Rage deviates from id Software's usual comfort zone in other areas too, especially when it comes to the introduction of vehicular combat and races. Mad Max-style buggies and ATVs are the standard mode of transport in Rage it seems, with plenty of racing missions providing a good way to earn cash and upgrades too.
Unfortunately, while the racing isn't awful, it's not exactly the best we've seen either - in fact, it's pretty generic. Cars handle in an arcade fashion and we can easily see that criss-crossing the bandit-ridden desert would get old quickly.
Rage regains ground in other areas, however. Rage's story, for example, seems enigmatically told and handled with a level of restraint and sophistication we're surprised to see coming form id Software. Abandoning the brutishly narrated tactics of Doom 3 or the bizarre lack of setting in earlier id games, Rage's opening sequence drip-feeds information to you - enough to keep you interested, not enough to tire you out.
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It helps that the idea is such a familiar one, of course. Equal parts Fallout and Borderlands, Rage casts players as a nanite-infused soldier who survives the fallout of an asteroid hitting Earth by cryogenically hibernating in an underground facility called The Ark. More than 100 years pass before you're woken up, at which point you find out that society hasn't been wiped out afterall, though it is only maintaining a handhold on the planet by the tips of its fingers.
Well, mostly anyway. While most of civilization is relegated to small outposts and towns that are forever besieged by mutants and looters, there is some sort of government, somewhere. Dubbed The Authority, this technologically advanced force has cybernetic soldiers of its own, laser weaponry and bases that seemed far beyond anything seen in the towns.
Who The Authority is remained a mystery while we were playing, however. We heard a few whispers here and there, mainly from the kindly gentleman who took us to the first town in the game after the introduction, but there was little to go on. All we know is that they are big, scary and they supposedly pay a lot to get their hands on anyone who's been in an Ark.
Whoever The Authority may be, the initial three or four hours of the game don't feature it at all. In fact, we were so busy killing bandits and running simple fetch quests for the townspeople that we mostly forgot it even existed. Could this be a problem for Rage, that the main antagonist may only appear later on and feel unfairly sprung on the player? We'll have to wait until Rage is released before we know for sure, but it feels like a possibility.
Despite these potential plot pitfalls though, we remain incredibly excited at how Rage might turn out. It might not be id Software's most technologically striking or ambitious game to date, but it's one that represents a step forward for the studio in other ways. It has a story we actually find interesting, for example.
Rage will be published by Bethesda Softworks and is due for release on PC, Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 on October 4, 2011.