Surviving a near extinction level event in an ‘Ark’, you are thawed out by an untimely earthquake to find you’ve been woken too early, and the world is a wasteland populated by mutants, scavengers, and tailors who used to make clothes for Judge Dredd’s Cursed Earth storyline.
So you play a time traveler, of sorts, a bit like Buck Rogers awoken by FPS grand daddies id Software (it’s an earthquake, but stay with us) in a future more screwed up than you’d imagined possible. You’d expect to be given a pistol, maybe a flashlight, and be sent down tunnel after tunnel in search of a big freakin’ gun and some fat demonoids with which to demonstrate its destructive beauty. It’s what the developer behind Doom and Quake is famous for after all, but Rage will be their first new Intellectual Property in 13 years and it seems that they’ve had it with corridor shooters and that Wolfenstein was their last hurrah with run-and-gun gaming.
They’re not doing the usual anymore - they are going open world and adding vehicles to their perfected gunplay mix, and whoever just coughed Red Faction Guerrilla is going to have to stay behind after class. Rage is an open-world game, sure, and it does feature an immense map that will lead you to locations of people in need of someone to do them some favours, but the new id Tech 5 graphics engine isn’t meant to showboat destruction in minute detail. It’s there to provide graphics of a quality even the artists behind the game’s look can’t quite believe. When you see it in motion, your eyes will lunge out of their sockets.
Doom programmer John Carmac suggests that his Tech 5 can produce ‘megatextures’ that can feature any amount of detail the artist requires without any impact on the game’s 60 frames-per-second smoothness. He’s created a true ‘digital canvas’ where imagination is the only boundary. To put this into numbers, one of the game’s many race tracks has a texture that’s over 20 gigabytes in size and when you’re exploring the vastness of the wasteland, you’ll be looking at over 100 gigs of data, which isn’t bad considering that a dual-layer Blu-ray disc can only hold 50. Only 50 gigs? How times have changed. That’s the data cost of a megatexture.
Rage is the first id game to be developed primarily for consoles (play testers have their knuckles rapped should they be caught playing with a mouse and keyboard) and they don’t imagine PC gamers with their fat gaming PCs will have any issue in installing the game to their enormous hard drives while Microsoft insist that the Xbox 360 version should not be installable whatsoever. That means that the PlayStation 3 version will be the only one to come on a single disc while the 360 will come on a pair that will have to spool even more heavily compressed data constantly. This may well provide a distinctive visual difference between the versions should a 360 player turn too quickly to look at an angle the engine hasn’t anticipated. Developers have to pay a licence per disc of a game, which means the PS3 version will be cheaper to publish. True to form, id are making a new IP that brings with it a new level of tech that has the potential to alter the look of games to come.
Famously tight-lipped about specific details until the game is complete, id are not forthcoming with specific story details, though a cunning twist on gaming cliches can be revealed. Predominantly a first-person shooter in which you scream about the wastelands in a customisable and heavily armed buggy (you start with a basic ATV), the game will follow modern conventions, and so you will automatically heal from injuries should you take cover, while your heart can be restarted after death.