The wasteland just got a little prettier as RAGE debuts for the Xbox 360 and Playstation 3. Surrounded by a tremendous amount of hype we are taking on the clans of the wasteland to see if RAGE can follow in the footsteps laid by ID Software's previous endeavours.
RAGE is the latest ID Tech driven shooter from iconic game developer ID Software. Smartly boasting their past efforts on the back of the box “From the creators of DOOM and Quake,” expectations are rightfully high for this one.
Firing up RAGE, the first thing you will notice is how quickly ID gets the player into the game. The set-up is swiftly deciphered without RPG-esq customizations; you simply get booted into the world and go. Quickly running down the back story, RAGE is the tale of a cryogenically frozen survivor who emerges years after an asteroid hits Earth, destroying 80% of human life on the planet. In a struggling world filled with the evilest of men and diabolic mutant beasts, you must survive at against all odds while eliciting the mysterious of your existence.
They call it the barren wasteland for a reason
The narrative starts out slow with a rescuing Dan Hagar pointing you in the direction to get things started. Operating on the idoism "I'll scratch your back if you scratch mine," you will lethargically become the distinguished "get it done guy" in the Wasteland. The loitering plot and recycled mission environments do little to motivate the player, which could throw off gamers hungering for a fast paced shooter. RAGE is interesting, but things move so damn slow (outside of combat) that it wasn't until the 5 hrs mark before my interested peaked. The fault can be placed on the narrative, which simply isn't tenacious enough to make you wander through hell and back. Compared to similar game experiences like those in Fallout 3, the human connection in RAGE is too disconnected and doesn't pick up until you are half way finished.
It's unfortunate that RAGE plays out like this because it is evident that ID spent a fair amount of time flushing out the supporting characters. They all have their own little entertaining quarks and dispositions, but as a whole, they just don't make you care. Not caring is crucial to motivating the player past the initial “wow” factor has dissipated. Is RAGE boring, not really, but it tips closer in the scales towards “ho-hum” at times. However, to clarify this is only when you're out of the action. When the gunfights start, RAGE is on par, if not better then most first-person shooters on the market. There are several close calls, big battles, and extreme bloodshed in this one, so hopefully they is enough to nudge you on.
Hasn't aged a day
RAGE plays like your typical FPS shooter. The controls will be very familiar to anyone who has loaded up a FPS in the past. Sticking to the basics, ID doesn't do too much to branch out from the norm. There is no ducking behind cover or sticking to walls; RAGE is straight up “old school,” run around and shoot. While some tactics are needed on various types of enemies, its nothing to be stressed about. Like their preceding work, RAGE just works... and since ID basically modernized the shooter genre, it's their prerogative to keep things the same.
Remember me? Let's save!
One component that oddly sticks out in RAGE is its “save game” feature. Yes an elementary “save game" option, something that has been widely traded in for checkpoints. Saving in RAGE took me by surprise because I candidly wasn't used to the freedom gave by saving whenever I want. This allows for more experimentation and full control over your game (if you can remember to save.) If you miss that save and go down swinging, RAGE brings up a dual analog stick mini-defibrillator game that has you moving the sticks and pressing triggers to come back into the action. The defibrillator (which also stuns enemies when charged) has a recharge timer, so it can't be exploited as a cheat.
Continuing on with the "questionable" design choices; bodies can be looted for cash, ammo and other random pieces of junk. However, the weapons in RAGE disappear into thin air right before your eyes. This diminishes the concept of looting the Wasteland when you steal everything from books to paint cans, but not weapons off fallen foes. While it's not a huge deal given the unlocking system, it is noticeable in the beginning of the game when you are battling it out with your pistol (or double barreled shotgun- Anarchy Edition owners) and all you want to do is pick up the machine gun that have been firing at you for the last half-hour. It's an odd choice to not have the whole world interactive since half of it is; weapons disappearing, what gives?
ID Tech 5
The Wasteland built on ID Tech 5 is an impressive, vastly enumerated world. The amount of detail jetted into every inch of the landscape is a testament to the power of this new engine. On top of the diverse textures and nonconforming geometry is an excellent showcase in level design that takes advantage of the game large spaces. Winding staircases, massive canyons, dark and damp sewers make for one big post-apocalyptic party zone. Sure a half-destroyed Earth looks like a depressing place to visit, but ID Software's vision is bar none. In reference to its closest competitor, Fallout 3 (published by the same company) RAGE is the new standard of post apocalyptic destruction.
Following the impressive outdoor environments are the detail characters within the game. Jumping from friendly, vibrant townsfolk to monstrous mutated freaks and tattooed and scared bandits, every inch of RAGE has been careful crafted.
The audio comes in on a good note as well. It's booming modern soundtrack is the perfect mix for the gunplay. The voice-over talent does an exceptional job reciting their lines. RAGE also does a spectacular job making the weapons punch through the games ambient noises and wild battle noises. The weapons truly feel powerful and are a joy to unleash. All-in-all, the production is on the top of its game and will likely top several GOTY lists this winter.
On the border of a storm
With a world this mammoth in size, RAGE uses vehicles as a link between towns and as a secondary gameplay element aside from the shooting. Much like Borderlands, you will need to drive from town to town completing objectives along the way. The comparisons are almost impossible not to bring up, so in basics think of RAGE as Borderlands with Motorstorm racing. The vehicles themselves are highly customizable with weapons, better tires, armour, and so on. Upgrades are earned by competing in races, which you will discover when you're first welcomed by Jackie Weeks at the 'Wellspring Speedway.'
Race types vary from time trails to combat and non-combat races. Courier events are another race variant that is opened up. These events are timed “express” races ordering you to enter the wasteland and deliver packages to mailboxes before the time runs out. It's simple enough, and a great way to earn some quick bucks. Aside from getting you from point A-to-B, the vehicles are a fun side diversion, and a necessity to travel the wasteland. While I wasn't completely sold on the light-handed handling, it can appreciate the effort put into RAGE to make it more than a simple shooter.
Shhh... we be hunting mutants
As expected, the gun mechanics in RAGE are very tight when it comes down to putting bullet holes in other beings. Weapons don't offer an alternative firing option, but they are can be upgraded to help you get a better shot. Upgrades like reducing the bullet spread of a weapon, or making it more stable are purchasable from stores. In the place of the alternative firing mode, ID has opted for different ammo types. These can be equipped on the fly and do a great job making each weapon feel powerful when new types are purchased. For the example, your first weapon, the 'Settler Pistol' can be equipped with 'Killbursts” - bullets within bullets or 'Fatboys' – that double the damage with a loss of rounds. Things get more fun when you start branching out to weapons like the crossbow and its explosive mind control darts.
RAGE also adds a building component that allows you to buy/find schematics to build items to help you in your travels. Some of the useful items that can be constructed including the above mentioned ammo and other offensive and defensive weapons like RC Car Bombs and Sentry Bots. The list goes on and while it doesn't allow for you to creatively mix creations, it adds a worthwhile collection/discover aspect to the game along with the usefulness of the item.
The multiplayer component (disc 3, if you're playing on a Xbox 360) is a major disappointment. Coming from one of the great pioneers of online multiplayer for a shooter, the simple lack of deathmatch styled options is staggering. The only options available in RAGE is Road Rage, a vehicle race mash-up and Wasteland Legends, short 2 player co-op shoot-em' up missions. The racing aspect is the most flushed out with a gradual unlocking system and support for 4 players. However, it's nothing to write home about and totally forgettable. 'Wasteland Legends' are co-op, somewhat story-driven missions build around locations from the single player adventure. Blasting through “Life on prison” and other maps are fun, however, they are short lived after a few attempts. Again, not including any standard FPS multiplayer modes is down right odd given ID Software's past success with the online shooter market. I know we're going to have some disappointed fans here.
RAGE is a AAA shooter, no doubt about it. ID has polished up their post-apocalyptic shooter to utmost level. Powered by the ID Tech 5, RAGE will be the benchmark for the next batch of “Wasteland-esq” properties. That being said, RAGE isn't going to be for everyone. Straight up shooter fans might get tired out from all the running around and downtime between blasting; adventure fans, well, RAGE isn't overly varied and moves to slow before all gears are turning. From all the other post-apocalyptic journeys of late (Fallout 3, New Vegas and Borderlands) RAGE does enough to diversify itself from those experiences, but it doesn't do anything to surpass them. So if you haven't fully gassed up on the other “Wasteland” shooters, RAGE is definitely worth checking out.
Similar Games: Fallout: New Vegas (8.3) | Bulletstorm (8.7) | Fallout 3 (9.0) | Borderlands (9.3)