Only taking a cursory glance at RAGE will result in the impression that it is merely a prettied-up clone of Fallout 3. While RAGE and Fallout 3 are thematically similar, and they are both first-person shooters, but RAGE has its sights squarely aimed at the action genre.
One of the levels that I played through was some sort of prison, guarded by a futuristic group of troops called The Authority. They had extra armor on and could deploy transparent energy shields. I was pretty impressed with how shield-less troops would take cover behind ones who had theirs out. Knowing that their shields were energy-based, I attempted to take them out with an EMP grenade — success! I also tried using the spider bot, which has a machine gun mounted on its top, letting it distract the troops from the front while I attacked from the side. The Authority, being as heavily armored as they are, were pretty tough opponents, requiring just about everything in my arsenal to crush them. It’s also a nice touch that when you introduce your bullets or shreds of shrapnel to their armor, pieces of it will fall off. A few times that I set down a stationary turret for extra firepower, I laughed out loud, watching as the enemies seemed to take their anger out on my poor little turret buddy, brutally kicking him much harder than necessary and sending him flying — sorry, bro!
Another group of enemies, the mutants, almost seemed like a more mobile version of Doom’s “pinky” demons. They are extremely agile, jumping off of walls, swinging from ceilings, attacking from behind when you’re not looking, leaping up and down railings, rolling, and sometimes taking cover. They pretty much do everything they can to surprise players; dodging attacks to the best of their ability – though we all know that a well-placed shotgun blast does the trick here. These mutants will sometimes throw their sickles at you, but you can coolly side-step them and reciprocate with a decapitating Wingstick throw.
I haven’t seen all of RAGE’s weapons, but the ones I have seen get satisfying reactions out of the enemies. Sometimes enemies will, although essentially taken out of combat, walk slowly and a little aimlessly as consciousness slowly fades from them. A bit gruesome, I know, but they’re bad people — virtual people — and that makes it perfectly okay to shoot with reckless abandon. It’s also pretty cool to see the ones that were running at you take a few more quick steps before falling to the ground. RAGE has basically taken the cool deaths you see in action movies and imported them into the game. Playing this game, I feel like I’m playing the original Halo all over again, and I mean that in a good way. I loved Halo because of the interesting artificial intelligence it had, and I feel like maybe RAGE is a game whose A.I. is noticeably better than a lot of the competition’s.
Speaking with Tim Willits, the creative director of RAGE, I was able to learn more about the A.I. that it employs. Apparently there is a group A.I. at work. If the player kills a certain amount of enemies within a certain amount of time, they may become scared and run. Not making a general one-size-fits-all A.I., each faction in the game will have a variation on this. While I didn’t think to ask it at the time, I assume that the British punk rockers have a lower fighting morale than the one-track minded, violent mutants. An interesting thing Tim told me, was that the enemies will actually learn what you’re using in battle; meaning that at the time you first use an item, they weren’t previously aware that you had it; they will see what you do, and adjust their thinking accordingly. Far from being pushovers in battle, RAGE’s enemies who carried guns seemed very capable of taking out my not-so-sneaky, little RC car bombs before they were able to carry out their designated mission.
I saw RAGE in video form at E3 2010 and was very impressed with what I saw then. Even a year later, being able to finally play it, RAGE remains an impressively polished gaming experience. I have this sinking feeling that gamers are not giving RAGE its due, but to me it was one of the best things at E3 2011.
RAGE will be available on PC, PS3, and Xbox 360 on October 4th, 2011.