Developer: id Software
Available on: PC, Xbox 360, PlayStation 3 (Reviewed on Xbox 360)
There is no question that RAGE feels like it has been a long time coming, having first laid my eyes on it (in motion) last year, it impressed me with its incredible visuals and explosive audio, but most people walked away merely comparing it to games such as Borderlands and Fallout. Those sort of comparisons are (of course) a compliment, but now RAGE is finally upon us, does it do enough to stand on its own two feet?
STORY: In the future, due to an asteroid hitting the planet, a new civilisation has been started. Having been preserved by something known as an arc (cryogenic pods, built by The Eden Project) the player is the only survivor of the 12 people in his particular pod, and has some kind of special ability that will supposedly help rebuild society. Awaking with no idea of what is really going on, you’ll step out of your (half destroyed) arc and into the sunlight, whereby you’ll immediately get shot at and then introduced to Dan Hagar, voiced by none other than John Goodman.
Dan is RAGE’s way of introducing to you the mechanics that you’ll soon be spending a lot of time exploring. Wastelanders in a post-apocalyptic world, dune-buggy’s, bandits, mutants…you could be forgiven for thinking that we’ve been here before – and we have – but the visual splendour is what sets RAGE’s world apart from other games of its ilk.
GRAPHICS: Without question, RAGE is one of the best looking First Person Shooter titles on the market. To clarify, it isn’t gorgeous in the same way that a title like Killzone 3 is, instead it is the art style that will knock your socks off. At times, it almost looks 3D (without wearing the glasses or needing the tech) such is the high-fidelity on show. From the moment you first gain control of your character, you will be floored by the beauty. Gaze up at the clouds and you will have to rub your eyes, to make sure you aren’t looking at something real. Look around the rocky mountain faces and the textures are incredible – once again, RAGE is absolutely incredible looking.
On Xbox 360 at least, (PS3 and PC versions may suffer too), this does come at a price. There is some very odd texture fading present. When you load up a saved game it is very noticeable, and whilst not a game breaker, it does break the immersion a little. The frame rate on the Xbox 360 version is a stunningly smooth 60FPS and makes for a very slick experience indeed. So it is such a great shame that you can swing the camera around and see a texture loading, almost fading in. Does this hurt the experience? Not really, it looks so good you’ll forgive all of the texture issues, and during combat you won’t notice it at all – it really does look as though it is pushing the hardware to breaking point.
SOUND: When I first experienced RAGE in 2010, the one thing that struck me was how incredible the sound effects were. Thankfully this is still the case, and if you have a good surround sound setup, or a nice pair of headphones, you will get to experience some of the best gunshots you’ve heard in a long time. The boom of a shotgun is so loud that you almost feel it.
For the most part, the voice acting is performed well. John Goodman is the obvious star, and although you can tell it is him immediately, his voice is one of those that lends well to the game’s setting. Whether intentionally or not, some of the bandits have hilarious British accents, which break the tension slightly.
Add to all that a highly atmospheric soundtrack that has you on edge during combat, and environments that are alive with wind blasting around the canyons as you explore, and you’ve got a game that sounds as good as it looks; which is to say – bloody fantastic.
GAMEPLAY: When sitting down to write this review, I consciously wanted to try and avoid comparisons to Borderlands as much as I could, but in all honesty, if you’ve played and enjoyed Borderlands you are going to feel right at home in RAGE. It isn’t just the post-apocalyptic setting though. Early doors in RAGE you will sent from pillar to post to complete quests for people. You’ll be sent to person X only to be told “Yes I can help you, but first you need to go see Person Y for me”. It will get so convoluted that you will be doing several jobs, for several people all at once. The trouble is that aside from weapons, the reward for completing (or turning in) the missions is to be given yet more missions.
Thankfully though, most of these fetch quests lead you through bandit (or mutant) territory which is where RAGE absolutely shines; in combat.
Whether it is because of the incredible sound effects in battle, or the fact it runs at a silky smooth 60 frames per second, it’s hard to say – but the combat in RAGE is just so damn good. In a lot of First Person Shooters, the enemy will be nothing more than bullet sponges, either hiding in cover for a bit, then popping out for you to shoot them, or just running at you mindlessly. The bandits will run at you, but they can run up walls, jump from above, roll around you – all manner of attack patterns. They will also come at you in numbers, forcing you to switch up tactics very quickly on the fly – the enemy AI is genuinely some of the best seen in modern gaming. It all adds up to make for an extremely aggressive enemy and a level of fun best described as riotous. That said, at times the enemies do feel as though they are taking too many bullets to put them down, though in fairness a well placed headshot usually rectifies the problem.
The weapons all feel very different too. You might feel quite comfortable with the starting handgun, but pretty soon you’ll be outnumbered and outgunned and need to change it up, perhaps to the shotgun, or the sniper rifle, or the crossbow, or…you get the point. However, maybe you really liked the way the pistol feels. Thankfully, RAGE caters to you. There are up to four different ammo types for each weapon (the standard ammo included) which can turn the weakest pistol into a one-shot killing machine. You can buy this ammo at most vendors, and you’ll soon discover the best load-out for your playstyle.
Giving it yet more personality, RAGE has a ranged weapon called the Wingstick. A boomerang of sorts, and friend to stealth players. If you duck down and creep up, you can fling the Wingstick at an enemy before they’ve seen you, decapitating them and giving you a sense of smug satisfaction; you did this. As a First Person Shooter, there’s something for everyone in RAGE.
Having compared RAGE to Borderlands, now comes the turn of Fallout. You can craft in RAGE, gathering scraps from dead bodies and enemy areas with a view to creating anything from health regeneration items, to adrenaline buffs or even to a one-time-use lock pick device. It isn’t all that deep, but it will satisfy the type of person that enjoys looting corpses, as a simple tap of the “A” button will quick-loot anyone you have slain. If you don’t want to craft, you can just sell any parts you find for cash, which will allow you to buy ammo and items.
There is quite a bit of travelling involved in RAGE, and this is where the buggy’s and cars come out to play. Once again, it is very hard not to whisper Borderlands’ name when talking about the vehicles, and the vehicle combat. At first you’ll just have a simple quad-bike, but quickly you’ll be introduced to another way of making money in the form of racing. The races themselves are fairly easy, sometimes it is just a case of fastest lap, and other times it may be a race against 4-5 other vehicles, with weapons involved.
It was during the races that the load-times became an issue. Whilst they aren’t horrendously long, the handling is so loose that a simple clip of a jaggy rock and you have lost the race, meaning a restart is required, which in turn means reloading the area. It is only because the races are separate from the open world nature of RAGE that this occurs, and racing is required at an early stage of the game, as you’ll need to win a few races to be able to buy add-ons for your vehicles, such as a rocket launcher, shield, mines, and so on.
There is a distinct feeling of progression in RAGE. The more you play, the more you unlock – and in turn, the more fun you’ll have. It has a strong opening in terms of presentation, though it takes a little while for it to hook you in, but in terms of gameplay, it isn’t really until you encounter the first boss that you come to terms with just how good the moment to moment combat is in RAGE.
LONGEVITY: The less obvious (yet more relevant) comparison to make when discussing RAGE would be to Halo: ODST. RAGE isn’t an RPG, it is a First Person Shooter. It also isn’t an open world game. Sure, it has an hub world, but like ODST you go to an area within the hub and start a mission proper. The hub itself can be entertaining, but this depends on how you like to play games. You might love the driving, and there’s plenty of it to do, or maybe you’d enjoy playing the card game? RAGE has plenty to keep the player entertained, and with a campaign lasting around 15 hours (again, depending on how deeply you become invested in the world, or how many side-quests you aim on completing), and a solid multiplayer component with some separate co-op missions that tie into the fiction mean you’re definitely getting plenty of bang for your buck.
VERDICT: Generally speaking, with a game that attempts to be everything to all people, the overall end product will suffer – but RAGE excels with its combat, atmosphere, visuals and sound. Whether intentional or not, it is most certainly a derivative of other games that have come before it, and if you have played the games it tips its hat to, you may find yet another post-apocalyptic quest based First Person Shooter a bit hard to swallow.
For the all the travelling from pillar to post and all the texture fading, the actual combat is a shining example of how good the genre can be. It has been a long time since we got to play an id software First Person Shooter, let’s hope we don’t have to wait so long for another.