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The world is a post-apocalyptic dustbowl populated by mutants and proud retro-fitted scavengers with fast, growling cars, deadly makeshift crossbows and upturned woks for hats. You, the unwitting outsider, emerging prematurely from your Armageddon-proof panic room, find you’re somehow better at surviving in this hostile environment than those who’ve been living in it their whole lives. It seems eerily familiar, especially if you’ve ever played a Fallout game or have seen Mad Max.
What’s so special about RAGE then, besides it being id’s first original game in a decade? Well, it looks really nice – id’s Tech 5 engine is a technological marvel, and RAGE’s world beams with pin-sharp detail and objects, with solitary wooden shacks to towering wind-carved columns of rock, all looking meticulously hand-crafted.
The lighting is incredible too, with the evening sun beating the contours of the cliff face, roasting the scarce flora and reflecting off rusted metal, while the shade glows with an ambient, cool blue hue. Id has managed to not only fill the world with light and shadow, but there’s a real sense of temperature in the cleverly employed palette of browns and blues.
Our presentation starts in this beautifully composed landscape, with the demo’s controller flicking through his available weapons. He flings a batarang-style blade-weapon, which cuts through the air before returning to him. He plays with a flimsy pistol before taking out a crossbow and looking through the scope a few times.
The presentation rolls onwards - we’re now in a buggy, bombing toward the settlement of Wellspring through sandy canyons. Bandits pile in from all directions, drawn by the roar of the player’s engine, and they try to ram him into the dunes. Our driver retaliates with a few rounds from his on-board weapons, and the attackers flip and spin through the air, peppering the sand with shards of debris. The billowing dust kicked up by the spinning tires is thick, parting and curling as the player’s car blows through. The explosions are chunky, solid things – fiery bursts of bright orange in the desert. That 20-second vehicle battle is perhaps the most visually impressive game sequence we’ve seen rendered in real time.
Once we arrive at Wellspring, the splendour continues. As a newcomer, guards will be wary of you, and entering a bar affords you little welcome. Side missions are available here, as well as a primary quest from the town’s mayor, who wants you to sabotage a nearby bandit hideout.