Saturday, October 22, 2011

Rage Quit

I really don't know what to make of this game. Game play wise it is probably above average. It is a driving based FPS game with some RPG elements thrown in. I am kind of bored with the whole post-apocalyptic setting in games, especially when they are represented wholly by desert wastelands. Fallout 3 and Borderlands have sated my (apparent) appetite for it long in advance, so it really could just be a case of me not finding the environment interesting. At all. But, I have to say it. Rage looks like shit, and it makes me sad.

It makes me sad for a variety of reasons, the biggest being the simple fact that this is supposed to be iD Game's ( a company I have enjoyed previous games from) new engine technology. Over five years in the making, Rage and its engine are supposed to be the new benchmark for making games. I can see the appeal of the technology (streaming texture/geometric environments) but really, they should have pulled a Crysis and made this for PC only because this sorry console port looks fucking terrible in my opinion. It's not so much the lighting/rendering/polygon count as it is entirely to do with the textures. They are god awful, and the game suffers because of it.

Now I am not usually one to fuss too much over graphics. Sure, I like them. I go to great lengths to see them. Hell, I am a fucking PC Gamer ffs, so it does matter to me. But, if the game play isn't there as well then you won't find me playing it for long. Not to mention I play plenty of games (on console and PC) that you would hardly call state-of-the-art visually. However, my confusion when it comes to Rage has been all the talk about how good the game looks, from console and PC users alike. "Hmmph" I thought to myself, getting my hopes up once again. "Maybe it will look good after all".

Perhaps it is better if I explain my observation in a certain way. The following screenshot of some steps is from Doom II:
Doom II (1994) was also made by iD Games. It uses the same engine as Doom (1993), which for the time was an incredible piece of technology. Sure, you can easily make out the pixels in its 8-16bit texture palette, but for the time it was considered incredibly realistic. The colours/detail of the textures don't detract from the gameplay as everything kinda looks the same anyway, so it all fits nicely. The game is still incredibly playable even today. It is a game I frequently revisit to remind myself about aspects of game design and system architecture as it was a game that pushed your PC to its limits back in the day.

Let's jump a few years ahead. The following screenshot is some steps from Unreal Tournament:
Unreal Tournament (1999) is possibly my favourite game of all time. Released in what I still consider to be the best year in gaming, ever, UT99 was also a game that gave your PC a run for its money. In an era when AGP video cards were actively coming into distribution, games like UT99 were taking things like detailed textures and dynamic lighting very seriously. Besides this, UT99 was enjoyable as hell, looked like a beast and was/is an absolute gem of a LAN game.

The following screenshot is some steps and ridges from Quake III: Arena:
Quake III: Arena, also made by iD Games, was released late 1999. A direct competitor to UT99, it was/is a solid arena shooter. There is perhaps no better arena shooter for measuring skill and efficiency in FPS games than Quake III. It also boasted a significant texture palette, probably slightly better than UT99's and definitely was a benchmark for its time. Unlike UT99, however, it ran quite well on systems due to highly optimized rendering and network code in the format of iD tech's new gaming technology (i.e. iD tech 3).

The following screenshot is from Doom III:
Doom III (2004) was a strange game. It was rather hit and miss for certain audiences, especially those who were a fan more of the frenetic run and gun action of its older brothers. Game play squabbles aside, the game did look great, even with its default textures. Although the game has not aged well, looking rather bad comparatively to modern game's rendering engines, for its time it was considered state of the art.

The following screenshots of some ground is from Crysis:
Impressive huh? Despite the discontent people have for this game (something I have never understood) Crysis (2007) looked absolutely incredible. Taking full advantage of new technologies such as bump-mapping and dynamically lit textures, Crysis made the ground in games look almost photo-realistic. I say almost as, like all textures, repetition patterns emerge if you look at them closely enough (marked above). Nevertheless, it was a minor non-issue to an otherwise stunning game that, admittedly, kicked the shit out of your computer and raped it dead. In my opinion it is the last game to come out that was truly ahead of its time and nothing since then has beat it from a technology-vs-year standpoint.

The following screenshot is of a sidewalk curb in Rage:
WTF is this greasy looking shit covered excuse for a texture doing up in my curb yo?! I think I could vomit onto some dry leaves and come up with something better looking than that. Seriously. This looks fucking horrible, and it is everywhere. All over the damn place. Sure, there are some interesting crease lines and possibly unique cracks in the cement, but jesus christ! Does it really have to look that bad. The problem is, I know this is just a low resolution version of the textures they were actually working with. John Carmack has even stated there is a HD texture pack in the works so the game doesn't look so shithouse on PC. But ... why? Why would they not publish the game with said HD textures in the first place? What possible motive could they have for releasing their game with highly compressed, blurry, indistinguishable textures at all?

.... do I really need to say it?

Don't be fooled. No new engine is going to magically overcome the limitations of hardware that is going on 6 years old. No game studio is going to stop developing for the masses, even at the expense of the quality of their games. Don't listen to people who don't know wtf they are talking about, who are looking through a kaleidoscope from the wrong end. Most of all, don't believe what you see in screenshots solely used for advertising and marketing. What may seem like a beautiful, lens flare filled vista of the vast horizon....
.... is nothing but a fake distraction from the giant turd you are crouching on:

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