E3 2011: RAGE Preview

By Colin Tan on June 25, 2011, 8:00PM EDT

RAGE has been a long time coming and this year Bethesda felt confident enough to let the press get a handle on the game. With demos for the PC, PS3 and Xbox 360 on show, there was plenty to check out. While the game clearly looks best on PC, it was rather surprising to see that the console versions looked drastically downgraded.

Most already know how the game plays. RAGE is an open world first person shooter with RPG elements tossed in. Players are given quests and objectives to complete that will take them all around the world. To make things easier, players can craft gadgets, obtain vehicles and a myriad of weapons to deal with rampaging mutants and/or opposing factions.

The demo featured several of these quests including the one in Dead City. Much like Diablo and Borderlands, looting plays a key role in RAGE. Stocking up on ammunition and items quickly becomes an obsessive-compulsive behaviour. The enemy AI will behave according to their factions with mutants blindly charging you even if you do have a sentry turret mowing down the waves upon waves of enemies. On the other hand, human enemies will take cover, flank you and methodically attempt to take you out.

Playing through Dead City, I couldn't help but notice that a lot of RAGE on PS3 and Xbox 360 doesn't look that great. The game itself runs at a silky smooth 60 frames per second, to the point that I had to step back from the screen to avoid getting nauseous "“ and I mean that in a good way. The visuals, however, seem to have taken quite a hit, with character models looking incredibly rough around the edges, literally. The giant beast in Dead City looked like a pixelated 2D cutout as it walked away behind an apartment building. Textures are somewhat muddy and the overall visuals look rather flat, making it hard to spot things in the environment that are actually interactive.

With that said, the gameplay feels tight. Aiming and shooting feels like second nature, the feeling of getting rushed from all sides is exciting, and vehicles have a nice weight to them without sacrificing control. As mentioned earlier, the silky smooth framerate is great. You can customize your weapons with various ammo types and each one has their own strength and purpose. As for vehicles, one of the demo levels featured was a Combat Rally event, which essentially pits players against others in a vehicular race. It's quite like Motorstorm except you get points for killing the competition.

While RAGE certainly looks great on PC, it was a bit disappointing to finally see how it looks on consoles. Granted, it's not so much that it doesn't look as great in comparison, but that it doesn't look good overall when looking at it as a standalone title. Some areas looks great, the environment especially, but characters, mutants, and whatnot can get overly pixelated. In comparison to other games from Bethesda, like Prey 2 and Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, it's quite disappointing that it doesn't hold its own. Despite this, it still runs at a silky smooth framerate and the gameplay mechanics themselves are solid. It's generally rather entertaining to mow down waves of mutants as they charge you from all directions.

RAGE is out October 4 on PC, PS3 and Xbox 360. Hopefully, the boys at id can up the ante on the visuals for the console versions before then. Outside of that one particular gripe, RAGE is looking set to be a massive adventure.

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