"We basically showed the world first-person shooting." So says id Software's Matt Hooper, referring to one of the studio's best-loved titles, Wolfenstein. "That was a big deal. With Doom and Quake we had these successive leaps in technology, where people were moving around in a 3D space and doing things online. So we've had this history of doing things on the technology side and bringing out new IPs."
Which is all very nice, but Hooper needn't feel too smug - it's actually been over a decade since id came up with a new intellectual property. Because of that, he tells the crowd gathered for his E3 presentation, "We knew we had to come to the table with a lot more."
What they've come with is Rage, a first-person shooter set in a post-apocalyptic future world. On learning that an asteroid was on a collision course with earth, the governments of the day got together and launched the Eden Project. They supplied the population with life-sustaining pods in which they could take shelter when the asteroid was about to hit. The idea was that once the dust had settled, people would emerge from their pods and set about rebuilding society. The reality is that people have emerged from their pods and set about smashing each other in the face. Life in this brave new world is about as poor, nasty, brutish and short as it gets.
Which is apparent from the first few minutes of the demo. We meet a bloke called Crazy Joe, who lives in a corrugated iron shack in the middle of a barren, rocky valley. He warns us to look out for mutants, and he's not wrong. Within seconds of stepping out of the shack we're set upon by a gangly, hairless monster, who comes bounding out from behind a rock and attempts to club us to death. He's dispatched with a few swift shots but there are mutants coming from all directions now, waving knives, throwing fireballs, wielding clubs... These aren't shuffling zombies but fast, agile and intelligent killing machines.
They're moving this swiftly and smoothly within beautifully lit, highly detailed environments. And this isn't even the PC version of the game. "We're showing Rage today on Xbox 360," says Hooper, who is the lead designer. "One of the things we strive for, and a goal we're not going to budge from, is 60 frames per second on all platforms. We've always been real big believers in the fundamentals of control, the feedback, the fluidity of the gameplay, and we don't want to sacrifice any of that, even on the consoles."
With the mutants dealt with it's time to explore more of the surrounding environment. This is an open-world game, explains Hooper, in the sense that if you see an area you want to visit or something interesting you want to investigate, you can. "This is a first-person shooter action game. We do have this crafted, moment-to-moment action, but at the same time you get all these opportunities to explore."
We're taking one of them now, jumping in a buggy which looks as though it was recently constructed out of scaffolding pipes and old radiators. It probably was - Hooper says that building your own transport out of scrap is an option from quite early on in the game. You can equip your buggy with armour and weapons, such as the two bonnet-mounted machine guns on show here. They come in handy for taking out another group of attacking mutants and blowing up a water tower as we career through the desert. "The buggy's great for getting from point A to point B, but we try to put as much diversity and little gameplay elements along the way as possible," says Hooper.