A giant asteroid seamlessly heads towards Earth to eradicate all known life. You’re part of a group of survivors chosen to take refuge in spaceships in order to begin a new civilization after the unavoidable impact. You awaken 106 years later to the sounds of alarms and closely notice that your fellow crewmates weren’t as fortunate as you were as you stare at their rotting corpses. The protagonist leaves the lifeless spacecraft to enter a barren world of nothingness braised by the sight of unfamiliarity. A world that is now unfamiliar and lifeless filled with endless debris and solitude.
You make your way down a small pathway to find yourself knocked down by an unfamiliar creature looking to tear you apart for god knows what reason. A shot fires knocking the thing off of you, to which – in the distance – you see a man touting a firearm and car. Yep, he just saved your life. The unknown man quickly hops in his vehicle, pulls up alongside you, and tells you to hop on. Clueless and obedient to the man who just saved your ass, you obey. And your journey through the world of RAGE begins.
I began my adventure like any other gamer would before making the leap of gameplay: I paused momentarily to take in the technical and artistic world that was composed for my pleasure. I inspected textures, lighting and animations to validate the sense of realism I was to be presented with. Yep – the graphical wonder that is RAGE pans out to be amazing. Of course, going into the game, I wouldn’t expect anything less from John Carmack and the developers at id. Carmack pretty much eats, breathes, cries and poops code and perfection. So to expect a visual disaster from the guys who pioneered first-person shooters, and outstanding visuals to boot, is slightly ridiculous to say the least.
Using the id Tech 5 engine, you can marvel at the naturalistic environments and characters that call RAGE their home. While it does incorporate a sense of beauty, the console version of the game did seem to have some texture “pop-in” issues. For example, you will notice that not all the textures render accordingly depending on how close you are to an object. Then, you’ll come to see that some of the environmental textures are sub-par when compared to, for example, character textures, which adds a bit of inconsistency in the overall visual of the game. It’s something that will definitely throw you off from time to time, but nothing that will degrade the overall presentation that id delivers with RAGE. I was easily overwhelmed with the meticulously abundant details that were implemented. It’s a feat of the game that your eyes constantly treat themselves to as you come across new areas and inhabitants of this barren world created by the folks over at id.
Through two decades of gaming, even when Nintendo produced those 8-bit graphics with fart sounds, the one thing that I’ve learned is that a game isn’t entirely measured by the quality of its art. Yes, it is a medium of a game that we will appreciate and drool over; but, like a book, a cover could have the most sublime art we have ever come across. If the contents of that book — the story — lacks in depth, however, then you’re left with something that looks good now, but won’t hold a place in your memory from that point on.. This is how some will probably perceive RAGE: A visual masterpiece that was held back by an unintelligent story.
The story in RAGE feels a bit thrown together. There isn’t enough consistency within the progression of the game that makes a powerful impact on neither the story or the major characters that make up the world you’re fighting for. From the beginning of the game, the main character (who doesn’t have a name) is pretty much given objectives which he must complete in order to progress the story. Interestingly enough, you’re not really told why you’re doing these things, per se, but you’re such a nice guy that you’re fine with just doing favors for people. Eventually, the “story” begins to take shape and, after completing a dozen of missions for people you don’t know, you find out that a group of folks named the Resistance are out to take down the Authority because of their forceful influence in trying to expand on the Wasteland settlements. Because you’re such a kind-hearted person, you take up arms with the Resistance and begin your campaign in kicking the crap out of the Authority.
While the story seems straightforward, the evolution of how the story progresses isn’t. The sad fact is that there is absolutely no depth to the narrative. RAGE is bound together by an overflow of quests that require you to constantly retrieve items. You’re pretty much being sent from one place to another by the characters you encounter in order to achieve the main goal of… whatever it is they want. That’s the gist of it. There’s no major character development, and the protagonist has the personality of a cockroach. You don’t feel any form of attachment to any of the characters which, I feel, makes the game suffer. In this day in age, the one thing that we look forward to in games, aside from killing things, is a strong correlation with the characters of the game. It emotionally binds us to both the game and the story to have a sense of character in these worlds. It creates a bond between the player and the character which then blossoms into a lasting relationship that we hold on to for years to come.
In a world like this, in a world affected and groomed by violence, anguish, and survivability, you would expect a plethora of emotions to seep through from all directions. Instead, you’re succumbed by emptiness. Nothing but the taste of solitude, even after you have sacrificed yourself to bring comfort and safety to the people of the town(s), you’re beleaguered by a void of dullness.
But the most perplexing, and annoying part of the game, has to be the quest dialogue you are presented with when you’re asked to perform a task. Like any other quest-based game that allows you the option of decision making, you aren’t bound to perform a task if you don’t want to. You have the freedom of telling the quest giver to take that request and shove it, and then the story continues. RAGE, on the other hand, gives you the false impression that you can deny people. I say false impression because, if you don’t accept, there’s no chance of progression in the game.
So, my question is, why would you give the sense of choice when the player really doesn’t have one? Why not completely omit the notion that I have a chance to deny people when, in doing so, I will be essentially stuck? Is it to add an element of variety? Is it to add the lacking depth that the game overall needs? Rather than trying to add a form of dynamics which doesn’t make sense, it would have been better off to leave that aspect of the game somewhat static in order to remove an unused — and obviously unneeded – portion of the mechanics of RAGE.
People stand in the same place day in and day out. Nobody in that world moves, which the exception of a pedestrian or two who tend to walk to and from the “job board.” Other than that, everyone is a mannequin until you approach them with the goodies you have gathered for them, or if they need you to do something (which, at that time, they will begin to move as they speak). While the visuals provide a sense of realism to the game, the lack of “life” pretty much deteriorates a world that could have prospered given a livelier ambiance from the people that inhabit it. It’s a sad way to exhibit a gorgeously artistic world. But, it’s a common practice by the folks at id Software who seem okay with just evolving their graphical capabilities for gaming.
However, while the friendly people you encounter at towns are somewhat lazy bastards, the foes that you come up against tend to be much more animated (in a good way). The one thing that id Software does well is shooters. They’re known for this, for crying out loud. It’s fun, it’s exciting (at times), and it feels like good ol’ id games. But is this a good thing? It all depends on the person playing it. I’m an id fan. I have been since the days of Wolfenstein 3D and Doom. But maturing with the gaming industry has taught me one thing: evolution in gaming is great. RAGE felt too similar. Sure, as I previously stated, the shooting is fun, but it never really evolves. While you’re presented with an arsenal of weaponry, encounters feel somewhat the same, with the exception of certain enemy movements which, I might add, was extremely clever of id and I must applaud them for. Going back and comparing RAGE to id’s history, they’re known for their effective weaponry in games like Quake and Doom. Anyone’s who’s played these franchises pretty much knows this. But with RAGE, the weapons feel ridiculously broken, in a sense. They never really do much damage; and even as you find better weapons and newer and more “powerful” ammunition, you will run in to enemies that will, without a doubt, counter your weapon’s killing ability.
Killing is fun in RAGE – there’s no doubt about that. You will find it rewarding taking a shotgun to an enemy running directly towards you, and having your screen fill with their guts. They might not have the highest IQ in the Wasteland, but they are some bullet-dodging, sneaky, scary mofos. You’ll see mutants juke your bullets as they sway from left to right, and landing in front of you only to club you on the head. Sneaky bastards, I tell ya. You’ll then bandage yourself up with something you concocted using your crafting skill, with stuff you found or bought from a vendor, with the money you obtained from looting or reward money. Money: the one thing in RAGE you will be spending a lot of — that’s guaranteed..