"We are the creators of Doom and Quake and Wolfenstein," says id's Tim Willits. "We invented the first-person genre."
How great it must be to preface a video game demonstration with the words "we invented the first-person genre". It's a bit like saying, "yeah, you might have played - and even enjoyed - other first-person shooters, but nobody does it quite like we do, because we were doing it when you were still crapping in nappies."
But the Godfather, as fans know all too well, doesn't do things quickly. In an age when Activision pumps out a new Call of Duty game each year, and Microsoft gives us more Halo than we know what to do with, id is happy to sit back and ponder the meaning of life, love... and kick ass graphics. So here we are, in the depths of a stunning French château, about to see RAGE being played on the Xbox 360 for the first time. The shroud of mystery that has enveloped RAGE since its 2007 QuakeCon unveiling is about to be blown away.
And what do we see? Well, perhaps the best-looking video game of all time.
Gearbox Software's Borderlands is a decent enough reference point. Like Borderlands, RAGE is a quasi open world post-apocalyptic FPS set in a sci-fi Wild West - all deep south accents and heavy guitar twangs. But there the similarities end, because in visual terms, RAGE blows Borderlands, and almost every other game, out of the water.
The devil is in the detail, and the detail is fuelled by id's next-generation game engine id Tech 5. Tim begins his demo out in the wasteland, just looking around. The searing desert sun burns deep shadows on red rock. Textures buzz with detail. Shrubs sway in the wind. Water pools reflect RAGE's virtual world with crystal clarity. And the frame rate... oh, the frame rate. RAGE's world is not photo-realistic, but it is so colourful, vibrant and smooth that it seems beyond real.
Throughout Tim's demo it's hard to know where to look, so jam packed is the environment with glorious little details. A mutant - one of RAGE's demented enemies - attacks. Tim lets fly with the deadly Wingstick – a sort of killer boomerang - taking its head clean off. It snarls and screams like Gollum from The Lord of the Rings, then its head rolls away, spraying blood. Another mutant is torn to ribbons with machine gun fire, aimed at its arms and legs. It twists and turns in a maelstrom of stunning animation. I'm reminded of Killzone 2, then remember Helghan doesn't get this sunny.