When id Software last treated us to a brand new game franchise, it was in the days when no-one had heard of Harry Potter or Lady Gaga. So there’s a lot riding on Rage, the first new title in 15 years from the inventors of the first-person shooter.
Rage takes place in a post-apocalyptic future in which an asteroid strike has reduced civilisation to a rabble of sadistic thugs and nasty mutants. An ideal environment for Rage’s mix of trigger-happy action and off-road driving.
As you’d expect from a studio with id’s pedigree, the combat is spot on: rapid, smooth and with little of the twitchiness or sluggishness seen in rival first-person shooters. But it’s the intelligence of your enemies that stood out for us. There’s no dumb, sitting ducks here popping up like fairground targets. Instead enemies react to you, use the surroundings to their advantage, flee and regroup, and generally act like thinking opponents.
Rage also has a nice line in sadistic toys for you to use. Our favourites being the wingstick, a Mad Max 2-inspired, decapitating boomerang, and a special crossbow bolt that gives you temporary control of enemies before causing them to explode. Nasty, but more a product of Rage’s black sense of humour than a desire to shock or offend.
The four shooter levels we tried also suggested plenty of variety in the locations, from dusty sun-baked deserts to ruined cities and the macabre studio of Mutant Bash TV, a reinvention of the coin-op classic Smash TV where contestants slaughter mutants to sound of ringing cash tills. Less convincing on first try was the racing, which was like Sony’s MotorStorm with less forgiving controls. But with more practice and the online multiplayer switched on, it could yet be a winner, especially when the finished version lets players soup up their buggy like a post-apocalyptic boy racer.