E3 2011: Rage – hands-on Dead City gameplay

Let’s just put a stop to all of the comparisons to Fallout 3 and Borderlands right now. Rage is a different beast. You’re not earning XP by shooting ghouls after pausing gameplay in VATS and you’re not making a combat shogun with acid-spewing shenanigans. No, id Software’s Rage focuses less on gimmick and more on arming you with reliable weapons for your wasteland warfare. We just demoed Rage’s Dead City mission here at E3 and came away blast happy.

We saw a bit of Rage and Dead Cityat our pre-E3 event last month (opens in new tab)and by now you’ve seen Dead City’s gameplay trailer so we’ll jump ahead until after you take down the tentacled monster with rockets. After he goes down, you head briefly underground and admire black goop dripping from the subway ceiling before briefly tangling with an enemy that is one part mutant, two parts charred corpse. He was more finicky than the other mutants, but went down after some rifle action.

In fact, the basic mutant enemy showcases some of the most dynamic enemy AI we’ve ever witnessed. These foes are no bullet fodder. They attack in ways that are seemingly unpredictable and pounce at you from places you don’t always expect. We weren’t the only ones have difficulty. Stepping away from the booth, we watched numerous journalists having trouble keeping the mutants in their sights. This may be the first console FPS we prefer to play with a keyboard and mouse. PC gamers take note; the difficulty doesn’t appear to be “dumbed-down” for console enjoyment.

Back to the action, we tried to mow down one with the assault rifle, but he kept ducking and weaving out of the way, landing some quick shots on us. It was frustrating at first, but only because we’re used to FPSes giving us grunts that are easily dispatched. The frustration melted away as we tried to find the right balance in taking on the lowest of enemy ranks. A combo of the shotgun/rifle works handily.

We ventured out into the open and came upon a few mutants rummaging. We popped them with the sniper rifle and that’s when several soldiers of the Authority descended upon us. We were a little taken aback because while we were getting a hang of the mutants, the Authority attack with rifles, hide with energy shields and spam grenades at you. Ducking behind a wrecked car, we started throwing grenades back. It felt infantile of us, like we should’ve known better how to handle them after years of strategic FPS experience, but the explosives worked just fine. A few melee attacks and shotgun blasts later and we moved on.

The weapons of Rage feel like they pack the proper punch. Nothing feels sluggish. Even the pistol is a worthy weapon. The quick use weapons like the gun turret and wingstick felt great but we have one reservation: in the trailers, the demoer would deploy the gun turret right before a big battle or have the wingstick equipped at all times, but it’s really difficult to tell when you’re going to need these quick use items because the heat of battle seems to come out of nowhere. Enemy attacks are unpredictable and don’t feel like you cross an invisible line to activate a setpiece. We had trouble finding one we needed with several enemies all over our ass. Just make sure you’re prepared for attacks at all times.

We eventually came to the end of the demo, where an even bigger monster roared at us, fading the gameplay back to the start. Side note: why do all gameplay demos end with the reveal of a huge monster? Anyway, Rage appears to be on track to deliver an awesome shooter experience this fall. We have nothing but high hopes and this demo only makes us more excited. Check back in the coming weeks for more coverage on Rage.

Jun 9, 2011

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