Wednesday, August 10, 2011

QuakeCon: RAGE is, well, all the rage

Preview: RAGE

I wasn’t sure what to expect when I arrived at Bethesda’s suite at QuakeCon. My PR rep Chase told me I was booked for an hour with RAGE. Cool. Before I would get time with it – on my choice of builds (PS3, PC and 360) - I’d have to check out a gameplay playthrough of Dishonored and Skyrim. After the jam-packed Skyrim presentation (and very, very rowdy), I finally got a chance to take RAGE for a spin.

Not only did I come away impressed with the shooter, I got some one-on-one with one of the game’s environmental designers, as well as meeting Bethesda’s president, Vlatko Andonov. And yes, I did beg him to play Skyrim. He smiled and said he had to board a plane.

For the uninformed, RAGE is a futuristic shooter that combines intense action with vehicle combat. Sounds like it’s been done before, right? When I first started playing this, I told the designer it reminded me of Borderlands sans the cell shading presentation. However, it’s more than a Borderlands clone. It’s an ID Software/Bethesda game with a very deep Oblivion-style gameplay that really blurs the line between RPG, shooter and action/adventure game. A fair assessment to sum up RAGE?

If you love Oblivion, Elder Scrolls: Morrowind, Fallout, Half-Life and Borderlands, you’ll enjoy this game wholeheartedly.

The game kicks off with a brief introduction – you are on a sort of spaceship called an ark and put to sleep. When you come to, you are the sole survivor in a violent crash. You stagger out of the capsule and immediately realize you are not in Kansas anymore, Dorothy. You are *greeted* by the local welcome wagon and you guessed it - you are the dessert. Without a weapon handy, you have to rely on your fists of fury. Fortunately, you are saved by another local, a passer-by in a ragtag dune buggy. He drives you back to his compound, tells you a *touching* sob story, and from there, your adventure begins.

You’ll find yourself sinking deeper and deeper each time you play the game. At first, you will be on a few search and destroy missions – clearing out a compound – to fetch missions (you will have to signal fellow villagers about a mutant infestation) and several missions between. The cool thing is you can toggle between which missions you want to play. You’ll find yourself becoming fast friends with the compound's pawnshop slickster, who will buy anything of value. You can also find coveted necessities for missions in his stock as well.

One of the coolest features, without a doubt, is the lack of a limit of items you can carry. I hated dropping stuff in Oblivion. Really, you are this great warrior/hero/bad mofo and you can’t carry over 200 items? Dude… anyhow, that feature allows you to grab anything – from used longnecks to the special edition cards that can be used in the main city to unlock special items and mini games. The other side benefit to the unlimited storage? You can carry extra items that you have to make on the fly or you’ll have to high tail it back to the shop for more gear. Having your necessary tools to craft lock grinders/Yellow Jackets – aka uppers - to break into rooms or sprint long distances is a killer feeling.

Another item worth mentioning? The environments rock, with the photo-realistic sky being full of win. Unfortunately, it doesn’t move that often, but it’s the first thing I noticed that captured my attention. Laugh at me, but that sky is sick. The surroundings look great as well, some so detailed that you can look up as you walk under an underpass and read messages.

As far as the shooting and vehicle combat, it’s fluid and very polished. There is no snap-to action to lock onto an enemy, but on the lower levels, the enemies are generally poor shots, so you’ll have time to get them in your cross hairs for a quick kill. Controls were solid – though I did see another gamer’s enemy he killed was not only twitching but doing the Lambada - you know, the forbidden dance. He was doing some serious body bumpin’ with a rock. LOL.

You can unlock a buggy early on to explore the open world. In one mission, you get a chance to drive a pretty cool ATX. The controls are good and it’s somewhat easy to handle and zip across the map.

Also, as with any Bethesda game, talk to EVERYONE you can. Even if they tell you to keep trucking, keep talking to them. You can get a host of side jobs to earn extra cash as well.

Overall, I enjoyed the nearly three hours I spent with RAGE. I was sad to learn that you CAN NOT reimport your character back into a new playthrough, but as immersive as the game was during my short stint with it, I don’t think you’ll mind that missing feature that much.

RAGE hits store shelves October 4th.

- M4d Ski11z - Twitter

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