The world has been thrown into a post apocalyptic catastrophe. After an asteroid destroys most of what you know the world to be, you emerge from an 'Ark' (one capsule of many holding humans that will one day rebuild Earth after the disaster it faced) only to discover a wasteland. Oh, and its sprawling with mutants. Earth now only has a few settlements left to its name. As the mostly uninteresting narrative plays out you will undertake various tasks which will put you into the deepest recesses of the corrupted civilization, facing each new challenge Earth now has to offer.
The first thing you will notice about Rage is the graphics. Everything from the weathered canyon surfaces to the meticulously detailed character models look amazing. Gaze into the deep blue sky in Rage and you'll find it hard to differentiate it from the sky outside your window. The one and only problem with the presentation is texture pop-in after loading screens, but this barely hinders the experience. The graphics then are a big thumbs up, but that being said, graphics are rarely the sole reason for a games success. From here on out the beautiful blue sky Rage has to offer turns into a bleak one as the game fails to capitalize on much more than its stunning appearance.
As you can see Rage is vast and gorgeous, but as you delve deeper into the wasteland's crevices you'll discover its not always a gorgeous experience.
The game has a wide array of characters that you will encounter on your adventure. Whether it be Loosum Hagar teaching you how to use your first Wingstick (A deadly steel boomerang, sounds good? Yes, it is!) or J.K. Stiles putting you through your first mortal encounter of Mutant Bash TV (A televised fight to the death), most characters will have you chuckling thanks to their brilliant design and outstanding personalities. I personally have never experienced a game where the characters are as animated and alive as the cast in Rage.
After working so hard to make a unique cast, you would think Rage would uncover a good narrative to accompany them. Unfortunately, you'd be wrong. Rage's narrative is at the best of times mediocre and never really reaches a distinct climax. This makes the end seem disappointing to say the least. id Software could have done a lot more with the story to make it appealing. Without giving away too much, you help the goodies and you fight the baddies. It's as simple as it gets. They attempt to implement a shocking twist, and to some extent the twist is okay. Just don't expect a Bioshock-er.
J.K. Stiles is just one of the bubbly characters you will meet in your time on the Wasteland.
One of my main gripes with Rage is its campaign. The missions you embark on, at first glance, may seem out of this world and revolutionary, but as you work your way though the story, missions are just more of the same and feel entirely generic. You will be expected to go to various locations to kill a particular person or gather a certain object - nothing gamers are not used to. However, there are a few gems hidden in the main quest line that will have you quivering in your seat as you traverse the atmospheric dead city, or have your jaw on the floor with excitement as you fight the utterly mad Jackal Clan. With the exception of these few tasks, missions never feel anything more than average.
Combat is split up into two sections: gun combat and vehicular combat. Both are polished and rather well executed. However, they fall into the same trap. They lack originality. The blurb on the box promises "exotic weapons"... Does a pistol, shotgun, sniper, assault rifles, crossbow, and for the last mission a pulse cannon (the most unique of the bunch) sound exotic to you? Your answer should be no. That is because most of them are weapons that players will encounter in a typical FPS. Rather it is not the weapons that feel exotic but the ammo and equipment. For example Wingsticks glide towards enemies, dismembering them, and mind control bolts infect enemies, making them a ticking time bomb. Now thats more like it.
Car combat on the other hand is used more as a form of protection while traveling across the wasteland. Vehicle skirmishes also come in the form of brief races that never provide any sort of photo finish due to their easy nature. These events never felt engaging but instead felt like a way of unnecessarily padding out the game.
Wingsticks are part of your arsenal of equipment that keeps combat feeling fresh.
The game above all else feels as restricting as the movement of a mind-controlled enemy. For an open world game, the land you travel through feels utterly linear. With the inclusion of the vehicles, going from one mission to another seems like a task in itself and creates a tunnel visioned feeling for the player. The high speed hurry to get to a location eliminates distraction and prevents the player from feeling the need to travel off the necessary path. I was induced with Rage when I discovered the linearity as first impressions would lead you to believe that a 'Fallout' experience would be in the cards.
Speaking of cards, the typical trash collecting mechanic is given an interesting twist. The cards you collect play a big role in a mini game that is present in both main settlements. Other forms of entertainment include Strums, a rhythm-based game of color sequence memorization, and 5 Finger Filet whose final round will have you shouting at your television screen in frustration.
Rage is a game that isn't entirely sure of what it wants to be. Throughout the 12 hour campaign you'll drive across the wasteland while wasting bandit vehicles one minute. The next moment you'll be gunning through tight corridors in the bowels of a clan's settlement. A short gauntlet back to town later and you'll be scrambling for first place on a dirt track in a bout to upgrade your vehicle. It borrows aspects from many a game and in some cases this works, but here it prevents the game from being potentially great. Rage puts the player in interesting situations. However, it never seems to make them feel special. Rage is, to me, a game that will always be best described with a single word. Generic.
Publisher: Bethesda Softworks
Developer: id Software
Release Date: October 4, 2011
Number of Players: 1 (Campaign), 2 (Online Co-op), 4 (Online Competitive)
Platforms: Xbox 360, PlayStation 3 (Reviewed), PC