Publisher: Bethesda Softworks
Developer: Id Software
Platforms: PC, PlayStation 3, Xbox 360 (Reviewed)
Release Date: October 4, 2011
Price: $59.99 – Available Here
In the early 90’s id Software created a title that some herald to be the start of the first person shooter genre and can be seen as one of the most influential titles ever in gaming. But that was then and now nearly twenty years have passed and the industry has changed and evolved since then. Now id Software has returned with a new title named RAGE. RAGE was developed with the new id Tech 5 technology and there is a massive legacy standing behind the name of the developer. Yet in an industry where first person shooters are now released at a steady pace, how does id Software’s RAGE stand on its own?
In the year 2029 the world is on the brink of complete and utter disaster. An asteroid is on a direct course with the planet and there is nothing that can be done to stop it. Still, in an effort to ensure that the human race and civilization continue after the strike the Arks have been built and volunteers placed inside in cryogenic stasis to awake years after the disaster and begin life anew.
That was the plan at least. As soon as the player wakes up in the Ark things have obviously not gone according to plan, and stepping outside you find that life has continued but things have changed for the worse. There are bandit groups everywhere and only small towns and settlements where humans attempt to scrap together a living.
To make matters worse a strange corporation known as The Authority is out for every Ark survivor and will not stop in its efforts to find and eliminate you. Now this would all be very great in theory, but unfortunately a lot of the story is very in-depth. Very rarely are things explained past the level of simply having to go here and do this and not see much in the way of actual story development. Sure there are a few places where the story kicks itself into high gear but the lackluster storyline is truly detrimental to the game.
Which is a shame because the bandit tribes all are named after specific things and perform differently. Such as a gang of Gearhead bandits who are all interested in creating mechanics and or the Shrouded Clan that controls explosive RC cars. Plus there are plenty of interesting characters that the player can stop and talk to, but none of them are even explored or given a slightest bit of story development as the character just moves from place to place following a more or less straight path.
Console gamers have it tough. Most games on consoles never really have that beautiful finish that some games see on the PC but RAGE is by far the best looking game that I have ever seen on the Xbox 360 or even the PlayStation 3. There is such a massive amount of detail in every aspect of the world. Most environmental aspects that are simply written off by other developers are given painstaking care that deserves to be seen.
The id Tech 5 engine has created an amazing visual experience here. The water effects are also quite stunning, as players can walk near or under dripping water and have water droplets appear on the screen causing impressive distortion. Even water pipes react amazingly, as when bullets pierce them the water will pour out in the exact place the bullet struck them.
The characters you will encounter are amazing as well. The character models are all relatively diverse and you will be hard pressed to find any that look very similar to one another, this includes side characters or even those roaming around town. Now, the character animations in the towns are usually relatively stiff and are truly a shame when you compare that to the enemies. Enemy animation is absolutely amazing and polished, the AI will often have them swinging from the ceiling, running along a wall or other amazing feats you would never expect to see, often causing moments you want to simply stop and take it all in before firing upon them.
With graphics as gorgeous as RAGE’s you would assume that the game would sound just as well as it looks correct? Well your assumption is right on the mark because RAGE would be able to win any award for atmospheric immersion no matter what you place it up against so far this year. The world feels like it is truly alive around you at times with sound effects lining up perfectly with the game’s situations. This is especially true while fighting enemies as they will often makes remarks about your fighting, saying watch out for a certain weapon you are using or yelling in desperation how they are losing the battle.
That is nothing compared to the voice acting for RAGE. One of the first characters you meet will have a voice instantly recognizable as star talent, and one that usually doesn’t take much of a role in video games. I won’t spoil it however, as it will be a big surprise to anyone who has heard his work before. The quality continues from there with every character’s voice actor performing splendidly.
At it’s very core, RAGE is a pretty traditional FPS featuring recharging health (though this is at least given storyline context, with Nanotrites repairing the body over time) and plenty of gunfire. Now while this is basic at its core, the actual experience is anything but. The reason for this is that the firefights are always very entertaining and enjoyable as the enemies you encounter have impressive AI and will often fight and respond accordingly to your actions.
It is also quite enjoyable thanks to the fact that your weaponry feels like it has an amazing kick. Sure a weapon can feel powerful by having recoil or doing lots of damage, but in RAGE you will actually see your enemy react to that bullet. Hitting an enemy in the chest will send them falling to the ground, swearing and trying to sit back up and shoot you. Enemies shot in the leg will fall down as their legs get snapped out from under them, armored enemies will retreat as your bullets strip their protective coating. This creates an amazing feeling of power and exhilaration as you watch your enemies retreat for cover as you spray bullets in their direction or fall to the ground after being sprayed with assault rifle bullets and struggle to put one last round in your direction before dying.
To make matters even more interesting, players are given a number of ammo types for every gun they stumble upon in the world of RAGE. While the weapons range from pistols to machine guns to shotguns there are always interesting ammo combinations such as exploding ammunition. Plus there are a few unique weapons as well. These include a crossbow which can shoot boring generic bolts, or those that can electrocute enemies (bonus points for electrifying whole pools of water if shot into them) and even a fancy mind control one.
RAGE’s combat doesn’t end there however, as there is also an interesting engineering mechanic to everything. There are components everywhere in the game and players can put these components together to create new items or ammunition once they discover the proper schematic for that item. This means you can create your very own RC car bomb, create sentry turrets to place on a field or even a robotic spider ally. These special items are truly a joy to use, especially a deadly boomerang like weapon known as the Wingstick which can be thrown with deadly accuracy and can one-hit kill most enemies, including decapitation, severing of limbs or even being visually stuck in their heads.
Now, fighting the enemies of RAGE can be quite difficult as their intelligent AI makes them ready for anything. If you happen to go down in combat however, all is not lost. When the player dies the player can be brought back to life through a unique and well-thought defibrillator that was implanted in your chest. The player has to perform a small minigame to restore their health and also deliver a powerful electric shock to any enemies around you. However, this doesn’t make you invincible as the defibrillator has to charge between zaps and if you happen to go down again before it is recharged then it is game over.
Game overs can be quite disastrous in RAGE as the save system for the title is something that really works against the player. Now the game does feature an autosave system and will do so relatively often, RAGE does not autosave inside of dungeons. Now although player’s can save whenever they feel like it, it may come as a nasty surprise when you die for the first time and have to start an entire area over and breaks up the flow of combat when the player has to stop and save manually if they feel like the next threat may be too dangerous.
There is more to shooting enemies first person in RAGE however, there is also plenty of driving. Players are first given a ATV to drive around in though they quickly will be given a buggy which will be their main form of transportation for most of the game. The driving mechanics respond well and even when you have to drive back and forth between places repeatedly the vehicle combat helps break up the monotony.
It is a tough life in the world of RAGE and of course driving a vehicle without weapons would quickly be destroyed, thankfully machine guns and rockets are easily obtainable. Combat against bandit cars brings back memories of vehicle vs vehicle games of the past and there are plenty of bonuses which can be bought to help create the fastest and deadliest car in the land. There is more to the driving than getting missions done though, there are also the racing mini-games which must be done to acquire new parts for your car. These are a great little distraction and the races with weaponry feel visceral and exciting as you destroy the competition both literally and figuratively.
Now while there is plenty to be seen, there unfortunately isn’t a whole lot of extra to be done. There are a few places which can be explored at random and side quests that can be picked up but most of them are only meager side missions usually involving going to an area you have already been before. RAGE has an extremely linear feel to it which goes against the open world experience the game seems to portray with exploration.
Now although players can create new tools in crafting to help in battle, players will not be doing much, if any customization. Sure there are car upgrades but that is all. The first time you find new armor will be the last time you find any new armor, with only minor upgrades being purchased quickly and then forgotten. There are only two really fleshed out cities besides the small settlements which contain only a handful of characters, and even the cities are relatively small in size. This wouldn’t be a problem if it wasn’t for the fact that RAGE feels like it could do so much more with its resources and pull off an experience unlike any other if it wasn’t limited to simply two towns, linear play and lack of customization.
RAGE does have a multiplayer aspect to the title but unfortunately is rather weak in delivery. On the third disc of the 360 version, players will find everything RAGE has to offer for multiplayer which is an interesting competitive online mode that places players against one another in vehicular combat, making it quite similar to Twisted Metal in some ways. Unfortunately the maps they are played on are too large for the number of cars.
There is also a co-op gameplay mode that lets player’s take a friend into a Legend stage where they will fight against enemies and earn scores according to their performance. Each stage has its own little narrative but unfortunately the experience just ends up feeling derivative and not worth visiting often unless you are desperate for some co-op gameplay or need to play with a friend locally.
RAGE is a beautiful experience. The visuals are unlike anything I have ever seen on a console and are easily in a league of their own. This also contributes to the fact that RAGE takes up two story discs and one multiplayer disc on the Xbox 360, including a 22GB install of all three to get the best experience. With a story of only around twelve hours with side quests and races the reason for the extra discs obviously isn’t due to length.
Still, players can experience a rather amazing and fun shooter with RAGE. The enemy AI is extremely enjoyable to fight against and there are a number of mechanics which heighten the fun. Unfortunately the story is quite weak and feels rushed in places, which begs the question as to why a weak multiplayer was created instead of fleshing out the story more. All in all, RAGE is a title that has satisfying vehicular and FPS combat and the world is so detailed that it is a shame that the title still falls short in many areas.
I give RAGE