It’s time to enter yet another post-apocalyptic wasteland, teaming with antagonists that range from horribly mutated humans and creatures, to rifle-wielding bandits and oppressive, well-armed tyrants with an axe to grind against anyone who doesn’t see things their way.
But can id Software once again revolutionise the genre in which they made their name, or should Rage have had some counselling before release?
Set at some undetermined point in the future, humanity has just barely survived an asteroid collision, an event which has wiped out the majority of the population. With the remnants of the population scattered into several small settlements and tribes, all under the thumb of one looming dictatorship that is known as the Authority, the downtrodden people of the wastelands need a hero that they can look up to, and that’s where you enter the picture.
As one of several government-sponsored “Ark” inhabitants, specially selected and augmented humans who were placed in cryogenic sleep in order to repopulate the planet centuries after the disaster, you find yourself reawakened earlier than expected, tasked with helping a growing resistance movement to take the fight back to the Authority, and free the world from their iron-fisted rule.
Plot-wise, there’s not much going on here, with the usual story of the little man rising up to rally the people towards freedom playing out as predictably as you would imagine it to. However, the characters inhabiting the wastelands are a varied and unusual bunch, giving the tale some colour and class, while also adding in few laughs to keep the game from becoming far too serious.
You’ll receive the majority of your missions and challenges from them, as they ask you to do anything from cleaning out a sewer of mutants, to a quest that will have you venturing into the stricken remains of a city to pick up some incriminating data, or even take part in a reality TV show that pits you against waves of the horrible devolved former humans, as well as a few of their bigger, nastier brothers.
Of course, this wouldn’t be an id game without some decent weapons, and Rage offers plenty of ordinance for when you need to put a bullet between a government agents eyes. From your stock-standard pistol, shotgun and assault rifle, you’ll soon build up a collection of weapons, such as a more exotic rocket launcher, high-powered sniper and crossbow rifles, as well as some bizarre, homemade options, such as remote-controlled car explosives and a glaive-like Wingstick.
What makes the weapons special however, is the varied ammo options available to each one. A pistol can fire off regular rounds, but the use killshots instead, which is the equivalent of an tire chamber of ammo being fired off in one shot, is there. Likewise with the shotgun. the buckshot can be swapped for a slower, more damaging pulse shot, while assault rifles can switch out regular ammo for armour-piercing rounds, or the crossbow can use mind-control darts which will help turn a battle around.
Enemies in Rage are a lot smarter than regular FPS opponents, using everything at their disposal to try and kill you or do unpleasant things to your face. Mutated wasteland denizens hop, run and crawl around, accurately predicting when you’re about to shoot them and jump out of the way, making them tricky bastards to kill.
Authority soldiers on the other hand, prefer to advance on and use ducking, rolling and strafing tactics, or crouching behind a comrade who has a bullet-nullifying energy shield up. Its challenges like this, that make the game stand out, helping it stand out in a crowd of FPS titles on the market.
Unfortunately, Rage also has quite a few annoying bugs that drag it back down into that mediocre mire of wasted potential. What should have been a powerhouse of id technology, visually speaking, is an unfortunate mess that can’t seem to make up its mind about the graphics that it wants to showcase.
You might find yourself marvelling at the expressive emotions that characters use when conversing with you, but turn a corner, and its as if the graphical engine is hastily trying to cover up some ugly, dull textures. In fact, every time you turn around, there’s something that still needs to be rendered, and considering that the console versions of the game require an 8gig install, it’s shocking to find this problem from id, who are renowned for their graphical wizardry.
As for the hyped car gameplay, that’s practically just what the component is, hype. Sure it may be fun to race around and shoot bandits, but compared to the promises made by id that such gameplay would revolutionise the FPS genre, it falls completely flat.
Add some better armour, buy some ammo and shields, and you’re off. There’s no real depth to this specific gameplay mechanic, and the novelty wears off after the first hour as you find yourself competing in races yet again so that the story can move on.
The co-op multiplayer that has been promised is also decidedly lacking, with only a handful of structured missions available, showcasing a few levels that you and your friends can explore. Likewise with multiplayer, we have no option to blast each other to bits on a map with all those lovely weapons, with that mode being used exclusively for combat-racing featuring your favourite wasteland buggies.
In a game that is billed as a FPS title, that’s not just a slap in the face of fans. It’s an unwarranted and merciless punch from Batman that is as illogical as this sentence. While it is fun, it would have been better suited as an optional extra along with traditional deathmatch options, to let the fans decide for themselves, to see what they wanted to play.
When it comes to traditional FPS games, id is at the top of their game. Intelligent enemies, well-designed weapons and challenging scenarios make for a fun experience, that is unfortunately dampened by the racing segment which feels tacked on and unnecessary.
Design and Presentation: 7/10
When the visuals are working, they are sublime. Enemies look real and frightening, soldiers are well-designed, and the numerous nods to other id games that are scattered throughout the imaginatively designed towns is beautiful, while certain levels drag players deep down into a creepy environment that plays well to the horror origins of this studio.
But the chances of seeing the game run at such breath-taking beauty are rare indeed, and you’ll most likely see a unicorn before you see a section of the map that isn’t quickly rendering itself before your eyes.
A combination of side-missions and the main quests will probably see you finish the game in around 15-20 hours, but afterwards, there’s not much else to do. If you’re into car-racing and some manner of vehicular homicide, you’ll get a kick out of the multiplayer, but it’s discouraging to see no form of traditional deathmatch from id in one of their games.
Rage isn’t a terrible game, but it wastes a lot of potential, reducing what could have been another sure-fire hit for id, into an average shooter that squanders several opportunities to stand out.
Compared to other genre games that have already released earlier this year, Rage is an outclassed shooter with identity issues that bogs down what could have been a thoroughly enjoyable experience.
Last Updated: November 2, 2011