id Software's Rage is a huge leap forward in game graphics (video)

Rage is the latest first-person shooter game coming from legendary game studio id Software. The company, which is now part of ZeniMax Media, recently showed it off to select journalists.

And the game isn’t a disappointment. The whole creation, from stunning graphics to smart enemies and the Road Warrior style post-apocalyptic world is well done.

Lots of players may dismiss this out of hand as just another first-person shooter. But this game has the best production values of just about any game category. That’s why I picked it as the most-anticipated game of the E3 video game trade show, which is underway this week in Los Angeles.

Using the latest game engine of graphics guru John Carmack, the game looks beautiful. It brings the characters to life in a way that resembles the outstanding graphics and physically accurate movements in Naughty Dog’s Uncharted 2: Among Thieves game. The visual effects, from smoke to the movements of human faces, will make your jaw drop. I have to say that I have been getting tired of seeing the same old graphics. It’s about time somebody tried to improve the state-of-the-art.

Carmack’s id Tech 5 engine uses what he calls “MegaTextures,” built from the ground up for each of the powerful game systems: the PlayStation 3, Xbox 360 and the PC. A MegaTexture is a single image that replaces a bunch of others and thereby reduces the amount of computation needed to create beautiful imagery. There’s also more minute detail in the images as well. The clever thing about this that saves id money is that it can create its art assets once and use them across multiple platforms.

Tim Willits, lead designer of the game at Mesquite, Texas-based id, said the game combines the best of shooting and car combat genres into one game. As you travel through wastelands, you have to enter competitions to get parts for your vehicle, which
you can then use to race and slaughter other rivals in the world that combines elements of sci-fi and the Wild West.

The world seems original because it looks like a mash-up of the Road Warrior, spaghetti Westerns, horror films, and id’s own previous games. And it all runs at a speedy 60 frames per second, which is lightening fast. I have to believe that Electronic Arts is sorry it gave up the rights to distribute Rage and assigned the rights to ZeniMax.

You can use some very different kinds of weapons in the game, such as a crossbow that shoots electric darts. If you fire it into the water, you can electrocute the mutants standing in it. You can also toss out a razor-lined boomerang and decapitate an enemy. You can roll along a radio-controlled car to your enemies and then blow up a bomb via remote control. You can also set up spider drones to attack anyone who comes at you. So there are lots of tactics you can use besides just shooting everything.

When you shoot at some of the Ghost Clan mutants, they actually dodge the bullets using acrobatics. The enemy movements are very fluid and smart, allowing them to evade your shots and close in on you. The animations look scripted, but the enemy movements are dynamic, meaning they aren’t the same every time.

There’s a wide diversity among the types of mutants you have to fight as you scrounge for things in the desert. You can build your own “lock grinder” from parts you collect, much like in the recent Borderlands game from Take-Two Interactive. You have to collect parts to put together a cool vehicle.

The game hasn’t hit alpha testing yet, and it isn’t scheduled to appear until 2011. But it truly looks like a next-generation game, as if somebody came out with a new game console and only id got to make a game for it.

Check out our video interview with Willits.

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  1. [...] to reduce the amount of computation needed to display environments in high definition (source: venturebeat). Everyone knows how beautiful Rage looks by the screens that have circulated, but already John [...]

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