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Rage: Just another post-apocalyptic shooter?

id Software attempts to stand out in the FPS dustbowl...

Post-apocalyptic worlds are becoming as common-place in video games as New York City and military hangers. The end of the world hallmarks are dutifully recycled every time as well; expect plenty of dust, some mutated folk and a room that's had at least one of its walls blown off.

The point is, as exciting as the idea of living in a radioactive, dog eat two-headed dog world may well be, the novelty of the wasteland backdrop alone is wearing thin. If developers want to ride down Post-apocalyptic Avenue, they're going to need more than gritty dustbowls.

With Rage, id Software has gone for massive meteor impact, rather than massive nuclear fallout as an explanation as to why the world is looking a bit unappetising. The effect is the same though; half-rubble buildings, blown-out cars and hordes of mutants interested in hurting you.

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What is striking, however, is how good the oh so similar scenes look running with the new id Tech 5 engine. As far as the environmental perks themselves are concerned it's all polish, detail and draw-distance. Rage's graphical capabilities don't really get the chance to shine in the internal sections as much as they do in the open air, although that's probably true for most games: where indoor sections pack you into dark, crowded structures, the outdoor sections make use of some really nice lighting effects (if not geared to be quite as striking as, say, Uncharted or Crysis) and the extra space to impress with some massive structures and monolithic beasts.

Up close as well, the engine's graphical capabilities can't be disputed with weapons like the cross-bow showing off some really nicely detailed old-fashioned design. The model itself works subtly with those lighting effects as well, as the bulky, brushed metal body of the weapon gently reflects every ray from its contours perfectly.

CYBER PUNK'D
The most impressive visual elements of Rage, however, come in the form of character animation, which is equally satisfying in both scripted and real-time events.

We're first treated to some nuanced animation quirks when we meet Captain Marshall, who takes us to an underground hideout inhabited by a group of human 'Ark' survivors who have hunkered down following the meteor impact, away from the bandits and mutants that have spread and made overground life a hardship.

It's another example of how Rage sticks firmly to genre conventions as we follow Captain Marshall while he fills us in on general background. But, again, it's the detail that makes it a bit more special.

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The world of Rage has the whole Steam Punk thing at its core, inventing new technology constructed from obsolete bits and bats. As such Captain Marshall has a pretty crude looking but fully capable robotic leg. The result is a limp that jitters through the whole of the man's body. It's little more a series of very slight animation details all over the character model, but it's a detail that really resonates when we've become used to AI allies walking in pretty much the same puppety way in similar sequences.

In the hideout we meet the rest of the gang each with their own little clockwork quirks and it's a pleasure again to cast your eyes over how the characters and their contraptions are put together, and get distracted by the little bits of movement that happen sporadically all over their bodies while they talk.

A similar level of detail is present in the game's AI - even when it's all kicking off. In a later level we have to spring Captain Marshall from jail, which results in a shoot-out with The Authority - the mysterious, agile and technologically advanced faction that's after Ark survivors.

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