Eddie Van Halen once said, of the throngs of young, new guitarists picking up where he'd left off, playing Eruption with their teeth and making their electric guitars do things he couldn't have imagined, but yet had inspired them to do, that it was like watching someone steal your car, and then drive back to tell you what a cool car they have. I don't know what it's been like for id Software all these years, watching new developers take the shooter to dizzying heights in the decade and a half or more since they literally invented the genre, but I imagine they have to feel a lot like Eddie Van Halen.
There are many things you can say about the shooters that have been made since 1993's Doom, both good and bad, but almost all of them - especially of late - are cooler than Doom and id hasn't made a significant wave in the genre for a long, long time.
Enter: Rage, id's new shooter, which they hope will be more like Sammy Hagar than Gary Cherone, i.e. "cool," not "drool."
"After we completed the last Doom game and Quake 4, we looked at the [id Tech 5] technology and ... what it allowed us to do," says id's Creative Director, Tim Willits. "We also looked at how we'd evolved as gamers and developers, and how the industry has evolved as gamers. We knew that we wanted to do something different, something that would change expectations of what an id software game was. We knew that, at its core, its very essence, it had to be an awesome first person shooter. We invented the genre, we do it great, we knew that everything we did with Rage would have to revolve around this first person core."
Rage is a first-person action game taking place in an asteroid-ravaged Earth at some post-apocalyptic point in the future. You will play as a dude who had been sealed underground by the government as part of a secret plan to keep folks safe in vault-like ARKs, but when you wake up, you realize things have gone horribly awry.
"Your ARK is damaged, and you are the only survivor," says Willits. "When you emerge into this world, it is something that no one expected. More people survived the impact than anyone thought, society has tried to rebuild itself, there are mutants, and there's bandits and there's this omnipresent force that we call The Authority. At some point in the game, you will ultimately battle against this Authority."
What's most striking about Rage is not necessarily the technology behind it, which, admittedly is pretty impressive. According to id, their "Tech 5" allows them to hand-draw entirely customized worlds and present them at insane framerates. But what's most arresting about Rage isn't the evolution of the technology, it's the evolution of the genre. Rage isn't the kind of shooter one would expect from id. It has NPCs, dialogue trees, an explorable world, vehicles, custom ammunition - all the trappings of an RPG. Rage is the most un-shootery shooter id has ever made - which may be just what the doctor ordered.