Explaining RAGE has been difficult for Tim Willits. After the first announcement back in 2007, the game was immediately thought to be a racer. It isn't. With the introduction of loot and crafting, it suddenly seemed like an RPG. It isn't.
Earlier this year we were shown five levels from throughout the game, all of which were so different, that showed what the game is capable of, but not how it feels. Bethesda's solution was to sit us down in a room and let us play the first 90 minutes of the game.
1. There's more shooting than you might think
Yeah, that's not saying much. It's like your mum saying that dinner might contain more food than you originally thought. But in the first hour, I was struck by how much of the missions involved driving up to a set of bollards, which are the game's way of saying "get out, it's on-foot shooty time".
It's good shooting, though. Smooth as hell thanks to iD's demands of a full frame rate of 60fps. It's useful when the gang members are so damn moveable. Ghosts use the landscape to propel themselves towards you, moving up-down-left-right fast enough to make you waste a couple of bullets and feel a surge of panic. The Wanted, meanwhile, are a gang of easy-to-kill versions of Chev Chelios, who'll run at you suicidally and run away if you're winning. The opening hour has more shooting personality than many other games manage over their full length.
2. The loot system is deceptively simple
Your first crafting recipe is an antiseptic bandage, which is only of use if you need healing before the regenerating health kicks in. I never felt obliged to use one in the first hour, and I'm a brown dog's egg at shooters. The second recipe is a lock grinder, and the ingredients are drip-fed to you as you need them. It's disappointingly hand-to-mouth.
However, the text on the loading screens tells you to explore. And while there aren't too many opportunities to plough your own furrow in the opening hour, I dutifully kept an eye open for hidden areas. At one point, I found a small cave that, in any other shooter, would have been an ammo stash.
This one had a toilet bucket surrounded by flies and a sulky looking plant. While there was nothing I could do here, apart from admire how the level designers had taken the gang members' basic needs into account, Tim Willits told me later that this flower blossoms at night, providing one of the more uncommon ingredients in the game.
This is reassuring - the world is beautiful, and it's good that iD are giving us reasons to explore.
3. The acting is better than the script
When you hatch from the Ark pod, your companions all seriously dead, you're rescued from the instant gang attack by Hagar. The script isn't bad, at least judging by the standard we're used to in games. But the speed at which Hagar starts to treat you like a son and a saviour is more a product of plot expediency than believable character-building. Maybe I'd been spoiled by watching three seasons of Breaking Bad over the weekend, but I questioned Dan Hagar's back-story and motivation.
On the upside and optimistic, this was a short-term rapid-fire relationship, in which Hagar supplied me with a range of weapons, an ATV and a buggy. Once you're out in the mission hubs of Wellspring and Subway City, the game'll obviously have a chance to calm down. And the acting is good enough to make even Hagar's uncomfortable confidence in your heroic goodness seem convincing.