Format: PS3, Xbox 360, PC
Developer: id Software
So; we’ve completed Rage, finished every “Wasteland Legend”, collected every card, bested every mini-game and raced more than a few of it’s multiplayer tracks, oh and earned every one of it’s achievements, but what is our, we hope by now fairly well-informed, opinion of this much awaited game? Well, keep reading to find out!
A lot of people rushed their reviews of Rage out to have them up in a timely manner, and I can understand that. Having said that I have seen very few “complete” reviews of the game which cover everything Rage has to offer. I hope to set that right.
Coming to the game, as I did, a fan of id and what they have done for the gaming market over the years, I expected a fantastic shooter experience, loads of atmosphere and, despite all the marketing, something fairly RPG lite as concerns character development etc.
I was not disappointed, but I was a little surprised. Not only that, but these surprises were far more positive than I initially expected they might be.
Before we jump in to the nitty-gritty of game-play, I just want to talk about presentation in general, which touches every part of the gaming experience and affects every moment you spend in-game. Of Rage’s many strengths the sheer quality and detail of the visuals is amongst it’s greatest, it is stunning. It is quite possible, believe you me, to clean an instance out of mutants / bandits / authority and then just wonder around a bit inside it, reading graffiti, exploring odd corners, marveling at the way the light streams in through holes in the wall / ceiling, visualising it’s world pre-meteor strike or simply snooping around for goodies to pilfer! Not once did the environments become dull or repetitive and every distinct area has it’s own flavour and feel. Not only that but specifics such as; weapon design & action, varied ammunition effects, costume, vehicles and projectile paths are all dealt with very finely indeed, adding greatly to the dusty, down-trodden feel of the world.
However the greatest feature of id Tech 5 engine under Rage’s bonnet is it’s abilities around character animation. Yes NPCs are finely rendered, and faces strong and distinctive, but it is the movement of enemies in combat which is exceptional. Very rarely in gaming do enemies look fluid and natural whilst running at you along a wall or ceiling, or when they cartwheel mid-run to avoid your shots, or roll into cover, or just when crawling out of the floor, dropping from the ceiling or charging you suicidally along a tight corridor. The first few times I witnessed some of this finesse it very nearly ended in my characters death as I admired, rather than shot at, the oncoming foe.
All in all the game’s world, it’s population, vehicles and equipment all look fantastic, be they at rest or in action. From dusty outposts and neon-lit underground stations to destroyed office buildings and a gleaming authority base, every location is a delight and a spectacle. A feast for your eyes if ever there was one.
So, Rage is certainly beautiful, we’ve made no bones about that. But at it’s heart it is an FPS and a VERY good one at that. Everything from weapons, cover, movement, opponent AI, the benefit of tactics, swift reactions, ammo variety, opponent’s strengths & weaknesses, set pieces and just plain good ol’ “feel” are all there, in abundance, and very finely honed. If you like shooting things, then Rage is for you, in a big way! Every gun feels just right in terms of accuracy, handling and damage, with all of them acquitting themselves equally well when using different ammunition, which sometimes completely coverts their fire mode.
Additionally, opponent behaviour and movement, as discussed above, makes shooting a real challenge, and all the more enjoyable, sniping a jet-packing authority soldier in mid-air is as much of a treat as coolly taking out a charging mutant, nose-to-nose, with your trusty shotgun, at the last possible second. I can honesty say that every single weapon had a use, and every one of them frequently got an outing. But the main “shooter” mechanic is not your only recourse when tackling your foes, in fact, my favourite combat moments usually consisted of either the use of an “advanced wingstick” or followed the deployment of the fantastic “spider-bot”. These two “items” alone contributed greatly to the overall combat experience and helped further expand both it’s appeal and flexibility. Use them, enjoy them, use them again!
OK, so we’ve looked at Rage’s FPS element, which is, after all, the game’s “raison d’être”, and determined that it is a more than competent shooter. Definitely. But does it bring anything else to the table? Most certainly!
The most pleasantly surprising thing about Rage is it’s variety of experience. Whilst the shooting is well balanced and great fun, even on the hardest difficulty setting, it is the other ways you can spend your time which help magnify the quality of it’s core FPS nature. Why? Because they offer you a break and a different challenge, and as they say, “A change is as good as a rest!”.
From the very enjoyable “Rage Frenzy” collectible card game to the highly entertaining “Rage Racing”, from the discovery and use of schema and recipes to the twist on the theme of FPS that is “Mutant Bash TV”, even the infuriatingly difficult to beat “Five Finger Fillet” and the slightly unimaginative “Tombstones” & “Strum” are well realised and definitely have their place enriching the weapon switching and bullet dodging of the central shooter experience.
As alluded to previously the three “mini-games” worth discussing in their own right are: “Rage Frenzy”, “Rage Racing” & “Mutant Bash TV”. The first is very simply a caringly realised card game, not unlike a simple form of “Magic”, or a very sophisticated “Topp Trumps”, it plays well, AI opponents are very competent, and it also panders nicely to any collector types out there, who, like me, are probably a little too excited about finding that slightly improved card with which to improve their “killer deck”!
We then move on to “Rage Racing” within which I will also cover the game’s wider vehicle mechanics and vehicular combat in general, as the racing game takes place in sub-sections of the wider world and employs exactly the same physics, handling and damage models as these “open world” driving sections. We should start by saying the driving is, again, excellent. It’s clear much care has gone into this part of the game and it really does show. Be you in a 3 lap race, a points “rally”, or in open world vehicular travel or combat the cars feel swift, sharp and forgiving, leading to a very enjoyable experience and helping to lend scale, but also variety, to the game world. The handling of the cars is arcade style and balanced well between forgiving and exciting. High top speeds and nitrous style boosts mix with handbrake turns, accurate jumps and guided missiles to make vehicle combat, which at first seems a daunting challenge, a fun and hectic experience, specially when there are three of them and only one of you!
And finally we come to “Mutant Bash TV”, an FPS take on the ol’ classic “Smash TV”, which simply entails you at first surviving waves of mutants in slightly different rooms, but then escalates, on subsequent run-throughs, to a finely honed dance like experience where you learn their patterns, allowing you to expertly dispatch mutants in extended kill-chains, at speed, to score (and thus earn) increasingly large prize pots. Whilst by no means easy, specially in your first run-through, once mastered it really is great fun and very satisfying (in addition to being a great place to both earn money and stock up on ammo if you’re accurate enough to not waste any!).
It would not be fair to close out a review without focusing on the game’s story and, to be brutally honest, this is where Rage does not hit the peaks as it does in other areas. The story is both cliche and under-written. There are precious few “important” characters and even fewer really interesting or fun ones. The main plot points amount to only 3 “events” one of which is part of the introductory cinematic. There is also absolutely no choice at all as you progress through the game, not a single choice you must / can make plot wise.
To top this off the ending is anti-climatic in the extreme with both little variety of challenge and only a very small cinematic as pay-off for all your hard work. This is fundamentally, when all is said and done, a shooter’s shooter. No heart-string pulling or soft-focus romance. Enjoy for what it is. Shooting, and darn fine shooting at that.
To conclude we must focus on multi-player, which is a fantastic experience when Rage allows you to have some! You have a choice of two types of multi-player in Rage, either racing other players in a number of different modes, or finding a buddy and playing through 9 two-player “missions” through variations of the maps traversed in the single player. Whilst the racing is well done and hectic fun, well worth a dabble, specially for racing fans, it is the “Legends” mode where Rage multi-player really excels.
There is nothing more “Rageish” than racing through an enemy packed level, with a trusty companion, dispatching mobs hither-and-thither at speed, with all manner of different weapons and devices. I must say I highly enjoyed Legends and it makes a perfect “after-show party” the the campaigns main event (big thanks to fellow newb Jose who was just such a trusty and able companion throughout half of these “Legends”!).
With the ability to resurrect you buddy and greatly improved opportunities to engage in some flanking and support fire the game’s engine, weapons and level design really shine here and no Rage gamer should be without at least a quick romp through a couple of these levels. It’s such a pity this co-op feature could not be integrated into the whole game, now that would have been truly epic!
The matchmaking also seems sluggish at the time of writing, but, to be fair, your patience in this regard is always rewarded eventually. Best option here? Invite & play with a friend. There, matchmaking problems solved!
So before we sum up there are a few quibbles, beyond plot & characters that need clearing up; The game is short. If you don’t go after achievements, collectibles and side-quests it’s VERY short. There are also a small number of very unnecessary restrictions on some of the achievements, which penalise, without warning, and indeed prevent your ability to complete them beyond certain points. When will game makers realise that every achievement should be achievable following, or at least immediately prior to, the end of the game. Specially where save-games are limited and achievements are cumulative, but not across playthroughs. “100% completion” is all well and good, and indeed welcome, but in Rage’s case it means you can spend 99% of the time required and get 0% of the reward. Shame.
In summary, Rage is an excellent and highly enjoyable shooter with bells on, and those bells are big and very shiny. A stone cold recommendation for shooter fans, and an open invite to anyone who just wants to play a very good game.
Gameplay – 4.5/5: Near flawless shooting across multiple weapons and their different ammo types, numerous devices and equipment to use and fantastic enemy movement and AI, and that’s just the shooting. Add multiple cool mini-games a fun driving mode and crafting and collectibles and there really is something for everyone.
Graphics – 4.5/5: Cutting edge. The light interplay, the texture detail, the variety of costume and equipment, the raw power of the scenery, some of the best sky visuals ever seen, fantastic graffiti & decay details, huge amounts of detail everywhere, brilliantly fluid and intense combat movement and weapon fire.
Sound – 4/5: Everything from music to voice acting to sound effects are strong. On occasion the score fails to deliver the epic feel of the visuals, but at other times it’s haunting creep & suspenseful overtures pack a serious auditory punch.
Longevity – 3.5/5: With a fairly brief campaign, it’s the multiplayer and the sheer joy of replaying certain scenarios that will bring you back. Not quite enough to give it huge re-playability, but certainly good enough to earn it’s keep.
Overall: 4 collectible cards out of 5
Buy it, play it, enjoy it, then come back with a buddy for double the fun and shoot for those high multi-player scores. Great stuff!
- Richard “Rax” Burley