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Updated impressions of Rage

While in town you can buy some new rags and get rid of the Ark suit that’s got The Authority so interested in you, deliver bottles of water you’ve found in the wasteland for a cash reward, sell scavenged items, or meet up with race officials beneath a giant inflatable purple gorilla and take your buggy out for a competitive spin. It’s an impressively realized area and – especially when compared to the traversal nightmare that was Fallout 3’s Megaton – a cogent and appealing place to come back to between missions.

Deep below Wellspring, however, trouble’s afoot. The Ghost bandit clan is poisoning the town’s water supply – and as a stranger from the plains it’s down to you to deal with them. As soon as you enter the pumping station environs Rage becomes recognizable as, to borrow a phrase from Mark Kermode “un game de id”. There’s just something in the shape of the guns, the weight you see in enemies, the ripples of their flesh and the design of the levels that just rings true.

This doesn’t mean that things haven’t moved on from Doom 3. The Ghosts vault, somersault and careen over the scenery like muscled dervishes – they’re utterly beautiful to watch, yet fatal if you continue to do so. Flames and explosions are genuinely jaw-dropping in the way they light up the screen. And every bandit clan has its own behavior patterns, graffiti and identity – where Ghosts are melee-focused and remarkably nimble in their ceiling-slides and leaps from pole to pole, The Wasted (think Skinheads) is more into traditional run-and-gun firepower – and lots of it.

Your arsenal also goes far beyond the traditional one-note boomstick. The Ghosts may move around the scenery in the manner of Splicers, but they can be dispatched in a BioShock manner as well. Among the various different types of ammo your silent crossbow can be armed with are electro-bolts which can fry groups of badness foolishly standing in water. The pistol, too, has explosive rounds that are entirely pleasant to connect with a bandit ruffian’s head. On top of these you’ll have your trusty wingstick – a multi-bladed boomerang that can be hurled with your free hand and take off a grunt’s head before he’s seen the whites of your eyes.

None of this is fresh and original, but in terms of constituent parts coming together to provide a solid gameplay experience id appears to be onto a winner. Indeed, what with the huge range of engineered concoctions that you can scavenge and take into battle as well it’s clear that those put off by Doom 3’s basic combat from all those years ago are being aggressively wooed back into the fold.

In fact, when viewed in contrast to id’s much bemoaned Mars Hell-leak, Rage is fascinating as the polar opposite of id’s previous wares. Where Doom 3 was tight and confined, Rage is open and sprawling. Where Doom 3 was dark, Rage is bright and primary-colored. Where once Doom-guy was po-faced and serious, the world of Rage-bloke is very silly indeed. In all likelihood, Rage will fare well in the stormy waters of modern gaming.

While it won’t redefine the FPS genre as id games once did, it appears to be engaging and enjoyable new terrain for a more refined brand of frags, head-slices and gibbing. Unless, of course, we’re all fed up with apocalyptic wastelands by next year. Which, frankly, is unlikely.

Jul 14, 2010