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In case you didn’t already know, RAGE, the first-person shooter/racing hybrid developed by iD Software and published by Bethesda, will be released tomorrow. If you’re a hardcore iD fan, then you probably already know that the RAGE universe has already been established. A little less than a year ago in November 2010, iD published an early preview of the post-apocalyptic environment with RAGE HD for iOS devices. Not owning an iOS device at the time, I didn’t discover this gem until last week. For $1.99, what does this iOS preview tell us about the imminent “real” RAGE?
Let me start by saying that RAGE HD is, in many ways, not comparable to what will hit consoles and the PC tomorrow. As an iOS game, it’s designed to run for much less sophisticated hardware, so those of you expecting to see console-quality graphics and effects will be disappointed (although it does look fantastic for its platform). However, RAGE HD provides us with plenty of hints as to how the universe will feel, look, and operate.
There have been plenty of games set in worlds that have gone swirling down into the proverbial crapper, but RAGE is unique in that the world’s governments knew it was headed that way. You see, an asteroid entitled 99942 Apophis (named after the Egyptian god of chaos), has demolished the planet and the only survivors are those who were buried deep underground and frozen by the government’s Eden Project. In RAGE, you control a character whose “Ark” has malfunctioned and released him into a lawless, brutal world where human survivors have congregated around habitable locations, including racetracks, which presumably will host the majority of the game’s racing segments.
What makes RAGE different than a Resistance or a Gears of War is the seeming juxtaposition between survival and a kind of quirky renaissance. The most prominent evidence for this lies within RAGE HD. The entire iOS game is centered around a game-show in which you control the contestant. The objective? Kill as many mutants as you possibly can, and of course, don’t get killed. The more mutants you kill, the more points you score, and the higher your score, the higher your rank. The concept is very simple, and I wouldn’t be surprised if the entire iOS game was included in the “real” game as a mini-game. More to the point, it’s interesting to see crazed fans behaving as any metal-head Oakland Raiders fan might during a Sunday home game. The presence of a host who seems completely content with sending contestants towards their doom only heightens the sense that iD Software isn’t taking their post-apocalyptic setting very seriously. Rather, iD seems to be molding a unique take on a world that has seen better days. Instead of focusing on those struggling to survive, the attention shifts to those who not only survived, but are thriving in this new world order. If the survivors are organized enough to host a television game show, then not much has changed, right?
RAGE HD may be a simple iOS rail shooter with a small amount of highly-polished content, but it gives an enormous glimpse into what it could be like to play RAGE tomorrow. A dire situation mingled with plenty of morbid, desensitized humor, expect RAGE to be quite the opposite of programmer John Carmack’s claim to fame, Doom. While there may be some moments intended to frighten, RAGE HD paints a picture that is far more carefree and lighthearted. All this could prove to be terribly wrong tomorrow and I may be forced to eat my words, but I find it hard to believe that RAGE will feature a completely antonymic world compared to the morose funhouse portrayed in RAGE HD.