Combat, from what we've seen, takes place in two kinds of areas: out in the expansive Wasteland, and in more traditional interior "dungeon" environments. Functionally, it's a combination of run and gun weapons fire (in a nice touch, you raise a small telescope to your left eye when zooming in using the pistol) spliced with some nifty supporting sci-fi gadgets. Underneath Wellspring, in an area overrun by thugs known as the "Ghost Clan", Tim uses different ammunition types to cause all sorts of havoc. Electro bolts, for example, allow you to fry a bunch of badguys in one shot if they're stood in a pool of water. The fat boy ammo, on the other hand, is great for blowing up canisters, and burning bandit flesh. We see some goons emerge from a blaze, screaming in pain as fire chars their skin and cooks their gizzards. Using the right ammo in the right situation is key to RAGE's combat.
If the various ammo types add spice to RAGE's Serenity-flavoured broth, then the many engineering items add sugar. These crafted items can cause some serious damage. Take, for example, the Remote Control Car Bomb: Lay it on the ground, steer it into a room full of bandits, then boom! Later, if you have the appropriate recipes, you'll be able to craft deployable turrets and small robot controlled sentry bots. Engineering items can mean the difference between life and death, so you'll always want to pick up everything and anything you find along your travels (thankfully RAGE doesn't have any form of encumbrance system, so you can carry as much as you want).
While ammo types and engineering items mix up RAGE's combat, it's the enemies you'll use them on that are of most interest. The Ghost Clan, who can dynamically path through the environment, are extremely nimble – attacking from above and below, swinging like death-obsessed acrobats. They often charge at you, wall-running to dodge your fire before bludgeoning you in the face. The Cockney-sounding Wasted, on the other hand, are much easier to handle. In the Dam Facility area where they're holed up, Tim employs flanking tactics. He deploys as many turrets as he can, trying to flush the thugs out from behind cover. The Ghost Clan and The Wasted are only two of the many bandit types in the game, but you'll always know what you're up against because they like to paint the walls with their unique tribal markings.
Tim's presentation has answered so many questions. We know that structurally RAGE follows a sort of hub and spoke design, where you pick up quests from towns and go out into the wild and other dank places to complete them. We also know that vehicle combat is more of an additional mechanic, supplementing the FPS action rather than competing with it. And we know, not that there was any doubt, that RAGE's visuals will blow away anyone who dares to look at them.
But will the gameplay match the graphics? I haven't seen one mechanic that, on its own, pushes the FPS genre forward. id is banking on that not mattering; RAGE's appeal is less about its individual ideas and more about a collective consciousness. Everything looks perfectly well executed, from the visceral satisfaction of shooting bandits to tearing across the Wasteland in the buggy, from the environmental kills that come with elemental ammo types to the unique bandit AI. These are ideas we've seen before, but rarely have we seen them executed so beautifully.
"There are a lot of unique aspects to RAGE that aren't necessarily ground-breaking in of themselves," Tim admits. "But when you put them in a whole package you need to make them work, you need to make them fit, you need to make players feel that, 'okay, it makes sense that I'm switching to this type of gameplay'. Getting it all to gel has been probably the biggest challenge. But it's been the most fun, too."
And fun, my FPS-loving friends, is exactly what RAGE will be.
RAGE is due out on PC, Xbox 360 and PS3 in 2011.