Alright folks, time for me to get a bit “technical,” as it were. This is one of these posts where I’m gonna talk briefly about a game mechanic and how it actually benefits the player subtly. I know most of my content is a bit more fluff, but hear me out on this one.
I recently beat id Software’s Rage, a solid first-person shooter/driving game hybrid. I was looking to play something after trying to beat Modern Combat 5, and this seemed like a prime candidate.
I seemed to go through a phase where I was playing a bunch of older id Software games to see their career trajectory, as earlier in the year I had ran through Doom 3 — the original, not through the somewhat inferior BFG Edition — just to see if it was bad as I remembered it. It actually wasn’t awful, and is a pretty good game. Hasn’t aged gracefully in the graphics department, but what has?
Which brought me onto playing Rage. As time has gone on, this game has been mostly forgotten by hardcore shooter fans, shoved off into the “oh right, that was a game” category that other id games like Quake 4, Enemy Territory: Quake Wars and that 2009 Wolfenstein game have been victim to.
It was also a changing of the guard, being one of the last major games John Carmack worked on at the company before he left for Oculus, and with most of the original people who made some of id’s classics gone, it just seemed like id was in a weird career limbo where they had no idea where to go next. Basically, they went from being the pioneers of video gaming to attempting to be in with the modern shooter crowd, and failing in the process.
But enough about id software’s midlife crisis. I wanna talk about something this game does that people take for granted. Rage has two minor mechanics that while aren’t explicitly mentioned, but really help out the player. It involves the simple concept of reloading your weapons.
In most first-person shooters, when you reload, you can’t cancel out of the reload until it finishes, leaving you vulnerable to attack. Secondly, the reload animation has to play out fully before you can fire again. In a fast-paced shooter, it can be frustrating to have to wait for your dude to slowly tap a magazine into their assault rifle and pull the charging handle before being able to shoot again.
Rage doesn’t do that. If you start reloading mid-magazine and hold down the fire button, the reload is immediately canceled, letting you expend the rest of the magazine. Secondly, if you’re reloading from an empty magazine, you can hold down the fire button before the player pulls the charging handle, letting you skip the rest of the reload and get back to shooting quickly.
You can see this in the video I shot from one of the bonus Sewer levels, but there’s a better demonstration if you skip ahead to 1:53.
It doesn’t sound like much, but it’s a huge help. Rage has you fighting between the quick and melee-heavy mutants, common grunts, and big boss monsters. The last thing you want is to have to watch a painstaking long reload sequence while having enemies take pot shots at you.
Honestly, I think reload canceling and skipping long reloads need to start being a thing that’s not reserved as some kind of skill or perk. A lot of FPS games take a simple concept – reloading a firearm – and don’t do much with it. Outside of games like Receiver, which take the concept of firearms and expand on it, most games just do the bare minimum when it comes to reloading, and Rage deciding to take a subtle twist into it really makes a difference.
Compared to other shooter games that were released in the same year as Rage, such as Call of Duty Black Ops, Battlefield: Bad Company 2, and the 2010 reboot of Medal of Honor; none of these games give you that reloading mechanic. At most, canceling a reload involves doing an exploit such as a melee attack or switching weapons, and in most cases this takes longer than it does to reload normally, which can lead to some frustrating deaths online and off.
Is Rage’s way of handling reloads unrealistic? Yeah. Is it some revelatory thing? Not really. But I think had id not done this, Rage would’ve been a much more aggravating experience.
As for Rage itself, it’s worth playing. The wasteland concept is a bit played out – especially since this game came out a year after Borderlands was a hit – but the action and driving’s pretty solid. Not only that, you get to take missions from John Goodman and Steve motherfuckin’ Blum. Can’t get any better than that, right?
Update: I totally forgot this is also in Wolfenstein: The New Order, which uses the same engine. I can’t tell if this is because someone at MachineGames played Rage and decided to copy the reload style, or if it’s some kind of engine quirk with id Tech 5.
Either way, much like in Rage, the reload cancelling and firing before the reload animation is finished really makes the combat quick and snappy, and for something like Wolfenstein, which is a pretty fast-paced shooter, this is essential.
It’s weird, I played New Order before Rage, and yet I didn’t notice both games had the same mechanic until recently. I still think more games should adopt this concept, it’s pretty neat.