Id revealed RAGE's multiplayer last week, while demonstrating new SP content and giving press hands-on. Full details and a ten-minute video interview with design director Matt Hooper.
id Software has been talking about RAGE's multiplayer since the game's 2007 reveal at QuakeCon. That's the thing, though - talking, but never showing. Carmack, Hollenshead, Willits, and Hooper have talked a big game on the multiplayer side, but we hadn't seen the proof - until last week.
RAGE's multiplayer will come in two components: RAGE Combat Rally and co-op. We'll get to that in more detail in a bit - from the get-go, id is very clear on what it wants to achieve with RAGE's multiplayer, and what it doesn't.
In the latter category is on-foot competitive multiplayer, a surprising omission. id explains it away as part of its plan to make the multiplayer what design director Matt Hooper calls "uniquely RAGE". So what actually sets it apart from any other multiplayer?
"The 'any other' is the thing we didn't want to be," Hooper told VG247.
"We didn't want to just go down the laundry list saying, 'OK, we need on-foot, we need on-foot team, we need to do this, we need to do that. Our main goal was to make the most rich, deep single-player experience possible, that's what we set out to do.
"And really, the online component we really looked at as an opportunity. We know people - 'What, you don't have on-foot combat?' But once you sit down and think about it, trust me, there's plenty of entertainment for the dollar that we have in the single-player. And these two opportunities we took just made sense.
"You playing with a buddy doing the same cool things you do in the single-player, that made sense. I want to sit on a couch and play with my buddy, so we have split-screen co-op. I want to play with someone down the street, so we have that online component where you're battling it out. We wanted to keep the fiction in there, we wanted to be able to use the tools, so we worked hard on that and we felt really good. We tried the co-op, we liked it, we wanted to offer it, that's a plus."
RAGE: Combat Rally
We saw a three-minute demo of RAGE's vehicular multiplayer, a four-player match helmed by Hooper, creative director Tim Willits, senior producer Jason Kim and senior artist Ang Cheng. Willits promised "the best of both worlds" with RAGE's multiplayer.
"You have vehicle combat so you can shoot your buddy, and you have these objective rally points you have to race to get. As you play through the game, when you reach a rally point, the next rally point opens up and you start a multiplier," said Willits during the demo.
"So the best way to score points is to hit the rallies. Your buddies are trying to blow you up and get the rallies from you. If you take out the rally leader, you get extra points for that, so it's kind of a duel objective you'll see play out."
Hooper insists that while past games have tried and future games may try something similar, there's nothing like RAGE Combat Rally.
"The vehicle thing, there's no real parallels, so that automatically sets it apart. There's some older games and I think maybe some new that are going to try something, but ours is really uniquely RAGE. We looked at it as, 'wouldn't it be cool if I can jump in the vehicle and battle it out against five other guys or battle it out against a set number of other guys?'
"So we got that working technically, we jumped in, we kinda liked it, we iterated on the goals, we made it a little more forward focussing with the rally points. We tried it, we liked it, we tried 12 cars, we tried four cars, we settled on six, we made these cool environments. There's a lot of depth there, there's progressive unlocks.
"Since we like it, we think there'll be an audience for it. And again, because it's so fresh and new, it's not just the laundry check list, we tried it, we liked it, we're going to put it in the game, so we think those two things really add something to the whole RAGE experience."
"Since we like it, we think there'll be an audience for it."
RAGE Combat Rally currently supports six players. id has experimented with more players, but by the sounds of it, six will be the final number.
"Technically, we could accommodate a few more vehicles, but with the type of real estate we're trying to cover and the type of game modes, six feels about right," said Hooper.
"We want players to jump in, get online, get in a six player match, have fun, the maps are kind of tailored for that. I think we're pretty well settled at six, I think that works well."
As for weapons, there's a selection of mines, missiles, rockets and turrets that'll help destroy fellow players.
The demo we saw was deathmatch-style - every player for themselves - but you can play in teams as well. There will be "different game modes that centered around" the demo we saw. Hooper admits it doesn't have a full number of modes set, but id's playing with at least six to ten modes for now.
"That's one of the things you'd think at this point in the project we'd have everything nailed down, but we're still exploring different things. And again, if it doesn't work for us, we're not going to put it in," he said when asked about the variations in Combat Rally.
"We're not just going to put it in to have another feature or another bulletpoint, we want to make sure it's right. And with vehicles, that's particularly difficult because, again, there are no parallels, nobody else does this, this is different. We have to kind of try a lot of different things.
"So we have the rally mode that we demoed and we also have team-based rally mode. So it's three on one team, three on another, and we'll try different things there. That's kind of worked out nicely.
"And then we have some takes that we're not going to announce just yet, but we're probably trying between six and ten other different modes and we'll end up with a few, there'll be a few compelling modes that we think work best."
Legends of the Wasteland
Next we saw the co-op segment, which ties into the game's story. Called Legends of the Wasteland, this mode has you and a friend completing certain co-op missions based on events from the single-player story.
For example, you'll meet a sheriff in the single-player who'll talk to you about "his boys" carrying out certain missions. In Legends of the Wasteland, you'll play those missions with a buddy.
"You're sent into areas that you previous visited in the single-player campaign, but we've added in this backstory that fills in a lot of the holes of what happened before you arrived on the scene," said Willits.
Called Legends of the Wasteland, this mode has you and a friend completing certain co-op missions based on events from the single-player story.
One mission we saw was to defuse two bombs and protect Wellsprings' water supply. In that time, you also have to destroy RC bomb cars and defeat the rest of the bandit group in addition to the main objective of defusing the bomb.
You'll also get a Mutant Bash TV-themed level where you and your friend meet with host JK Styles and "beta test" the show. Mutant Bash TV sounds like a good example of possible RAGE's DLC - maybe more co-op challenges based around the MBTV theme?
"My whole goal with DLC, and us as a team we've kind of adopted this, is we're getting close to the end of the game, people are getting their hands on it. What they want, that's what we want to give them more of. We want to make sure we deliver on our entire campaign, not pull anything back and put it in as DLC," said Hooper.
"So we're getting close to having that done. Now that people are exposed to it, we're starting to look for, 'hey people like this, let's give them more of it.' So Bash would be a logical way to go. It's kind of uniquely RAGE, and people seem to like it, so that could be something that we push in DLC."
Hooper says it does have "a bunch of different ideas" as to how it can do DLC, from MBTV to ammo types or engineering items to race circuits.
Legends of the Wasteland will be available to play with your friends online or split-screen. As explained,
After showing off multiplayer for the first time, we would get our hands on the single-player later in the day, but more on that later. There was still new content from the SP to show.
Taking the subway to prison
Moving right along to the new single-player content, we got to see a town besides Wellsprings for the first time. In Subway Town, we were introduced to a character known as Captain Marshall, who is the leader of the resistance. That was followed by an introduction to his team: Elizabeth, Portman and mechanic Saul. We were told to go find the big bossman Red Stone.
In Subway Town, you'll find plenty of mini-games to take part in. Some of the games shown include cards and a QTE rhythm game on Mary Had a Little Lamb. As well as that, you're able to take part in new rallies plus buy ammo and car parts.
We were then immediately taken back to before Subway Town, and informed that we were on our way to prison to bust out an imprisoned Marshall. In the player's first meeting with them in the game, we found out how resilient the mysterious Authority can be in the prison, with Hooper saying they are much stronger than the mutants.
Following wave after wave of attacks from Authority forces and turrets inside the building, we were able to open the cell doors inside the prison block where Marshall was held. His door didn't open from the main controls, but it did give way to a group of mutants that started attacking the troops inside. We then made our way to Marshall's cell door and open it, but the security alarm blares out. We were under attack from the Authority forces, trying to stop us escaping through the rest of the level.
We then came across a security gate that had to be shut down. Onwards and upwards with Marshall, right? Not quite. Marshall went into an elevator, played around with it, got shocked and dropped down a floor inside the elevator. That was fine his escape, but the player must find another way out. And with that ends our eyes-on single-player experience.
Hands-on with single-player
Only two hours after seeing the presentation, we went hands-on with some of the single-player missions. We were given a choice of five missions, although I only managed to fully play four out of five in the alloted time.
The first mission began in a garage. I interacted with two of the NPCs there out of sheer curiosity before driving on to a reported Wasted Clan hideout at a dam on an ATV. Driving's as simple as it can be: steering with the sticks, forward with RT and reverse with LT.
Once inside the dam, I came up against a door, which couldn't be opened without using a lock grinder. Once you've gathered the items needed to build one, you can use it in the middle of the door where the lock is and move onwards. As I progressed through the settlement, I stumbled upon a couple of enemies who attacked, some of whom had the Union Jack tattooed on their torso.
The second mission I played with is a themed level based on Mutant Bash TV. After being introduced to the host of MBTV, JK Styles, I went through three chapters on the show. The first involved taking out a simple group of mutants. No problem there. Progressing onto the second chapter, another group of mutants attacked - but this time a model gorilla was spinning around in a fixed clockwise route with spikes between its hands.
Once that was done, I moved onto a bonus round: shooting matching icons on a slot machine. I didn't match anything. So what did I get for my troubles? Yip, more mutants to kill.
The third and final chapter was called Beware the Kraken, and yet more mutants came out. This time, spotlights roamed the floor, and if they turned red, spikes came up from the highlighted area of the floor. After dealing with grunts, I then met a bigger mutant with a kraken arm. He's a bit of a toughie to beat; he'll literally spout some sort of acid in your face that obscures your view, and come charging at you. Once beaten, the level finishes and I was now somehow sponsored by Styles.
"There's a significant main storyline you have to take part in and it's probably a little longer than most."
Next level saw me trying to destroy three batches of bombs that have been made by the Shrouded Clan. I had to use quick-use items from my inventory by pressing select. After taking out a group of Shrouded enemies, I used one of the first items: an exploding RC car.
It took quite a while to get around to destroying the two other caches of bombs - not because of a lack of items or because it actually takes a while; I just got a bit stuck. By the time I destroyed the final batch, I ran into a big Shrouded dude. He was hard to beat, but I eventually took him down.
The fourth mission saw me trying one of the major components of the game: racing. Racing definitely takes its cues from Motorstorm, but is still very much enjoyable. You can boost with X, press B for the handbrake, use weapons with A - as well as the usual spots for accelerate, braking and steering: triggers and sticks. You'll also be able to pick weapon power-ups during the race.
By the by, in case you're curious, I finished fourth.
The final mission had me trying to collect evidence of research on experiments conducted on mutants in the Dead City. Like I mentioned above, though, I didn't play all five levels due to time. This was the last one that caught me out.
We've still got five months before id's new IP releases, but the first signs are definitely looking really great none the less. A multiplayer that's vastly different from most stuff on the market these days, co-op that ties in with the story and a lengthy single-player that lasts around - hey, wait a minute, how long does the single-player last, Matt?
"You know that's a tough question. It seems odd for me to say this, but we really don't know. There's two things that affect that. We're still looking for opportunities, so we're exploring things," he told us, when asked whether the campaign would last around 15 hours, as reported a couple of weeks back.
"We can play through the games the way we play through, but there's so many extra missions you can do. There's repeatable missions, there's races and new circuits you can take part in or not, you can definitely set your own pacing. When you go to town, if you choose to play a few of the mini-games and talk to different people, it takes a little longer, that adds a little bit.
"So really, it's going to depend on your play style, but there's a significant main storyline that you have to take part in and it's probably a little longer than most."
Problem resolved. Somewhat.