Rage – Review

Release Date: Out Now!
Developer: id Software
Publisher: Bethesda
Singleplayer: Yes
Splitscreen Modes: Yes, 2-player co-op.
Competitive Multiplayer: Yes, 2-4 players.
PEGI: 18+

Thanks to Bethesda for providing a copy of the game for review.

Because of the name attached to Rage it has been receiving huge amounts of attention from the media and gamers alike. And who can blame them when hat name is id Software, a group that played a massive part in giving birth to the FPS games that we know and love today. Halo, Call of Duty and Battlefield all owe a lot to id and games like Quake and Doom. But having all of this hype backing up a game makes it much easier to feel disappointed when it finally arrives. So does Rage deliver? Well, yes and no, because Rage is really a corridor shooter from back in the day that doesn’t quite manage to disguise itself.

Rage’s story begins interestingly enough; a  bloody big asteroid called Apophis, which is actually a real asteroid due to pass very close to Earth in 2029, hits the planet and leaves everything looking all Mad Max with survivors forming towns and even cities within the Wasteland, but before the asteroid hit specially chosen people were placed  underground inside Arks containing Cryo-pods, the concept being that these people would be able to rebuild civilization, but hopefully without the same idiots being in charge that we have now, because we really don’t need that in a future that’s already looking a bit bleak.. You step into the shoes of a mute and unnamed survivor as he staggers forth from his malfunctioning pod into Rage’s wasteland, abundant in mutants and bandits determined to kick your ass and make life a misery for those simply trying to survive.

Let us be honest here; he's not going to be your friend.

It’s not even a few minutes in before your attacked by a group of mutants and saved by one of the survivors of the asteroid who takes you back to town and hands you a gun. And just a few more minutes later you’re already accepting  quests, because in the world of Rage you don’t get to be part of the community if you don’t go out of your way to gain some trust.

This new world is controlled by the Authority, a bunch of faceless goons in armour, who want you dead. And that’s really it; Rage fails to deliver any sort of interesting narrative. The Authority remain a faceless enemy throughout the game, even once you’ve joined the Resistance who appear to consist of about five people. Throughout the game the story simply takes a backseat to the action, and for almost eight of Rage’s average ten-hour singleplayer length the story will never see any real depth or plot advancement, finally coming to a close in a final level that’s entirely disappointing on both a gameplay and story level.

While there are some famous voice actors lending their talents to the cast of Rage, there’s absolutely zero character developement on offer. The voice acting may be quite good, but you quickly realise that the characters have nothing to say thanks to clunky dialogue that serves simply to boot you out of the door into the next mission. At no point will you give a damn about a character or the story in general. It’s a shame, though, as Rage’s world often offers hints of a deeper story that you simply never get told about.

But that’s ok because the world of Rage is a rather pretty one. The graphical power of Rage has been one of the biggest talking points of id Softwares return, and for damn good reason; Rage looks good, but only from a distance. That’s not to say that Rage is an ugly game up close, because it’s not, but if you stop and take a close look at many of the textures or items within the world you’ll realise that they’re a little blurry. Step back, though, and these little problems are hard to notice, creating a rather beautiful world to look at. The biggest reason for this is Rage’s level of detail within the world; every part of the game is hand-crafted and packed with a variety of items and little details, resulting in a world that feels much more realistic than you might expect. There’s a price for all of this, though, as texture pop-in is rampant throughout the game. In fact, Rage is the only game that I’ve ever gotten in for review that comes with a note recommending that I install the game for best performance, and it’s easy to see why; the texture pop-in that plagues the game gets far worse if you don’t install it, especially in a few specific locations. It’s not quite the utterly mind-blowing graphical powerhouse that id Software were making it, but it’s still an impressive demonstration of what the Xbox 360 can actually do.

Speaking of the Wasteland, don’t let Rage fool you; while it may look like a huge free-roaming world, Rage is actually a very linear corridor shooter in disguise. Rage’s wasteland is a giant hub in which you’ll race around in your little dune buggy on your way to once of the smaller areas that make up the games many missions. These little areas require a short(ish) loading time to enter, and once inside you’ll quickly come to terms with the fact that this is a corridor shooter. But elements of a more open world do exist within Rage; there are two major cities that you’ll encounter during your journey, and each city acts as a hub within a hub, offering side-missions, mini-games and places to resupply. There’s not an awful lot of side-missions to pick up in Rage and they’re all pretty generic, simply requiring you to go kill things or collect something, which is a problem that Rage’s main missions suffer from as well, but  the rewards are usually worth it and the shooting, which I’m getting to, ensures that they remain fun throughout.

Within these cities you can also took part in races to help earn upgrades for your ride, which while not required is a good idea as there’s plenty of bandits in the wasteland with rides of their own, trying bloody hard to ensure that you don’t make it to your destination.  When you’re just going from one area to the next the driving in Rage is really pretty weak; the vehicles are incredibly light and responsive, yet driving them around feels like a bland task with little feeling. It’s only in the combat that they start to make a little more sense. Your ride can be equipped with a variety of weapons and the responsive handling allows for tight fights It’s still not Rage’s strongpoint, though. And neither are the races, which, despite some decent track design, are pretty shallow affairs. Luckily there are only a few mandatory races within the game.

At this point you might be thinking that this review has been pretty damn negative, and to a degree you’re correct. Because really the racing and world of Rage aren’t that amazing, except to look at. But that’s ok because we’re getting to the bit that makes Rage worth your money; shooting people. Lots of people. And mutants, too.

Rage features an almost old-school feeling to its blasting, from the corridor based shootouts to the fact that enemies can soak up massive amounts of bullets this has the feel of a classic id shooter, and that’s by no means a bad thing. The variety of weapons on offer here isn’t huge, comprising of the usual shotguns, assault rifles and pistols, but it’s the fact that each of them feels beautiful to wield that sets Rage apart. The shooting is slick and responsive with weapons feeling nice and meaty giving a real visceral feeling to the combat. Each of your weapons comes with different ammo types, allowing you to quickly adjust to whatever enemy you happen to be facing. Your trusty crossbow, for example can use bolts that allow you to take direct control of an enemy before detonating them, while your Shotgun can use an ammo type that essentially turns it into a grenade launcher. It’s a neat concept and one that works well. Yet another thing harking back to the classic id shooters is that you’ll rarely find yourself short on ammo in Rage’s world; bodies can be looted for ammo should you not happen to be near a shop, though enemy weapons can’t be picked up.

Alongside you’re small but fun assortment of firearms you can craft items to help on your journey of death. Using a variety of parts scattered around the environments, and the correct schematic, you can cobble together a variety of extra tools to help you out. From simple Lock Grinders to Sentry Bots that follow you around and mow down anything that comes close, there’s plenty of things to be created, including remote control bombs. But the most fun item of the lot is the simple but effective Wingstick; a triple bladed weapon that you can fling at enemies resulting in brutal decapitations or the Wingstick lodging itself inside someones head. Get your throw just right and it’ll fly back to your handy, ready to be thrown again. It’s such a simple toy, but one that brings great joy to the world. Well, the part of the world that isn’t getting its head slice off, anyway.

Perhaps the most satisfying aspect, though, of Rage’s combat comes from the enemies that you’ll be blasting. Through a mixture of superb AI and incredibly graceful animations Rage’s enemies are a deadly bunch. The mutants, whose origins get a vague mention during the story, aren’t the smartest bunch in the box, preferring basic head on charges to hanging back, but these cheeky bastards can leap around the environment, climbing along ceilings, vaulting over walls, rolling and much more. Even when charging at you they’ll dodge and weave through your bullets. The bandits offer a more mixed gameplay type, with some simply charging you and others using their ranged firepower. Worse still are the Ghost clan bandits who combine firepower with the movement of the mutants, making ever encounter a thrilling fight. The Authority offer heavy armour and even more firepower, along with a loving of grenades. Further adding the feeling of facing real foes is that they communicate with one another, cover each other and generally behave in a realistic fashion. They’ll actively retreat to try to find better ground or panic if you start to kill them with easy. But killing them is even more satisfying thanks to some almost poetic ragdoll animations; enemies hit with a shotgun blast behave so realistically that it’s almost frightening, with just a touch of over-the-topness to keep it fun. Every bullet wound and every death looks fantastic. Couple all of this with the fact that enemies can soak up large amounts of damage and it creates the feeling that every kill in Rage is hard-earned, making for a hell of a satisfying experience.

However, considering that the AI is impressive and that enemies can soak up damage like a sponge, Rage is not a very challenging game. With a bit of patience enemies can be wiped out without much problem, and Rage seems determined to keep you alive even if you do find the enemy a challenge. Not only is the staple recharging health system present, but there’s a plentiful supply of bandages which give you an inst-refill on your health. As if that wasn’t enough you’ve got an in-built defib system which can revive your ass and get you back into the fight. The system works via a little mini-game, which, if successful, brings you back to life and shocks the hell out of the enemies around you. The mini-game is far from challenging meaning you’ll come back with 100% health almost all of the time. The only drawback is that the system has a long recharge time, so getting killed a second time too quickly will result in a game over, though an upgrade during the game gives you two charges to play with. Not only does this make the game exceptionally easy, but it also encourages you to just charge in all guns blazing, and at points I was even tempted to die deliberately so I could shock the enemy.

Crossbows; kicking ass since forever

Outside of the singleplayer experience you might be a tad surprised to learn that Rage doesn’t contain any sort of competitive multiplayer using firearms, instead id Software have chosen to take the vehicles and create some driving mayhem that only supports a measly four-player per game. There are just four modes to play, with one being a straight deathmatch and the other modes being variants of Capture the Flag. You blast around the field of battle in your vehicle of choice blowing up other players or simply trying to get faster than them, using the same handling model presented in the singleplayer game. Here the handling makes a bit more sense; the light, responsive feeling means that players can spin around like Madmax on drugs, making for some brilliant dogfights with cars and plenty of sweet driving action. But despite the typical levelling up system which lets you customise your car with new gear the experience just doesn’t have much to it. It’s fun for a few hours, but after that I found myself tired of it.

The other mode, Legends of the Wasteland, is likely to see more action than the competitive vehicle mayhem. This mode supports two players and can be played online or in splitscreen and tasks you and your partner with a series if bite-sized missions. While the stories presented in these missions aren’t directly linked to the singleplayer story, there are little snippets of information that provides a little more background information on the characters of the world, and, in a nice touch, you can actually hear the events of Legends being talked about by people in the singleplayer story. It’s not just straight blasting, though, as a multiplier is ever-present during Legends, challenging you to get through the level as quickly as possible to keep the score going up, with a rating at the end of each mission telling you how much you sucked or how badass you are.

The skill of drivers in the future seems to be better than todays drivers

I can’t help but feel disappointed by Rage, which is a little unfair as it’s a fine shooter offering slick blasting and fun enemies to fight, but the weak story and lack of any real standout moments leave me feeling a little let down . Mostly I find myself disappointed that id’s return after their long hiatus wasn’t the mind-blowing event I was hoping for, instead they’ve presented an old-school corridor shooter in disguise that feels like it doesn’t quite manage to live up to its own potential. Am I saying Rage is bad? No, it’s an FPS worth your time that just feels like it could have been more.

The Good:
+ Looks great!
+ Plays great!
+ Legends of the Wasteland is good fun!

The Bad:
– Lack of memorable moments.
– Weak story and characters.
– Disappointing final level.

The Scores:

Graphics: 9.5
Up close you do notice blurry textures and other little problems, but they’re nothing that other top range games don’t have. Ultimately the level of detail in the world and the stunning animations make his an impressive title.

Sound: 8
The voice acting is solid and the guns sound nice and meaty, though sometimes the weapon firing and the sound aren’t quite in sync; a problem the vehicles sometimes have. And the music does what it needs to but nothing else.

Story: 5
A disappointing story with absolutely no memorable characters or moments, coming to a close with an ending that left me feeling Rage.

Gameplay: 8
Sure, it’s nothing really new, but it’s a slick, fun experience that has an old-school feeling to it. And Wingsticks kick ass.

Lifespan: 7.5
An average singleplayer run, completing some extra quests and mini-games, will take you about ten hours. The multiplayer isn’t worth more than a few more, though the co-op might keep you coming back for a little while.

Overall: 8
Summary: Rage is an old-school linear shooter that disguises itself with beautiful graphics and a few neat tricks, but ultimately there’s nothing here that you’ve not already seen. Rage just does it all pretty well.

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