Wednesday, November 2, 2011


No, this isn't a post about how I feel toward mod reviews posted by anonymous critics; it's a post about how I feel about the continuing trend of video game publishers expecting us to buy their products despite the fact that all they've shown us of the game is a batch of staged and polished "screenshots" (see previous post) and some snippets from some of the game's animated cutscenes. (Remember the television ads for Fallout New Vegas? That was all taken directly from the game's intro movie; they didn't give us a single glimpse of the actual gameplay!) Thus I've decided to share this modest glimpse into the first few hours of my experience playing Rage.
Normally I don't get new games until they're no longer new, but I jumped on this one because it's the first major product from my favorite game publishers after they joined forces earlier this year: Bethesda and id. With that in mind, I fully expected Rage to play like an amalgamation of Doom 3 and Fallout 3; so far it seems like I was right... to a certain extent.
Here's the short version of the story as I understand it thus far:

A humongous asteroid speeds toward Earth, spelling the planet's impending doom (pun intended). In an attempt to save humanity from extinction, a bunch of folks clad in cyborg nano-suits (think Crysis) are put into stasis in these orbiting space pods called Arks. A century later you wake from your little nap to find that everyone but you in your particular Ark is a shriveled corpse and that the Ark is now back on Earth. Without much delay (there's no character generation; you're stuck as a nameless dude) you step out into a desert wasteland. You almost immediately get attacked by a bandit; apparently mankind isn't extinct after all. Then you get picked up by a character who I believe is voiced by John Goodman and he takes you in his dune buggy (with a DoomGuy UAC Marine bobblehead on the dashboard) to his settlement. Of course there are people there who need a total stranger in a nano-suit to run errands for them, including protecting them from in-bred bandit factions.
Though you're given the option to accept or decline the jobs these folks offer you, the jobs don't seem to be as diverse or complex as quests in a full-fledged RPG. However, most shooters that I've played don't contain vendor characters and this one does.
I'm getting the impression that the game world is huge (3 DVDs worth of data, two of which are double-layered), but I wouldn't call it a "sandbox" world. So far the gameplay is fairly linear and you can't go certain places until somebody tells you to go there. And despite the apparent hugeness of the landscape, I've already run into a few inviso-walls (think Fallout New Vegas).
The game also has some armed vehicle combat (think Halo meets Mad Max). Your first ride is an ATV, but as you progress you can work on getting your own dune buggy.
Fans of Doom 3 will undoubtedly recognize the name of the Mixom corporation, as well as a few sound effects that seem to have been copied directly from one game to the other.
Fans of Fallout 3 will also likely feel deja-vu while crossing some of the landscape...
This is the part where I wanted to post some really cool combat screenshots, but they've blessed us with a blurry hit-shader that made it kinda difficult. Still, I did manage to get a few shots of dudes running at me with sharp objects.
While we're looking at some of the enemies, did I mention the ghou-- er, the mutants that inhabit the sewers? I'm not sure yet exactly why they're mutants, though I've heard mention of some valuable alien ore that came down with the asteroid.
So the brief recap is that Rage indeed feels like a cross between Doom 3 and Fallout 3, but mostly Doom 3 with guys to shoot at and linear objectives that are set up to look like RPG quests.

And now for a brief word about performance and stability...

The game offers no graphics settings options to adjust the appearance beyond the screen resolution. At first this made me wince because, while my system can run most of the current games, I still need to scale back some effects like high-def lighting and shadows in games like Oblivion or Fallout 3 in order to get a smooth framerate. But it's not as bad as I initially thought; this game engine seems to render things a bit differently. It's my understanding that in the Gamebryo games (and please feel free to correct me if I'm wrong here) when I emerge from an interior cell into an exterior worldspace that everything in that particular cell gets rendered whether I'm looking at it or not. In Rage, however, it appears that textures are only fully-rendered if they're in my field of vision and everything else gets dumped from the memory. This is noticeable if I'm turning quickly, as I've attempted to capture in the following screenshot:
While quickly turning to my left here, everything that was outside my field of vision was a blur until I turned to actually look at it and then it became fully rendered. Players with high-end rigs will likely be annoyed by this and complain about it since there's no apparent way to turn it on or off. But if you ask me, anything that makes a game run more smoothly for a broader player base is okay in my book and I can live with a few blurry peripheral textures. It's really not so bad once you get used to it.

(This was one of the reasons that I stated in the comments of my previous post that I thought Rage might be able to run okay on some older systems. Since saying that I've installed the game on my old Dell Dimension E310 with an older ATI Radeon HIS video card and thus far I've been unable to get it running. If I do manage to get it to work I'll let you all know.)

Stability? Well, we'll just have to wait for the updates and patches, it seems. While playing today I experienced multiple consecutive CTDs while trying to enter the sewers to take a pic of a mutant. But then, we're all used to this sort of thing by now, aren't we?

EDIT: 11-03-2011

Apparently there's still work being done to make the game more stable. After downloading and installing the latest recommended AMD Catalyst video driver I've been able to go through repeated area transitions without the game crashing. That's really great news, because it was getting to the point where the game was annoyingly unplayable. I recommend owners of the game keep an eye on the AMD support site as well as the Bethesda Forums for new developments.

Oh, and one last thing: while going through those CTDs today I also noticed that the number of times you can save your game is limited to about two dozen slots and that after those are all full the auto-save will start overwriting whichever one is most recent, so just a little heads-up on that.

Well, I guess that's really all I have for now. Hopefully this info will be useful to anyone interested in this new game. So until next time, I'll likely be trying to keep myself from ending up like this guy:


  1. So... maybe I'm over-simplifying this (it is 0600PST, after all) but here's what I took as the gist of your review:

    It's Fallout: New Vegas; without any of the stuff that made NV worth playing (character customization, different advancement paths, craftable items, moddable weapons, non-linear quests, sandbox world where you can bum around with no specific purpose nearly anywhere you like, easy addition of companion NPCs, a thousand possible saves at any one time), but with all the things that make NV bad (massive railroading attempts, less than stellar story, rampant bugs, poor dev support, poor scaling) -- except with a healthy dose of iD going "HEY GUYS LOOK WE CAN STILL MAKE ULTRAVIOLENT GAMES JUST LIKE IN 1995! DO YOU LOVE US AGAIN YET?!"

    That about cover it?

    ...Also, I think my cynicism may have just passed critical mass. I should probably warn NASA to start watching for black holes over the pacific northwest... Anybody got NORAD's phone number...?

  2. Also also: looking closer at the screenshots that show the interface, I'd just about be willing to bet money that's a form of the same engine they used in Battlefield 2. If it is, that would explain why it won't run worth a shit -- that engine has sucked since day one.

    Although I must admit, that is a right bitchin' ATV, what with the cow skull and ribs and whatnot.

  3. @Nos:

    While I tried not to put it quite so harshly, yeah, that's all about right. It's a game that I can't imagine enjoying playing through more than twice; after that, it'll be dead. It's like playing an echo of games that I really love.

    However, I am still just in the early hours of gameplay; I'm probably not near the award-winning part of it yet...

  4. It definitely seems to have a feel of both Doom 3 and FO3. Not surprising I guess given its origins. After playing FO3 so much, I am not sure I could go back to trying a new game set up as a straight First Person Shooter though. I like my flexibility in regards to where I can go and how I can go about my missions. Might be why I haven't fired up Doom 3 since July or August.

    Something else I noticed from some of the screen shots that you might not notice during actual play is a glaring difference in texture quality between gear/equipment and buildings. I noticed it in your third screen shot, where what looks like a rain spout pipe with its mounting brackets and a near by access panel look like painted cardboard glued onto the wall of the building. I noticed similar texture quality in a few other shots. It might be completely unnoticable during play, unless you have time to actually stop and look, or it might have something to do with the way rendering works with this engine. Not having it to play, I can only speculate.

    I might get this eventually when I have some money to throw around at stuff like this, and maybe after its been around for a while and goes on sale. Hmm, now that I think of it, does this game have any re-installation limits or need to be played through something like Steam? Those seem to be things I have to concider about a game purchase now a days.

    Thanks for this review Herculine. I look forward to hearing more of your thoughts on it :)

  5. @Herculine: Wait, this game has won awards? I thought it only went gold like a week ago...?

    @Druuler: You know, I have a similar problem. Back before games like Oblivion existed, I was big into FPS-ing; the Battlefield games especially. Now, though, I just can't go back. It's not even the gameplay so much as just how stupid and useless the bots that are supposed to be my teammates are. Which is a shame, 'cause I was an excellent CAS pilot.

    I also agree that whether it involves steam is a heavy influence on my game purchases anymore (I'm against it, for the record).

  6. As am I for the most part Nos. But I think that the games with re-install limitations and the idea of sole ownership are putting me off of new title purchases as well. I remember your thoughts on the Mass Effect games, but after learning how in depth the game universe is (literally) I admit to having an interest in playing that series. The fact that your end of game save file carries over to the next installment and affects how that one plays out also increases my interest. What puts me off, is the re-install restrictions. I could be wrong, but I think the game is limited to three installs before the disks are more or less useless. If you need another re-install, you have to buy the game again. This makes it a title that you should not buy used, as you never know how many more times the disks can be used.

  7. @Druuler:

    It's just that sort of nonsense that is making video game piracy more popular by the minute, even among reputable gamers.

    (...not that I would ever publicly endorse such a disreputable practice...)

    I still own a copy of TWO WORLDS that I paid for fair and square with my own hard-earned money that now makes a fine paperweight because when I try to activate it I'm told it has been installed too many times on too many computers. Guess I'm only ever supposed to own one computer, 'cause they never become out-dated...

  8. The push by game companies to eliminate game software resale does seem to be having a more detrimental effect than they might have originally thought. It doesn't excuse the practice of piracy, of course, but it does seem to be feeding it.

  9. @Herculine: It does sound like a game with no replay value at all alas. Pity since I was curious about it.

    @Druuler: Things reinstall limits and such are why I've bought almost no new games, only drm free ones.

    Btw Herculine, GOG has Two Worlds drm free for $10 :)

    I'm starting to feel like their advertiser dammit :P

  10. Thanks for the info Kirtai! It would indeed be nice to actually be able to play that game after owning it for a few years...

  11. @Kirtai: Maybe you should see about getting a commission for pointing people in their direction? Just a thought.

    Now were did I put my copy of "Total Annihilation"?

  12. Worthy of note:

    Since installing the latest video drivers, I'm now able to go in and out of the sewers without the game crashing. It's a good thing, because that was getting very annoying!

  13. @Herculine: Hmm, was Rage the game that was developed with pre-release drivers and then released before the drivers were available to the public?

    @Druuler: Maybe I should ;)

    Now were did I put my copy of "Total Annihilation"?
    Hmm, I wonder who sells that drm free...

  14. @Kirtai:

    Since it's a month after the release, I was trying to overlook that fiasco...

  15. "Hmm, was Rage the game that was developed with pre-release drivers and then released before the drivers were available to the public?"

    Say what? Oh man, that just doesn't bode well at all for future releases, support or my faith in the Id/Bethesda joining...

    @Kirtai: Can't help you with the search I'm afraid. I purchased my copy back in '99 as part of a multi-pack, which included the first 3 Duke Nukem games as well. Great fun :D

  16. @Herculine: Ah, so it was that one. I couldn't quite remember.

    @Druuler: I was kidding about the Total Annihilation comment. I just didn't want to keep mentioning GOG :)

    I only wish I'd been kidding about the graphics driver thing though. I couldn't believe that when I first heard it.

  17. I sort of figured it was a rhetorical question Kirtai, but it made me think of when I made the purchase and what was included in the set. It also had the first Tomb Raider, as well as one of the Civilization games and one called Heavy Gear. Total Annihilation and Duke Nukem were the only ones I ever really ended up playing.