What is it about Rage that makes it so fantastic? It has already won countless awards – many of which were awarded after its appearance at last year’s E3 show – but why exactly is it so great? Anyone who’s even remotely cynical may find it a little hard to get too excited about yet another first person shooter, in which you play yet another enigmatic loner, traversing yet another post-apocalyptic landscape. But after a breathtaking twenty minute stint in the campaign mode, it’s hard not regard it as one of the very best (and purest) first person shooters in years.

Confidence definitely plays a part. The fact that it was crafted by the development team that were basically responsible for creating the FPS genre as we now know it, was never a guarantee of something this outstanding. But the squad at id software are clearly so skilled and knowledgeable about what they’re doing, that it feels as if they’ve come out of the woodwork solely in order to show the new generation of young pretenders exactly how it’s done.

The level that we played through – entitled ‘Authority Prison’ – had us manoeuvring our way around a derelict jailhouse, taking out two kinds of enemy (soldiers and mutants) throughout our journey to rescue an imprisoned friend. Working our way through the corridors involved us having to solve a set of extremely simple but remarkably rewarding puzzles, all of which involved throwing EMP grenades (occasionally through a hidden window or crack in a wall) at generators that were powering lasered door locks.

There were plenty of stray valuables, weapons and trinkets around for us to loot (a fundamental gameplay mechanic) and the two different enemy types that we continuously faced represented two starkly different brands of gameplay. The heavily armoured soldiers didn’t go down very easily at all, even requiring two headshots; the first of which sent their helmets flying. The soldiers pursue you slowly and cautiously, and taking them out involves no small amount of stealth, simply because both they and their weapons are so powerful.

The mutants on the other hand are very easy to dispatch (think Halo’s Flood) but they’re ridiculously fast and unpredictable, scampering over walls and ceilings and often travelling in large packs. The hectic, panicky nature of these encounters makes for a nice change of pace, as most of the skirmishes that we had with the soldiers were so different; often requiring you to dissipate shields with EMP grenades ,or constantly sprint for cover into adjacent rooms.

We played the Xbox 360 version of Rage, and it’s unquestionably one of the best looking titles ever seen on the system – with  the game’s id Tech 5 engine maintaining a consistently slick visual presentation that normally isn’t seen this side of a high-spec PC. But regardless of how good it looks, it’s simply an absolute joy to play. The gunplay is robust and gratifying, the world is compelling, and the objectives and level design are both exceptionally clever. These haggard old timers sure know their onions.

Rage is due for release on Xbox 360, Playstation 3 and PC on Friday September 16th 2011.

Watch the Rage trailer here:


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