Rage graphics issues point to poor console port

Rage, the latest full game from first-person-shooter veterans id Software, is finally here - for US readers, anyway - but fans are complaining that the PC version feels like little more than a rushed console port.

Rage is an important title for id, the creator of classic titles like Doom and Quake: as the first title to use the latest generation version of its in-house game engine, it's both a blockbuster title and a proof of concept which needs to succeed if it hopes to license the engine to third parties in the same way as rival Epic does with its Unreal Engine.

It's also one of the first id Software games to be developed simultaneously on PC, Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3. While that shows the flexibility of the game engine, it did raise early concerns that the PC release would be a mere port of the console version.

Sadly, those fears appear to have come true. The PC version, it transpires, locks away any advanced graphics settings from the users, allowing only adjustment of overall resolution, pre-set levels of antialiasing, and brightness, plus the option to run in a full-screen or windowed mode.

While those options might seem plenty to a console gamer, they're pretty barren in terms of PC games. A more usual title would offer such tweaks as view distance, texture filtering mode, texture size, shadows, bloom, HDR, and other niceties. Such options are required on PC games so the experience can be tailored to make full use of the available hardware.

As id's engineers well know, PCs are distinct from consoles for one very simple reason: they're modular. An Xbox 360 game knows that it has a certain amount of processing power, graphics capability, and memory available to it no matter what model of Xbox on which it is running. A PC game has no such expectations: one player might have a bottom-of-the-range office system, while the other has spent several thousand on a quad-SLI monster gaming rig.

To make the game playable on all systems, it's common to include the aforementioned tweaks: some players might want to turn shadows off to gain a few extra frames per second on a slower system, while others will opt to use high-resolution textures on a system with plenty of graphics RAM.

Rage's issues go beyond a lack of control, however: a key setting in gaming is vertical synchronisation, or V-sync. This locks the framerate to the refresh rate of the display, preventing an issue known as 'tearing' when there are fast-moving images on screen. Many previous id games have shipped with V-sync forced on, with no way to disable it - but not Rage.

Instead, id has opted to force V-sync to off - meaning that users with anything less than a top-of-the-range graphics card can expect to see plenty of texture tearing as they play.

The company has already been forced to release a day-one patch to resolve issues playing the title on AMD hardware, and it looks like it's going to have to follow that up with a patch for enabling V-sync if it wants to keep PC gamers - who have long been supportive of the company's efforts since Commander Keen appeared on floppy disk - on side.