Rage, the new game from ID Software (who, apparently, are now part of Bethseda) was released on 7th October 2011 and, ID Software fan that I am, I had it on pre-order. It’s a FPS at heart but has additional components, which may actually be the problem.
First impressions are encouraging. You awake in a post apocalyptic future and are the sole survivor of your team. The graphics are fluid (very, very fluid, you won’t see any slow down playing Rage) but the textures sometimes take a while to draw in. Imagine having to focus on something and gaining detail as you do so. That is what happens here.
The environments are huge and the sky a long way above your head. This is not corridor territory. And then a NPC (computer controlled Non Playable Character) rescues you from some would be assailants and things diverge from what we expect of an ID game.
There are immediate RPG (Role Playing Game) elements here, with missions you can choose to undertake, or not, for equipment and money. There is a certain amount of non-linearity and a lot of interaction with characters you don’t kill. There is being a passenger in a buggy (which looks great) and even driving your own buggy. But there isn’t enough killing hordes of enemies in tight spaces.
The best bit of the game, for me, has been the sewer missions that came as a bonus for pre ordering. The area is claustrophobic and the enemies swarm you. It feels like an old school ID shooter. In a lot of the areas there is simply too much open space. And the enemies fall between twin stools: there aren’t enough at once to feel there is a horde in the open areas, but their intelligence is mainly limited to ducking behind cover in between charging at you. They don’t feel particularly distinct from one another and none of them are particularly memorable.
The weapons, too, have problems. Initially you are limited to what weapons you have and what ammo types you can get (another RPG element) and the weapon animation and sounds are pleasing. But they don’t feel powerful enough, it requires a lot of shots to put down enemies. Unless you use the rather wonderful boomerang styled weapon, which is probably the best part of the game.
Driving a vehicle is sadly underwhelming, too. It seemingly skates on the surface, the wheels not moving quickly enough in the animation and their speed not altering. There is no bob or pitch in relation to the surface and the view zooms out from first person to top down. This is inconsistent and reinforces the difference in using the buggy.
The RPG elements, although seemingly numerous, are pretty superficial. At no point do you feel you get to display character through your choices and there is no sense of divergence depending on which missions you do. They are distractions from the core of the game.
There are parts of Rage I really enjoyed, unfortunately they are too far apart and separated by rather pointless RPG elements and driving. This is a compact shooter stretched way beyond a size and shape it can support and filled with distracting by halfway implemented elements.
So, really, ID have done what they are always accused of: made a decent game engine in search of a decent game. The sad thing is, fluidity aside, the engine is not actually that far in advance of others that currently power games. I didn’t feel the old magic in many places.