It’s been a long time since I’ve played a game developed by id Software. I dabbled a bit in Doom 3, but prior to that, the last game I played by the developer was Doom for my Sega 32X. Since then, both my tastes in shooters, and the genre itself, have changed drastically. When id started showing off Rage, I was immediately interested in the post-apocalyptic wasteland world, but I was curious of what id was going to do to keep Rage as fresh as its contemporaries. Thankfully, my worries were swept away after just a few hours with the game. Rage manages to be a throwback to a different era, while still bringing something new to the table. It’s not perfect, but Rage is a strong new voice in an era of sequels.
In the future, an asteroid is found to be on a collision course with Earth. The Eden Project is born out of the necessity to preserve the human race, and a select group of humans are chosen to hibernate in Arks, which are buried deep within the Earth. One hundred years later, your character’s Ark emerges to the surface. The planet is much different than it was before. Civilization has a Mad Max/steampunk vibe, and there are a handful of factions vying for control of the area you awaken in. As one of the rare Ark survivors, you’re both a wanted enemy of the new militant government, and one of the few people on the planet who can make a difference. Forced up against a horde of mutants, a high-powered military, and the lawless bandits who plague the decent folk of this future, you might be the last, best hope of humanity. Rage’s narrative isn’t anything mind-blowing, but it’s strengthened by the world that id has created around it. The wastelands are populated with memorable and unique characters, both good and bad. The good people of Wellspring and Subway City breathe life into a desolate and devastated locale. Though there isn’t life everywhere on the planet, the pockets of civilization that do exist have wonderfully rendered personalities, and feel true to the experience.
Somehow though, Rage feels like an incomplete tale. There’s clearly more to tell, and in an age of planning for the sequel, it’s rare to get the whole story in just one game. It’s unfortunate that the story really gets moving just when Rage ends, and I wish it had more to offer the player character other than “go here, shoot these guys. Go there, shoot those guys.” The secondary characters have so much more going for them in terms of realization that it seems odd your character has no significant story at all. You are the same person at the end of the game that you were at the beginning. If the rest of the world of Rage hadn’t been fleshed out so terrifically, I might be less disappointed by the lack of growth in the player character, but the rest of the folks have so much life that it seems odd that you’re so stagnant. It doesn’t take away from the game too much, but it would have made an already strong title even more impressive.
The shooting in Rage is just as solid as one would expect from id. Cover plays a fairly significant role, though there’s no cover system in place beyond crouching behind objects. Enemy AI continually gets more advanced the farther you progress, with early enemies attempting to take you out head-on, and later foes utilizing flanking and cover techniques. All of those ideas get thrown out the window when battling some of Rage’s bigger mutant threats though. Often twice your size, and occasionally bigger, the larger mutants present a threat singularly focused on killing you. There’s a good deal of variation from fire fight to fire fight, and making use of the various weapons found in the wastelands is just as important as keeping out of an enemy’s line of fire. With more than a dozen different armaments at your disposal, there are plenty of ways to take care of business. More interesting though are the various ammunition types you can learn to craft in the game.
One way Rage stands out from the shooter crowd is with its engineering system. Using various items found or purchased in the game, you can create entirely new items like new ammo types, health upgrades, and lock breaking tools. Some of the items you’ll loot from bodies are completely useless to you, but the vendors populating the world will be more than happy to take them off your hands for some quick cash. The market system in Rage is quite good, and provided you’re constantly picking up cash from side missions and dead bodies, you’ll never be at a loss for engineering items. It’s often better to spend the money to make your own ammunition, as you can burn through bullets rather fast later in the game, and high-powered ballistics come at a premium. Though it does still feel weird that you can loot dead bodies of their ammo and items, yet not be able take the dead foe’s weapons. However, once you accept how the game wants you to become your own facilitator, Rage is a lot of fun to play.
As great as the single-player is, the multiplayer is a bit of a mixed bag. Though there is quite a bit of driving involved in the story, it’s mostly to get from place to place. The in-game racing is a fun distraction, but didn’t really hold my attention since it had no real impact on the outcome. Perhaps that’s why I found it so strange that id decided to go with car combat for their competitive multiplayer component. I really dislike car combat games, and couldn’t get into Rage’s multiplayer racing. There are a few different race types, and a leveling system in place to earn new weapons and cars, and I can see why people enjoy it. This type of game is just not for me. Fortunately, there’s also a solid co-operative component called “Wasteland Legends.” You and another player team to explore the backstories of some of Rage’s secondary characters, and though there are only nine, the varied difficulty settings create new challenges on subsequent playthroughs. I’m still a bit baffled as to why there isn’t a competitive multiplayer that pits player against player on foot, especially given id’s history on that front (*cough* Quake, Doom, Wolfenstein *cough*) but the single-player story and co-op missions do provide quite a bit of FPS action.
As impressive as most of the other aspects of Rage are, the game’s presentation steals the show. Easily one of the most impressive looking video games of this current generation, Rage’s scope and size are greatly represented by crumbling cityscapes and ramshackle towns. Character models are impressive, and there are a lot of different people living amongst the wreckage. Even though you might run through similar looking factories from time to time, Rage does a nice job varying the environments to keep the experience fresh. The only negative thing about having such a graphically impressive game is the texture pop-in. Even with the game installed on my hard drive, there was quite a bit of texture-loading happening. Almost every time I turned around, the textures had to resharpen. It’s a bit understandable considering just how detailed everything in the world is, but there were times where the pop-in would take more than a few seconds. It’s even worse when you don’t have the game installed on your HD, so those of you without the space for two separate 8GB installs (or one if you only put one disc on at a time) will be scrambling to clear up space after just a few moments in the game. Given that this is built on the brand-new idTech 5, it will be interesting to see how this gets addressed as more games are built upon it.
I’m actually quite surprised how much I liked Rage. I knew id was going to release a solid title, but Rage sometimes borders on spectacular. It’s such a great change of pace from the Modern Warfares and Battlefields that occupy the gaming landscape, and the shooting gameplay only serves to remind us about how well suited id is at developing FPS titles. In such a crowded marketplace, it’s wonderful to see that there’s room for a new IP that brings some new variables into the fold. Rage may not be a Call of Duty killer, but it doesn’t have to be. It’s a good game that does a lot of things right, and is more than capable of standing on its own against its more established FPS brethren.
Release date : 2011-10-04
Publisher : Bethesda Softworks
Developer : id Software
Gameplay : Shooter
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