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Hands-on Preview: RAGE

XBBx August 5, 2011 User blog:XBBx

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Ever since the game was officially announced at Quakecon in 2007, fans of id Software’s upcoming newest IP, RAGE, have been waiting for its release in quiet anticipation. In the last couple of months, id Software and Bethesda have been pushing the game’s marketing hard with a number of videos showcasing certain parts of the game, as well as behind-the-scenes videos that explains a lot of the decisions that were made to make RAGE what it is today.

RAGE has been in production for four years with the majority of that time dedicated to id Software’s new Tech 5 engine. Judging by the game’s screenshots and videos, all of that time was well worth it. I was invited to a special media-only event to play through the start of RAGE and given unlimited access to the game for 2 ½ hours. No special code with specific campaigns to play and no hand-holding from the developers. Just me, my Xbox 360 controller, and a near final copy of RAGE.

RAGE has you starting off as a member of an Ark which is kept underground and has a number of cryogenic pods filled with important members of society. Your Ark malfunctions and let's you out, which leads you to step outside into the wasteland to find out what's been going on since you were placed in the Ark. As you begin to make your way through the wasteland, a random Mutant lunges at you and begins attacking. It looks like your adventure will be a rather short one, but luckily, a man by the name of Dan Hagar saves you and takes you back to his town. This is how players will begin their journey to becoming a wasteland legend in RAGE. There will never be a dull moment to be had.

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One of the first things you'll notice when the game begins is its visuals. The environments, characters, special effects, and everything else the eye can see is downright beautiful. Characters in the game move fluidly and realistically, regardless if they're a character of importance or someone you see in passing. id Software spent a long time building their Tech 5 Engine and every moment you'll spend in RAGE will contain jaw-dropping visuals you thought only a small handful of AAA titles were capable of. I'll gladly go on record as saying RAGE's visuals are the greatest I've seen in a video game to date.

When you begin your adventure, you'll start off with a simple pistol, but soon after that you'll be introduced to a number of new weapons such as the shotgun, sniper rifle, and wingsticks. Each time you're introduced to a new weapon, you take a moment to admire its awesomeness as well as to take in how beautiful the weapons look. As you progress through the game, you'll be able to upgrade your weapons such as a scope for your pistol and equip each weapon with different types of ammo. The interface for fast switching between weapons and ammo took me no time to learn. Tapping the RB button will switch between your weapons, while holding RB will bring up your weapons and ammo then it's a simple flick of the left stick to choose an ammo and right stick to choose weapon. You can configure which weapons you can have in your fast switch menu through the game's inventory menu, although there are only four ammo types for each weapon. When you're fast switching through your weapons, the game will not pause, so keeping tabs on what weapon is where will be vital when you have a number of enemies breathing down your neck.

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We all know how well your FPS skills are, but there will be times RAGE will unexpectedly kick your ass. One of your character's special abilities will kick in once you become incapacitated. You'll be able to play a set of mini-games that will kickstart your vitals into being one of the living once again. The first part of the mini-game will require you to pull both control sticks to specific locations and pull the left and right trigger at the same time within a specific time. Once the time ends, you'll then need to match up two bouncing RT & LT icons to two white dots. The more successful you are in completing both mini-games, the higher the amount of health you'll recover. When you come back to life, enemies will comment on your resurrection with either disbelief or expletives. Once you do resurrect, RAGE doesn't allow you to resurrect again after a period of time has passed, so make sure you deal with whatever killed you quickly.

As you make your way through RAGE, you'll come across a number of important characters who offer you help as long as you scratch their backs first. The motion animations are spot on and the amount of detail put into characters is very high. They'll give you a mission, you'll carry out that mission, and then you'll return to them for a reward to further information to help you along your adventure. RAGE has a menu tab specifically for jobs that allows players to switch between which is the active quest. Since walking to any job will take a lot of time, RAGE offers a number of vehicles for your transportation needs. You'll also come across a number of not-so-friendly folk during your travels. Mutants, Bandits, and The Authority will be grabbing at your attention as you make your way across the wasteland. Combating with them will be different depending on who you're fighitng, but one thing I was very impressed with is how enemies in RAGE react instincively to your attacks. If you overpower them with your weapon, they'll hide behind cover until they have an opportune time to attack. Shooting them close to death will have the enemy sliding his injured body away from you with one hand, while using the other to attack you with a pistol. It really is amazing to see that amount of detail has been put into RAGE's combat.

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One of the first things you 'll learn as you adventure through the wasteland is the wasteland is pretty damn big. That's why RAGE has a number of vehicles available for you to drive around. One of the first vehicles you'll use is an ATV typed vehicle that has no weapons, so engaging bandits would be a terrible idea at first. As you progress, you'll be given access to a buggy type vehicle with weapons that auto-target your enemies. This makes the vehicle combat slightly easier to handle since you don't have to be spot on with your targeting in order to hit your enemies. Further into the game, you'll be able to participate in a number of races in order to obtain racing passes. The racing passes can then be used to install upgrades to your vehicle such as more turbo boost and spikes on your tires. I found myself spending a good amount of time trying to obtain enough race passes to create a beast of a buggy, especially given the tracks and races in RAGE were fun to play. Racing isn't the only place you can get racing passes as some missions' rewards will be racing passes.

Up until this point, I've heard a lot of journalists compare RAGE with Fallout and Borderlands. This is a very fair comparison, but RAGE is first and foremost an FPS with RPG-like elements to it. I feel the game delivers a unique experience with its engrossing story, fun driving mechanics, and its literal jaw-dropping graphics that hums at a smooth 60fps. After the game is released, I'm confident it'll not only be considered one of the greatest post-apocalyptic games to be released, but I'm confident it'll also be considered id Software's greatest game to date.

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