Rage inspires polarised reactions: Some love it as an example of a high-end FPS, some think it’s vastly overrated, and others just rage quit (see what I did there?) due to “technical difficulties”. It’s a complex beast, for sure, but well worth a play, especially if you’ve loved shooters since the days of Doom.
[img_big]center,1168,2011-08-24/1391shot00777.jpg,The setting of Rage is a beautiful blend of a resource-scarce post apocalyptic world
with the landscape of the American Southwest[/img_big]
Rage deploys a by-now-familiar post-apocalyptic setting, and those who are interested in the deeper mythology might want to read the novel version of the game. An asteroid has hit Earth, destroying civilisation as we know it. The player character has just emerged, dazed, from an Ark pod which has preserved his life (and the advanced nanotrite technology inside him) for a hundred years. These pods were created by the government of the time to give humanity a chance of survival in the post-asteroid environment. Bandits and mutants roam the land, resources are scarce, the social order is dominated by a military pseudo-government known as the Authority, and the rest of the narrative can be pasted from the Beginner’s Guide to Action Shooter Level Design. Which is to say: run there, do this, drive that, retrieve this, rinse and repeat.
This is not necessarily a bad thing! By intention, id eschewed open-world design. The focus is on the action, and this is done very well. The shooting is fast and dynamic (if let down by maddeningly dumb AI) and the wasteland-driving side-mission races play well, with enough challenge towards the end of the game to make it interesting. Rage makes use of the id Tech 5 engine, which does have some teething problems (especially on PC). The external environments in particular are stunning, and character animations make shooting a goon when he’s down that much more fun.
[img_big]center,1168,2010-11-17/rage_qc_screenshot_1.jpg,Vroom! (Don’t worry, racing’s not compulsory.)[/img_big]
To explore the game in a little more depth, let’s take some questions from the audience.
Punter: Isn’t Rage just like Borderlands? That’s so lame, they look, like, identical.
Serious Gamer: Well saying Rage is identical to Borderlands is like saying Mozart is identical to Beethoven: it’s true if you don’t have a clue what you’re talking about. It’s not just that Borderlands has a comic-style cel-shaded aesthetic (admittedly one which was hurriedly introduced to fend off comparisons to the visual design of Fallout 3 ) and that Rage goes for a much more photorealistic mega-textured environment. Borderlands was a wild shoot and loot romp, a 4P co-op open-world experience with a lateral branching narrative and lots of in-jokes. Rage is a deadly-serious single-person shooter – sure it has some light RPG elements (item crafting, an attempt at narrative and gameworld) and light multiplayer options, but it is predominantly about the gunplay, and minor asides like driving and using gadgets (wingsticks FTW!). They are two very different games, but the comparison can be useful.
Punter: What’s with the massive crashes? This sucks!
Serious Gamer: Yes, it must be said that on release, the PC version had some bugs: for some users (especially those running ATI cards), the game was simply unplayable until they spent hours finding the right fix (maybe a recent patch), and even then the game experienced regular issues such as texture-popping. But for me it worked fine, and aside from some popping it looked fantastic. Actually, when I played the console version at the EB Games Expo, I realised how far behind the current generation of consoles really is. In comparison, the game looked totally flat, but at least it ran fine. It seems we just can’t win at the moment.
[img_big]center,1168,2011-08-24/1390shot00764.jpg, Character design has a scruffy wastelander-chic look: don’t point that thing at me[/img_big]
Punter: I LOVED Doom and Quake etc. Is Rage as good?
Serious Gamer: Well this is a bit like comparing apples with oranges, if those oranges were cocaine-filled sugar-bombs the size of your head when you were a kid. Of course, id traded off its reputation with those games and combined the market draw of John Carmack with id tech 5 to claim that Rage would reinvent shooters as we know it.
I don’t think it’s quite done that, but it’s a damn fun game. What it has done is pursue the hybridisation of genres with some arcade racing and RPG elements whilst retaining a steely-eyed focus on core gameplay: shooting. And it does this wonderfully. But if you’re a purist about your shooters (i.e. CoD and/or Battlefield are all you’ll play) you’ll be disappointed with the hybrid elements, mission structure, and AI.
Punter: is it worth it in the end?
Serious Gamer: [SPOILERS] Well, not really, the ending is actually pretty disappointing. There is quite a dynamic and fairly challenging fight, but no major boss. In fact, the two bosses in the game were really quite disappointing and way too easy: this aspect definitely did not live up to the id shooter reputation. If you’re at all experienced with shooters you’ll want to turn up the difficulty to Nightmare straightaway to get any challenge out of it.
[img_big]center,1168,2010-11-17/rage2010bfg10.jpg,This is a bad guy.[/img_big]
Despite these weaknesses, for me Rage was definitely worth a release purchase (but may not have been if I wasn’t lucky enough to get it running). If you like shooters for the core gunplay, appreciate beautifully textured environments, and can forgive some weaknesses and dilution from other genres, you won’t be disappointed.