Rage – In With The Old, In With The New

id Software hasn’t been an innovator in the gameplay space since Quake III Arena in 1999. While they were tinkering with new graphic engines and designing monster closets in the new millennium, upstart developers were surpassing them by leaps and bounds. A decade later, Tim Willits sits on a stool in front of me. His badge reads “Bethesda Software” and he’s holding a gamepad to demo the Xbox 360 version of Rage. All three of these things are from bizarro world. I’m surprised Tim doesn’t have a goatee.

Todd Hollenshead, the CEO of id Software, whispers a few things to Tim before he strolls out of the demo room and back into the hustle and bustle of the Bethesda booth. His stride is confident. If I didn’t know any better, I’d say he had a bit of a swagger going on. A minute later he pokes his head back through the door. “You told them they can’t record video, right?”

It’s always seemed arbitrary to me. Valve doesn’t care if you record their Portal 2 presentation, but id’s own CEO is poking his head in to make sure there’s no video recording going on. I’m not sure why they’re being so bashful, Rage looks absolutely stunning. You’d think they would want everyone to see how it’s shaping up. Then again, Valve has little left to prove to their audience so they don’t need to worry as much about the masses making poor assumptions based on out of context gameplay moments.

id, on the other hand, has much to prove. Doom 3 was a bit like baking a cake using milk long past its due date. It looked great, but the actual play experience was off putting. Rage is a chance for redemption and based on what I saw in the demo, they have a good shot at it. Normally I’d gloss over how good the graphics look since I get bored typing it and I’m sure you’re tired of reading about it, but an exception must be made here. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a more PC-like 360 game before. Low on jaggies and high on detail, this is a graphical powerhouse. If the tools are good, id Tech 5 could put id back on the engine licensing map after years of the Unreal Engine dominating the industry.

Graphics aside, Rage holds its own from an art direction standpoint. Unlike Borderlands, which was low on detail and personality, Rage is filled to the brim with NPCs and atmosphere. The main hub town of Wellspring looks like an old junkyard smashed together and then pulled apart to be re-settled. There are some mini-games to play, conversations to listen in on and quests to gather. It’s not an RPG, so you’re just hitting A to accept a mission and mostly acting as a passive observer (until the shooting starts) as you walk around town.

Tim takes us into a mission. You can see a ton of influence from others games in the brief time we’re exposed to the combat. Let’s jump to my notes:

- Lots of enemies chatting with each other while and providing exposition while the player sneaks into the area. Think No One Lives Forever.

- Shooting the water with electrified ammo to kill enemies standing in it is very Bioshock.

- Controllable RC cars with bombs strapped on them remind me of the tentacle powers in The Darkness.

- Looting bodies and grabbing things off shelves is also very much like Bioshock and other FPS games like it.

You could be cynical and say that they’re just lifting features from other games and jamming them in – but this is the game industry. Everyone does it. It’s healthy. What’s most interesting to me is that all the new wrinkles aside, the DNA of a classic id game is still embedded in Rage. The shooting is punchy, the movement is quick and there’s no cover system to be found. Say what you will about id, they know how to make shooting stuff feel good and while I haven’t played it myself, that legacy appears to be intact.

What remains to be seen is out important the car combat is to the overall game. It looks fun, but not “let’s do this for five hours” fun. How open is the world? Does the story evolve beyond walking up to an NPC, listening to him talk and then pressing “A” to accept? There’s a lot we still don’t know about Rage.

I’m also not sure I trust my positive impression of it. id has been under performing for so long now that any sign of them moving forward makes me want to heap praise and hope that they’ll keep improving. Whether or not they can rise above this underdog status and deliver a game that stands on the shoulders of the new industry giants remains to be seen. It might be the best they can do is emulate them.

Comments

After basically handing everyone the roots of the FPS genre, I think they deserve to be able to let some of the rest of the industry be an influence for their next big game. You can tell they tried to stick to and incrementally evolve the formula they invented with Doom 3, and it ended up coming up stale. Increased atmosphere and cheap startles weren't cutting it. Other companies like Valve had taken id's own technology and created true evolutions of the gameplay mechanics.

We can only hope id can take their base feel, of which the feel of heaviness and mass still has yet to be replicated as well as they do it, and give it some great originality and freshness.

I have hope.

If nothing else I am so looking forward to the PC release and the inevitable deluge of incredible mods. Now that they are under Bethesdas roof, they not only have the hardcore id fans but also the talent who mods for the Elder Scrolls games.

Rage is def a game you would want for the PC.

To be honest I'm more interested in id Tech5 than Rage. I'm sick to death of the Unreal engine and this game looks amazing.

Todd Hollenshead must be the douchest CEO in the industry, and that's saying a lot.

The video of Rage was technically impressive, especially since it was running in a 360. The gameplay.. not so much. I'm not expecting much out of it. id has spent 10 years releasing poor games on great engines. Besides, Carmack has already jettisoned dedicated servers, and I fear they will do the same with LAN, since it seems to be the norm these days (stupid efforts that only hurt your customers).

I'll wait and see, but there are so many other things looking way more interesting than this that I doubt I'll think of Rage before the release date is on us.

paketep wrote:

I'm not expecting much out of it. id has spent 10 years releasing poor games on great engines.

Really? The only game that id have developed primarily by themselves in the last ten years was Doom 3. What other game did they make? For the other games released id were at most co-developers or at least consultants/producers. Raven made Wolfenstein 2009 and Quake 4, Return to Castle Wolfenstein was by Gray Matter with Enemy Territory being developed Splash Damage along with Quake Wars. I don't know about you but i thought the re-release of Quake 3 in the browser was actually pretty good - it wasn't a poor release nor a new game.

paketep wrote:

Besides, Carmack has already jettisoned dedicated servers, and I fear they will do the same with LAN,

You seem to be speculating. Carmack said it might not have dedicated servers, which is not a confirmation.

That said, they've said next to nothing about multiplayer for the game, and Rage is primarily a single-player game (again, from what they've said), who knows what game modes they'll have in there and the networking required. The design of the engine looks vastly different to what they've done before, so who knows, no dedicated servers may be the best solution for their game.

Duoae wrote:
paketep wrote:

I'm not expecting much out of it. id has spent 10 years releasing poor games on great engines.

Really? The only game that id have developed primarily by themselves in the last ten years was Doom 3.

"id has spent 10 years releasing poor game on great engine" doesn't sound all that fantastic, either.

- Shooting the water with electrified ammo to kill enemies standing in it is very Bioshock.

Is it the look that makes it very Bioshock? Because I remember I could electrify enemies in the water as far back as Quake 1.

Chairman_Mao wrote:

Is it the look that makes it very Bioshock? Because I remember I could electrify enemies in the water as far back as Quake 1.

Firing the lightning gun while you were IN the water was not wise, if I recall.

hfm wrote:
Chairman_Mao wrote:

Is it the look that makes it very Bioshock? Because I remember I could electrify enemies in the water as far back as Quake 1.

Firing the lightning gun while you were IN the water was not wise, if I recall. :)

unless you had full health and the red armor, in which case it was awesome in multiplayer!

Danjo Olivaw wrote:
Duoae wrote:
paketep wrote:

I'm not expecting much out of it. id has spent 10 years releasing poor games on great engines.

Really? The only game that id have developed primarily by themselves in the last ten years was Doom 3.

"id has spent 10 years releasing poor game on great engine" doesn't sound all that fantastic, either.

But then that depends on whether you thought Doom 3 was good or not - which is highly subjective. Releasing one good/bad game and about to release one good-looking game sounds a lot better than as if they'd done essentially nothing to the way they make their games over a period of ten years and released a bucket load at the same time.

It would also be making the assumption that id as a company is static, hasn't hired or fired anyone, hasn't looked at any different ways of making games, makes exactly the same decisions.

Scratched wrote:

It would also be making the assumption that id as a company is static, hasn't hired or fired anyone, hasn't looked at any different ways of making games, makes exactly the same decisions.

Well, it's clearly impossible for all of that to be true, but if you continue to have a strong leadership team who either don't listen well to others or refuse to hear any criticism (or some other form of big headedness), then it's entirely possible they haven't changed much in the past decade.

Am I saying this is true? Certainly not, but I don't think we can make a blanket statement saying it's impossible for them to make the same decisions, etc. I mean, look at 3d Realms.

When Doom 3 came out in 2004, a lot of people really liked it. At some point in '05-06, after everyone gave it glowing reviews, it became trendy to bash it for being unoriginal/uninspired. I still like it, though. It shoots like Doom, but it's a modern FPS; this is a feat no one else has accomplished. Clearly it has narrative and mechanical shortcomings, but that stuff is frankly pretty easy to fix when you have id's resources. (Step 1: Hire writers. Step 2: Hire designers.)

sh*t, even if it's just Doom again with some crazy desert people in the background it'll be worth 50 bucks.

I hope the new engine gains some traction. I want the new Bethesda RPG to look as good as the video I saw of Rage. I think everyone is expecting it. If they can pull that off the new engine will give Unreal a run for it's money. I still can't believe the gameplay I saw was on a 360. Awesome.

Sick of shooters.

I want to see some old fashioned miracles, John Carmack style. He goes off on his own for several months and comes back and hacks out a game that people are just clamoring to see.

Not so much anymore.

*sigh*

Where's System Shock 3??

Raelic wrote:

Where's System Shock 3??

Dead Space supposedly started off as SS3, and it's a good successor.

I am hopeful as I always seem to be with ID games, but after Doom 3, I doubt anything they make will be a day one purchase for me.

As much as I want to see a good game, I want to see a good engine. Not just graphics and interaction, but also easy access. How many new games have we seen grow out of the modding industry? Team Fortress, BF2 (via Desert Combat), and Counter Strike, to name a few just off the top of my head. Not to mention the hours of additional life modding brings to games like Oblivion and FO3. So, while I like the idea of great graphics, great gunplay, and environment interaction, I also want a new engine to be approachable.

Am I the only one who liked Doom 3? Sure, the protagonist couldn't shoot and use a flashlight at the same time, but it was otherwise a pretty fun game, and graphically it's still one of the strongest engines I've seen in terms of light and shadows.

ClockworkHouse wrote:

Am I the only one who liked Doom 3? Sure, the protagonist couldn't shoot and use a flashlight at the same time, but it was otherwise a pretty fun game, and graphically it's still one of the strongest engines I've seen in terms of light and shadows.

Nah, I really liked Doom 3. I played the game in the dark, with my 5.1 system cranked up, and had a blast playing it. I played it when it first came out, and that may help, because it was seriously eclipsed that holiday season by HL2 among other things.

Doom 3 was pretty awesome when it released. I remember it being universally praised. I think the formula reached its peak with Doom 3 and people were just ready to move on. I thought it was a great shooter. It was a little too intense for me, but it played fantastic.

Doom 3 reviewed well (in magazines, review sites), but that's it. The general impressions from players seemed to be negative.

Quintin_Stone wrote:

Doom 3 reviewed well (in magazines, review sites), but that's it. The general impressions from players seemed to be negative.

They sold a few million copies, so I think people generally liked it. It was a pretty popular game.

People have been trashing the Halo series for years as an antiquated shooter, but Halo 3 was a massive hit. I feel like Doom 3 got the same treatment: A fantastic well designed game, but at the tail end of it's life span.

People don't know whether they'll like it until after they buy it.

I'll throw my hat in with the people who really liked it. I played it recently and it's aged well. Still jumpy-scary and still good game design. I even like the whole flashlight/weapon dynamic. Having a light on the weapons would really kill the sense of vulernability in the game though i personally would have allowed dual-wielding of pistol and flashlight...

Duoae wrote:

I even like the whole flashlight/weapon dynamic. Having a light on the weapons would really kill the sense of vulernability in the game though i personally would have allowed dual-wielding of pistol and flashlight...

That was my same thought. I would have left players with some kind of weapon when they had the flashlight out, but for the sake of tension I would have made it an incredibly weak, although not useless, weapon.

My first impression is that Rage looked like Borderlands with more background and atmosphere. Turrets, sentries, vehicular combat in the desert, open world, side quests, it all sounds familiar.

It's too bad there's no multiplayer coop though.