Review copy provided by the publisher
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..
Ammunition is probably where you’ll be spending your earned cash. If you’re wondering if you can pick up enemy weapons/ammunition, that’s not feasible. It makes way too much sense to pick up a weapon that was dropped by the deceased enemy you filled with lead and use it against their comrades. But the things you can pick up are objects, some ammo (which isn’t very consistent), and supplies. Some of the things you find you can sell to a vendor once you had back into town to get some extra cash in your pockets. Occasionally, you will be able to purchase upgrades for your armor, and there are a handful of weapon upgrades that fail to make much difference in combat.
I’m not a fan of driving in games, to say the least. I prefer to walk and explore like a prehistoric nomad. If the game does it well, though, I’ll more than likely take advantage of the addition and use it to my convenience. RAGE provides vehicles for you to make use of in both racing and travel (getting from point A to point B, and then back to A). Although I thought I would hate this part of the game, I found it entertaining. I’d find myself racing for the hell of racing to purchase new parts upgrades for my awesome car; going to the Wasteland and driving to my destination and, in between driving there, hounding the bastards that menace the areas to blow them up to hell. Think a badass version of Mario Kart, except you’re not collecting mushrooms and stars, and you’re racing against people who would rather kill you than win a race. Sounds more like Twisted Metal. Either way, awesome-sauce. The controls are tight and blowing cars up is fun. What more could you want? Oh…right… a better save system.
The save system in RAGE is horrendous. Let’s make that clear. The save points in the game are few and sporadic, unless you manually save your game. “What? Manually?” Yes, manually. Like, you know, how we did it back in the day of SNES and PS1 and stuff. There have been times when I’ve began a new mission and gotten excruciatingly far, only to die (damn you bandages!) and be sent back to the last autosave, which, as funny as it may sound, would be somewhere back in town…at the end of my last mission. If you’re like me and you’re consciousness is nowhere to be found but immersed in the game, you’re going to forget to save from time to time. Unless you never ever plan on dying, or you’re okay with losing a ton of progress, you don’t need to save. But this is a feature that 99.9% of games in this generation – PC included – now do automatically for the game to limit the number interrupts the player goes through while immersed in a game. Why id Software decided to be the cool guys and go backwards I will never know. But it is something that will become annoying after some time.
The thing I give RAGE credit for is being for being fun. Although I have my gripes, there are a number of assets that does make this game stand out and give you a run for your money. The game is filled with side quests and mini-games that you will, no doubt, take part of to distract you from the main goal. If you’re an explorer, you find yourself treated with goodies like cards which can be used in a Magic: The Gathering-esque game, obtain loot which you can sell for a hefty amount of cash, and so on. You can also gamble in a knife game that involves your hand (need I say more?), or take a couple of driving delivery quests, if you have an urge to take your spunky car out and obliterate stuff. The side quests obtained by the NPCs in the game are pretty straight forward, most which pretty much are just a regurgitating experience from a previous mission you completed which involves collecting an item, or killing off enemies. Though it’s something to do in RAGE, the side quests lack in the area of excitement. I found myself sighing in disappointment when having to return to already visited places. It becomes a chore after a while, and sometimes better left undone unless you’re in it for the achievements/trophies.
RAGE isn’t a bad game. But that doesn’t mean that it’s a masterpiece either. There are elements of the game that stand out – specifically the visuals – which you will acknowledge and appreciate, while other pieces will leave you blatantly dissatisfied. It’s a “safe” shooter that id Software crafted for our entertainment, and to which they deliver. What do I mean by safe? I mean not taking chances in evolving the delivery in experience. Keeping the game fun, but not memorable. It’s a shooter that’s meant to be for the “now” and not remembered for tomorrow. While it is a beautiful game, I personally feel that visuals alone can’t hide the sad fact of what the game lacked in overall substance. A story that felt thrown together and denied; there’s just nothing about the characters, the story, or the overall world – aside, again, from the technological visual satisfaction – that was interesting or exciting enough to latch on to. A post-apocalyptic world yearning for life ignored by the confines of stagnancy on behalf of its creators. A game that had all the seeds of an amazing game, but fell short because of the lack of humanity, character, and emotions that it failed to push through.
Will the game hold a special place in my heart? Probably not. As I stated before: I love id Software and the products they have made. They pioneered pretty much gaming as we see it today. It’s sad, though, to see such a talented studio suffer because of their unwillingness to change their perception and evolve, but continue to bring a traditional and safe layout of what their fans are familiar with and loved. It’s a way to keep your old fans satisfied – but it’s not a way to lure in younger, potential fans of an era where change is encouraged and accepted.
It isn’t an open world game, like many have claimed, nor is it anywhere like Borderlands or Fallout. RAGE is in its very own category, as with other id games, that sets it apart from everyone else. It’s not revolutionary in the sense of gameplay transformation; but it offers the main thing that I’m sure id was – and is always – looking to deliver to their fans: entertainment. While it lacks in the areas that we have come to glamourize and hold dear, it stands apart as a game that satisfyingly merges the words “traditional” and “new” together. Traditional because id goes back to its roots of maintaining a respected artifact of their production values whilst merging it with newer, more familiar, mechanics that we recognize today. I may call it lazy, and I may call it safe. But the one thing that I can’t deny is that the game, overall, is a fun. And at the end of the day, even after all the bitching and moaning, the only thing that I care about is having a good time with my games. And that, ladies and gentlemen, is where RAGE didn’t disappoint.