RAGE is a first-person shooter developed by id Software and published by Bethesda Softworks. It’s the latest FPS developed by industry veteran, John Carmack for the Playstation 3, Xbox 360 and the PC. You play as an un-named protagonist 109 years into the future after a large meteorite hits the earth, turning the entire world into a wasteland from which only a few lucky settlers survived. You, however, are one of the select few people that were trapped in containers called “arks” as part of a “last hope for humanity” campaign. You awake in this new world and have to make sense of your new surroundings but you soon find out that the “people of the past” have great value to the new “Authority” government, meaning you’re being hunted by almost everyone for that value with only a few settlers able and willing to help you. The story is primarily told through gameplay and voice acting but is rather forgettable in terms of plot points and characters. There is full voice acting amongst the cast and each of them gives convincing performances. It’s a shame then that the characters are somewhat forgettable with interaction being kept to giving tasks and small-talk based on those tasks, you’re not allowed to talk to them outside of these conditions; the game simply doesn’t allow you to do it.
Furthermore, there are a few side missions but they have no real story arc and are mostly just minigame “jobs”. You can refuse missions but there’s very little reason to do it because there’s no other path through the story, you’re more forced to do the bidding of those that “know the world” than defining what the world means to you – considering you’re the title character, that seems a little underwhelming. Also, considering this is meant to be an open-world FPS (with the game actively telling you in loading screens to talk to people), this comes off as either constraints in comparison to the other technical marvels or lazy design, either way I felt like I was an errand boy more than an actual citizen in the world.
Despite a large meteorite turning the entire world into a brown, dusty wasteland, the world looks absolutely fantastic. It’s quite simply a brilliant introduction to ‘id’s new “idTech5” engine with every rock, shack and canyon oozing with detail and polish. It’s clear from the outset that the art direction and technical potential has had a substantial amount of time and care put into it with no two rocks, canyons and cliffs looking the same. The characters and towns look amazing with facial expressions being clearly visible, the animations of the characters look realistic and match what the characters are saying and each character has their own individual mannerisms that the engine allows you to see in clear detail. This trait doesn’t stop at the enemies either with bandits looking just as good as the people in town, allowing killing them to feel like you’re really putting a stop to dangerous-crazed humans rather than copy and pasted minions set out to get you for you to mow down. The vehicles look great too with destructible parts of your car coming off if you take damage. It’s very satisfying from a technical perspective to see your car made of small metal plates be cut down plate by plate as you drive through the narrow canyons, crashing into walls and scraping on rocks. The biggest credit that this graphical enhancement makes is that alternate paths actually look fun to explore rather than the process being a cheap way to pad the game out. I often took it upon myself to search every nook and cranny of an area to see what little ounce of detail there was, finding any supplies within them was frequent but simply an added bonus.
As far as gameplay goes, RAGE is a fairly traditional shooter. Modern day mechanics such as only being able to hold 2 weapons at a time and only one type of grenade are scrapped in terms of a more free and varied approach. Every weapon you are given, buy or any other acquisition method are yours to keep, hold and use whenever you like. The game enforces a 4-at-a-time limit but it’s more for convenience of being able to switch with the control scheme than an actual game limitation. There are various ammo types for almost every gun in the game from explosive shells for the shotgun to electric bolts for the crossbow. The game has an intelligent way of being able to select your gun and ammo at the same time using the RB button and the two control sticks. You press the button and two diamonds come up with 4 quadrants each, you move your sticks to their corresponding quadrant and you get your gun and ammo of choice, it’s really as simple as that. Each gun either uses the traditional ironsights method or scope method for aiming which sadly cannot be changed in most cases since none of the weapons can be customised with extra scopes of features outside of specific ammo types. It’s a shame but fortunately the weapons are quite varied and the ammo types themselves offer a lot of breathing room in terms of combat style. Also, since each enemy “clan” has its own markings and combat style, you’ll often need to adjust your combat style to suit their particular weaknesses, adding a nice touch to combat. The fact that these individual traits spread to the scenery they inhabit and the gadgets they use really brings a feeling of personality and realism to the changes the meteor caused to the world.
In addition to the guns and ammo types you’ll be lugging around with you, there’s also an array of handy gadgets to play with. One of which is the wingstick which acts like a self-aiming bladed boomerang, perfect for quick decapitations between shots. You also have your standard grenades and explosives but this game comes with a little twist in the form of being able to craft most of what you’ll be using from items you find within the world. Unlike other crafting systems however, each craftable item has its own use within your day to day activities within the game including bandages for health regeneration and RC bomb cars for tight areas you can’t crawl through. It’s satisfying to need an item, craft that item from exactly where you’re standing and using it, all within the space of about 30 seconds. The fact that each item has other uses outside of the “set” uses the game puts forward actually gives it relevance rather than requiring it for exactly 1 room in the game. One of the best gadgets that you have in your arsenal is an in-built defibrillator within your chest, causing you to have a second chance when you meet an unfortunate end, the defib is activated by the use of your two control sticks and trigger buttons, allowing even death to turn into a minigame with your “performance” in activating the defib affecting how much health you have when you recover. This mechanic doesn’t stop the game being hard though because the defib has a remarkably long recharge time, causing the mechanic to be a very limited second chance in a tough fight rather than a comfortable safety net.
Outside of your traditional ‘run and gun’ gameplay, you have several driving segments. This comes in the form of both driving from town to wherever you need to go to continue the story or in the form of races within the towns. Races come in time trial, elimination or standard race modes (both with and without weapons) and rewards from those races come in both cash and racing certificates which are primarily used for upgrading your cars. Driving around the world with the boost function is pretty fun with the handling of the various cars being satisfying in tight areas. The world is littered with enemy cars to destroy and hidden jumps to conquer, allowing driving to be something a bit more than a pleasant view to look at from A to B. In addition, you can go back to town at any point whilst driving if your health is low or you’re just feeling lazy in exchange for a modest price.
Outside of the main storyline and mechanics rage has a lot to offer in terms of side content and replay value. Hidden around the entire game are collectible cards which can be used for both achievement hunting, general collection and use in a card-game minigame complete with its own mechanics and rule-set. In addition, there are minigames ranging from games of chance to games of timing (one good example being timing slamming a knife between your fingers). There are a bunch of hidden car jumps to get between the driving segments and a variety of crafting recipes to expand your gadget repertoire. Finally, the game offers more driving action in the form of optional races that can be won for a special “racing” currency, used for upgrading or applying different visual themes to your car, a nice touch if you prefer the driving side of the game. RAGE also caters to competitive types with its various online multiplayer modes including ‘Road Rage’ which, in itself is split up into several different driving game types from straight-up weapon based demolition derbies to picking up fallen meteorites off the track to your standard racing. Co-operative play is also available in the form of missions set apart from the story mode, awarding points for headshots and a skilful performance. There are achievements for these modes but they’re quite simple to get if you’re into that, the multiplayer modes are fun but don’t leave an experience that’ll keep you coming back, it’s a great route for a change of pace however.
The game is presented well in terms of setting and visual style but everything else seemed to take a backseat. The characters are fleeting and forgettable, the overarching “evil government” hardly appears, making the threat seem somewhat trivial and consequently you seem to think you’re just doing the bidding of others to solve their minor problems over making any real difference to a large threat.
Let it never be said that RAGE is a bad looking game. The technology behind the game really shows with everything looking crisp, sharp and oozing with detail. The characters’ animations are spot on and their facial expressions clearly identifiable. If this is the Xbox’s potential, I’d like to see the PC version and ask: How have the system’s capabilities not been used like this before?
The voice acting in this game is very good with each actor giving a truly fantastic performance. The soundtrack is pretty good and does match the settings well but the real sound quality comes in the gun sound-effects. Every gun sounds powerful and fit-for-purpose. The use of music in the towns doesn’t hurt anything either.
As far as gameplay goes there’s a lot of diversity in RAGE. It has to be said however that underneath all of the choices to make and styles to experience, RAGE can be classed as a generic brown’n’bloom shooter. To its credit though, it does the stereotype justice with engaging corridor shootouts, co-ordinated squad UI and various challenges and enemy combat styles to consider. The car combat is pretty fun too thanks to the remarkable handling the cars share.
In comparison to other shooters of its type, RAGE has a significant amount of content both inside and outside of the main story, with multiple collectibles to scavenge, jumps to land and races to win, there’s an awful lot to take in. The multiplayer doesn’t leave any lasting impression but in any case RAGE certainly has a lot to show for itself.
Id software appears to have ‘done it again’ with RAGE. The shooter is very well made, looks absolutely beautiful and plays very well despite the stagnation of FPS’ in recent times. The story and characters are pretty forgettable but the voice acting and sound quality throughout more than makes up for it. The gameplay is solid for a shooter with smart controls with the driving segments also being simply a pleasure to pick up. All of that mixed with the huge amount of bonus content makes RAGE a game that deserves its place next to quake, doom & wolfenstein.
Disclaimer:All scores given within our reviews are based on the artist’s personal opinion; this should in no way impede your decision to purchase the game.