With the release of Rage 2 this month, I wanted to take a trip down memory lane for a moment and look back on the original game; RAGE. I remember picking the game up in 2011, and by the middle of 2012 I had completed the single player story 3 times (I had no life (I still have no life)). Something drew me too the game, it's not the best game ever made or that I’ve played, but it is one of my favourites, nonetheless.
Rage is a first-person shooter and racing game developed by id Software and published by Bethesda Softworks released in 2011 for PC, PS3, 360 and later released on Mac as Rage: Campaign Edition. The game also has some RPG elements which include an inventory system, the ability to customise weapons, the choice of different ammo types for each weapon and of course a main story quest as well as multiple side missions. The game uses the id Tech 5 game engine, which I am very fond of, and a bit disappointed that Rage 2 isn’t using the game engine. But I get why it isn’t, id Tech isn’t made for open world games, and the developers of Rage 2; Avalanche Studios, wanted to make the world of Rage 2 bigger and with a true open world experience that Rage fell short of offering.
Rage is set in a post-apocalyptic world created by an asteroid wiping out most of the population. A crystal call Feltrite that came from the asteroid has fiddled with the DNA of some people turning them into mutated monsters. Multiple cryogenic pods were made before the asteroid impact called Arks. Your character has been woken up, everyone else inside your Ark is dead. You emerge to the outside to see what the world has become around you. You are the Ark Survivor.
As you start the game, a character called Dan Hagar finds you and takes you to his small town in the wasteland. He gives you your first quest as well as your first gun (the settlers pistol). Your objective is to go the bandits hideout and take them all out. Once you arrive at the hideout, the game loads a separate level that you now must make your way through and eliminate every bandit. The somewhat open world section of the game is usually for travelling to different levels which you just used to get to the Hideout. Rage has a somewhat more linear approach than say the game Borderlands where you can complete multiple quests in one area. You usually go on one quest at a time in Rage, and there aren’t many times that you complete two quests at once when in the same level.
Rage being a somewhat linear experience, makes the player not continually stop gameplay and go into his/her quest menu and map to see what objectives can be completed in the one area. I ended up usually going into the log (which is used for selecting quests, seeing stats, crafting items, changing weapons) to craft items, so it wasn’t a regular occurrence.
In Rage you; get a quest - go to objective - complete objective (maybe find rewards in level) - go back to quest giver - earn reward/get another quest/continue story. It may seem simple, but the game makes every quest mean something to the player as well as the quest giver. It doesn’t feel like you're doing chores for the NPC characters, because you are always going into new areas (or even old ones but in reverse) and finding new items and weapons. But most importantly it doesn’t make the player question why the NPC Character isn’t doing the quest on his/her own. The wasteland is a dangerous place and some people don’t want to go out there alone or ever, and you, the Ark Survivor seem like you enjoy the thrill of danger and you look well equipped to do so.
There are vehicles that are used to get around the wasteland and to compete in town races too. The races have the same gameplay loop as the main missions. Choose race, finish in top 3, get race credits to spend on improving your vehicles armour, speed, and/or appearance.
I enjoy the post-apocalyptic setting in games when done right, and a big factor for me is that you feel alone. I know this isn't the only way to do the setting right, but it makes a game setting more of a spectacle when you first wander into a new area. I'm alone, no one to help me and the only way to progress is to move forward into danger. It's a great feeling and even greater one when you complete the task at hand, it makes you want to go on more adventures.
One down side to the game according to everyone it seems, but one that I didn't mind was (spoilers!) having no end game boss fight. The last area you're in, you have to turn on a couple of consoles, and after turning each one on, a horde of enemies start spawning and you have to take them all out. When everyone is dead, you then interact with the final console, and the game ends. It didn't bother me as much as others.
We've all seen boss fights at the end of games. Yeah you will probably get a big sense of achievement when taking down a massive mutant monster, but all you will be doing is learning the boss' movements and shooting bullets at it till the health bar goes down. There's nothing wrong with that, but I like that id Software tried something different. Either that or they just ran out of development time, but either way I commend them taking a chance and not doing the norm.
Rage is a game that I could come back to anytime just to have fun and waste(land) a little time shooting mutated monsters, and I'm hoping that Rage 2 does that exact thing as the original. Avalanche Studios seems to have ramped up the 'RAGE' (and colour!) for Rage 2, but I also hope that it still is fan service for the fans of the original Rage game (so much use of the word 'fan' in that sentence).
ultraplayer 2013, One of the most detailed worlds in video game, reddit, viewed 8 May 2019, <https://www.reddit.com/r/gaming/comments/10tt8u/one_of_the_most_detailed_worlds_in_video_game/>.
Rage 2011, Ghost Hideout, Rage Wiki, viewed 8 May 2019, <https://rage.fandom.com/wiki/Ghost_Hideout>.
Gurwin, G 2018, Why is Bethesda making 'Rage 2?' We dove back into 'Rage' to find out, Digital Trends, viewed 8 May 2019, <https://www.digitaltrends.com/gaming/why-is-bethesda-making-rage-2-we-dove-back-into-rage-to-find-out/>.
A game study on Deus Ex: Human Revolution and discussion between the end of the mission "Hunting the Hacker" and the beginning of the mission "Gaining Access to Tai Yong Medical".
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zC4q0XBwPzw - Time Code: 7:00 - End of video
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kyq5tR0wXsM - Time Code: Start of video - 6:17
Deus Ex: Human Revolution (DXHR) is an action role-playing game (ARPG) with incorporated first-person shooter (FPS) and stealth mechanics. Players take the role of Adam Jensen, a man equipped with mechanical cybernetic implants called ‘augmentations’.
‘Deus Ex: Human Revolution immerses the player inside its cyberpunk womb from the very start.’ (Donatelli 2012). DXHR knows how to pull you in and feel the gritty, unstable world full of futuristic corporate architecture and interiors setting the mood perfectly with dark lighting and a great cyberpunk/Blade Runner inspired soundtrack.
In DXHR, all elements of the game fit and connect to each other to produce a memorable world, a memorable experience and brilliant design. DXHR’s aesthetics seem similar, and took inspiration from Blade Runner and Ghost in the Shell. The game has a yellow golden tinge for a screen effect, and goes well with the whole game, which mainly focuses on dark lighting and gold neon lights. During the gameplay in Alice Garden Pods, enemies are alarmed and begin searching for you. The background score has a very fast and frustrating effect as the playable character is in that situation. And as soon as a guard spots you and their status changes from alarmed to hostile (see figure 02), the audio track slightly changes to an action based sound with just a couple of instruments added to the already playing audio. But the two sounds; both the alarmed audio and hostile audio seem like they could still be part of the same song and both work well together as a whole. As soon as enemies lose sight of the playable character, those extra instruments fade away and the original alerted audio continues playing. Every song, and every audio track fit perfectly in the game which makes it’s that more immersive.
DXHR’s levels are semi-open maps (see figure 03), but just because they are small, it doesn’t mean there’s thoughtless level design, quite the opposite in fact. Each level is carefully crafted and contributes to the story and aesthetic of the game. In Alice Garden Pods, after we meet with the Hacker, Belltower Security show up looking for you. Alice Garden Pods is a small section of Hengsha, and the game confines you to that space. You must escape the Alice Garden Pods and continue through the game.
DXHR uses an illusion technique, which is basically to ‘support multiple-solutions, by having multiple ways to get past an obstacle, but have the same ending for all, as the objectives don’t change’ (Lapikas 2012), Even though you are confined in a small space with only one exit, the way levels are designed in DXHR lets you choose which way you want to get there. This makes the players brain think that it’s making meaningful decisions and choices, but in reality, the game already has laid out a plan for the player.
As you walk out to the open, you can; drop down to the first level by jumping off the rail and shooting guards and escaping, or you can just walk down the stairs shooting guards in the way. If you like a stealthy approach, you can crouch and move quietly hoping that no one sees you escaping Alice Garden Pods. And there’s sure to be other ways to escape that area in your own way.
This section of the game is a minor one, nothing big really happens in the story, but the level design doesn’t care that this is the last time you’ll be in this area. Every object is carefully place with meaning, with the player’s choice being considered and the guards positioning being considered too. All this wrapped with the score and soundtrack of the game, and with dark black and the light gold lights (see figure 04). It becomes atmospheric.
This section of DXHR communicates a lot of information to the player through environmental storytelling. As you ascend the first pair of stairs up to Alice Garden Pods, you are shown a place that is safe, where people live, or rent out, with the shiny gold lighting right in front of you. Even though you have a map and map marker, the light still does its job and lures you to the top centre of Alice Garden Pods to meet with the hacker.
DXHR has a RPG element to it, and because of that, you can end up having skills/augmentations that other players that played the game didn’t chose or didn’t have at the time at arriving at this place. So, the way you escape the area is going to be different from how others played that specific section. This makes every playthrough feel unique, and even more unique, if you play completely differently on your second playthrough.
After Belltower Guards show up they start searching for the playable character. The UI and map show you the exit, and it’s the way you came in. Just like before, when you entered the Alice Garden Pods you saw the Gold neon lights in front of you. Now if you look the direction where you need to go, the lights are dim and dark indicating the Alice Garden Pods isn’t safe at this moment. The game also shows you which objects are interactable in the world; so, if you see a door with a yellow/gold outline on it, that indicates that its interactable. The playable character Adam Jensen, is an augmented human, and his eyesight is also augmented. Mechanics aren’t just put in without meaning, everything ties back to the story. Mechanics are given to you when you upgrade an augmentation, for instance, a sight augmentation upgrade can give you the ability to see an enemy’s line of sight. So, the map on the bottom left corner would show cones on enemies indicating their line of sight.
Deus Ex: Human Revolution pulls you into its world, with the great score and atmospheric levels. There isn’t any moment that takes you out of the experience and makes you think “wait, that doesn’t belong here”. Even though DXHR is a story based game first, the gameplay was not forgotten. Mechanics fit together perfectly and not one augmentation overpowered. The level design takes all augmentations you could use in consideration, it’s just up to the player to find out what works best for them. Alice Garden Pods and the missions that take place there are just a small portion of the game, and the elements talked about in this piece translate over to the rest of the games levels.
Donatelli, M 2012, ‘Level Design Review of Deus Ex: Human Revolution’, Gamasutra, viewed 22 November 2017, <https://www.gamasutra.com/blogs/MatthewDonatelli/20120118/90927/Level_Design_Review_of_Deus_Ex_Human_Revolution.php>.
Deus Ex: Human Revolution 2011, Square Enix, Eidos Montreal, Deus Ex Wiki, viewed 22 November 2017, <http://deusex.wikia.com/wiki/Deus_Ex:_Human_Revolution>.
Phil Lube 2012, Deus Ex Human Revolution – Dev Diary SOUND DESIGN, YouTube, viewed 22 November 2017, <https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mGiFzS8F8QA>.
Lapikas, F 2012, ‘Reimagining a Classic: Deus Ex: Human Revolution’, GDC, viewed 22 November 2017, <https://www.gdcvault.com/play/1015489/Reimagining-a-Classic-The-Design>.
Xtr33mm 2011, Deus Ex: Human Revolution Walkthrough – Part 27 – Meet Van Bruggen, Youtube, viewed 21 November 2017, <https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zC4q0XBwPzw>.
Xtr33mm 2011, Deus Ex: Human Revolution Walkthrough – Part 28 – Escaping The Pods, YouTube, viewed 21 November 2017, <https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kyq5tR0wXsM>.
Figure 01, Alice Garden Pods 2011, Deus Ex Wiki, viewed 20 November 2017, <http://deusex.wikia.com/wiki/Alice_Garden_Pods>.
Figure 02, Turbin95 2011, Deus Ex Human Revolution Alice Garden Pod Escape, YouTube, viewed 23 November 2017, <https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z0Wj1iNsFKA>.
Figure 03, Alice Garden Pods 2016, GameBanshee, viewed 22 November 2017, <http://www.gamebanshee.com/deusexhumanrevolution/walkthrough/alicegardenpods.php>.
Figure 04, Niliana Bloodbound 2015, “The Nexian Markets” Gole Standt’s Skyplot, Wildstar Forums, viewed 22 November 2017, <https://forums.wildstar-online.com/forums/index.php?/topic/148380-the-nexian-markets-gole-standts-skyplot-another-creation-by-niliana/>.