction and some doom-esque gory bits thrown into the otherwise standard western setting.

Forum Posts: 258
Comment #21 by AdHominem
Wednesday, August 03, 2011 @ 06:16:21 AM
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Im sorry, but this preview is shit... i read on other gaming websites that the mutants needs 3-4 headshots with the pistol. so why are you writing that the pistol feels powerful?

And the graphics? have you ever looked at some of the textures in close-up? they look ugly !!

and then die DLC Cave right in the beginning. you need freakin DLC to enter a cave at the beginning of the game! THAT SUCKS HEAVY!

Forum Posts: 2200
Comment #22 by cheevo360
Wednesday, August 03, 2011 @ 07:10:36 AM
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I am exciting for this game!!! October is isn't that long now 8D 8D

Forum Posts: 205
Comment #24 by Lucas McCain
Wednesday, August 03, 2011 @ 01:52:59 PM
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This game is sure to be awesome. Will it be really innovative? Who knows, but a game doesn't have to do anything particularly new to be a lot of fun. I think the collaboration of id and bethesda will be great, and all the naysayers will be eating crow this October.

Forum Posts: 258
Comment #25 by secretkaos187
Wednesday, August 03, 2011 @ 04:15:33 PM
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Unfortunately this will be a rental,Im gonna wait to read more than one review to pass for sure on

Forum Posts: 241
Comment #26 by Mothership
Thursday, August 04, 2011 @ 09:49:23 AM
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mannn.. i was so stoked for this game. they made it look like a borderlands/fallout but the more and more i hear about it the less i am looking forward to it. :(

Forum Posts: 112
Comment #27 by Trendin
Friday, August 05, 2011 @ 12:02:28 AM
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Forum Posts: 0
Comment #28 by DarthPanda7
Friday, August 05, 2011 @ 02:29:19 PM
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To all those not looking forward to this game after this article, read this and you might change your mind. I know I did.

Forum Posts: 0
Comment #29 by DarthPanda7
Friday, August 05, 2011 @ 02:32:54 PM
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To all those not looking forward to this game after this article, read this and you might change your mind. I know I did. Thanks #5!

Forum Posts: 154
Comment #30 by a fat turkey
Friday, August 05, 2011 @ 04:23:33 PM
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Looks pretty interesting. Too many other games however.
@27 Ok crazy guy.

Forum Posts: 2
Comment #31 by Anthony B
Saturday, August 06, 2011 @ 02:03:06 PM
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@29 Thanks for the second opinion. I was getting worried there for a second that the game might not be worth the hype.

Forum Posts: 117
Comment #32 by NeoSant
Saturday, August 06, 2011 @ 07:23:24 PM
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@18... Hmmmmm you are #18

I love this website.. but this preview doesnt tell me anything I want to know, and for real this game is going to be awesome... you should notice the things that makes this game awesome instead of waiting for more to the preview....

1st Day buy, nothing more to add....

Forum Posts: 1
Comment #33 by TheDesertFox76
Monday, August 08, 2011 @ 11:48:35 AM
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My most wanted game.....

Forum Posts: 13
Comment #34 by Peck4
Wednesday, August 10, 2011 @ 02:48:40 PM
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Pre-ordered and waiting

Forum Posts: 9
Comment #35 by Rilude
Wednesday, August 10, 2011 @ 03:26:31 PM
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I have pre-ordered this, looks so good

Love id games :D

Forum Posts: 4
Comment #36 by Black Dragoson
Sunday, August 14, 2011 @ 02:25:42 PM
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Looks awesome but will wait might get overlooked due to all the other games coming out

Forum Posts: 16
Comment #37 by Sergeant2296
Tuesday, August 16, 2011 @ 03:43:23 PM
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Thumbs up if you pre ordered collectors pack :)

Forum Posts: 981
Comment #38 by Tai_MT
Wednesday, August 17, 2011 @ 09:46:27 PM
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I have no clue what this game is about or even why I'd want to play it. It's too "samey" to me. Post apocalyptic future? Check. Mutants? Check. RPG FPS? Check. There are other games I'd rather play. I got Halo coming up, Gears of War 3, Dead Island, Skyrim, and on and on. Maybe if they discount this game I'll look at a purchase. Otherwise, to me it just looks like a "Borderlands" clone. And despite how "good" Borderlands was... It still gets dull REALLY fast. Cooperative is what saves Borderlands, and I can't imagine Rage would be any different. I'll pass on this, regardless of what reviews say.

Forum Posts: 0
Comment #39 by djd925
Thursday, August 18, 2011 @ 10:29:22 PM
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yyyyyeeeeeaaaahhhhh bbbbbooooyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyy!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Forum Posts: 0
Comment #40 by CriousTurtle
Tuesday, August 23, 2011 @ 03:04:01 PM
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This game looks good but I took a chance with Brink and that didn't work out. The only thing that is a sure buy for me is Skyrim and if you don't know what that is shame on you. I'm going to wait for reviews but it does look promising.

Forum Posts: 39
Comment #41 by foreverflash
Wednesday, August 24, 2011 @ 08:56:50 PM
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Well written hands on Mr. Bradley. Thanks. A hearty, constructively critical preview of what (I) hope is a great new game.

Forum Posts: 13
Comment #42 by GeorgieBam
Thursday, August 25, 2011 @ 06:04:39 AM
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@40 Bethesda are publishing RAGE, not developing it. Besides Bethesda are the kings of WRPGs so if anything you would want some involvement from them.

OT: The game is looking amazing. If you watch gameplay videos you can see it's used a TON of ideas from different games.

Driving looks similar to Borderlands
The water on the camera ala Bioshock
The way enemies react to where they got shot like they do in Killzone 3
The remote control buggies with signal strength like Frontlines (not CoD)

I honestly can't wait, expecting it to be game of the year.

Forum Posts: 5
Comment #43 by ServbotNamedSxE
Sunday, August 28, 2011 @ 09:24:59 AM
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So some ppl who were looking forward to this game are now shitting bricks after one guy says the game is a slow-starter? Seriously ppl! Watch gameplay vids and read in-depth previews before you start making decisions on Rage's quality.

Btw, lets say that Rage really does turn out to have a slow start I'd say so what? A slowburn game is good every now and then. They can't all be Call of Duty 'SHITS GONE NUTS AND STUFFS DONE BLOWIN UP' throughout the entire thing.

Forum Posts: 1
Comment #44 by scott.dennis
Sunday, August 28, 2011 @ 01:17:14 PM
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a new IP from id is bound to be great. Regardless what this preview states, the game is going to be awesome!

Forum Posts: 9
Comment #45 by LAzTwisted Child
Sunday, August 28, 2011 @ 02:14:22 PM
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i dont care what any reviews say i like the overall look of the game so im gonna keep my preorder

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Game Info
id Software


US October 04, 2011
Europe October 07, 2011

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