Rage - Review



Simply judging by id Software's reputation of being called the grandfather of ego-shooters, "Rage" instantly had high expectations right from the start. After several "Doom" and "Quake" sequels, the idea of crafting a new first-person shooter in a post-apocalyptic world seems like a good move, despite the fact that games with this setting seem to be a new trend (next to zombie games).
"Rage" has a tough line-up of competetors, when it comes to post-apocalyptic games (Fallout 3, Borderlands,...), but is id Software nevertheless able to hold up?




Story

You play as a survivor of the 2029 Apophis asteroid impact who has just awoken from an Ark (a world-wide movement, which took scientists and other significant people, and froze them underground in cryo-pods so they could rebuild Earth). Soon, the player comes to realize that his Ark has malfunctioned and that he is the only survivor.
This new post-apocalyptic world (somewhat extremely similar to Mad Max 2) is populated by human survivors, bandits, clans, but also mutants, and an organization called "The Authority", serving as the new evil governmental power trying to take control over this new world.
With you now being part of the resistance, they have the power to defeat "The Authority" and their plans.

id Software never was quite good at telling stories. Especially if you look at games like "Doom", "Quake" or "Wolfenstein", it would come as no big surprise that "Rage"'s biggest weakness is it's story.
While still being far better than the stories of previous games, id Software failed at giving you memorable characters. All the different persons you meet throughout the game are bland and mostly just tell you "Go there, do that!". The only things that manage to impress is the design of the world itself and all the different gadgets you find throughout the world.

The storytelling in "Rage" doesn't quite manage to build up any RAGE towards "The Authority", although it gets quite clear that that's exactly what the game wants. Unfortunately, "The Authority" remains very shallow: "The Authority" itself never really talks to you, does you any real harm (except for chasing you) or has an evil mastermind at its top, which you could define as THE villain. Except for slowly taking over each town during the game (Half Life 2 style), there isn't really much that makes them stick out as the primary villain in the wasteland among all the different mutants, and bandit clans.

It all ends with a pretty abrupt, anticlimactic, unchallenging, final showdown that makes you scratch your head and think "Well,....that's it? Oh...eh...ok?".

However all those negative aspects about the game's story don't mean that the missions aren't fun.


Gameplay

With the story being the bad aspect about the game, the gameplay is the good one.
"Rage" advertises itself as being a sandbox-game, which is for the most part totally false. The truth is, it barely is a sandbox game. The open world, which is essential for any sandbox game, mainly only consists out of a network of short routes in the wasteland. You are able to walk or drive through the wasteland but don't expect wide open areas a la "Red Dead Redemption". The wasteland/open world only serves as a means to fight enemy vehicles and to travel short distances to each mission. Each town or "place" has a specific door, which triggers a loading screen when entering it. So it's nothing that demands a big map of the landscape in the game's manual.
Another pseudo-sandbox aspect of the game is the supposed ability to being able to choose between side-missions and story missions. This is also barely present in the game: 90% of the missions you will encounter are story-missions that you have to do. There is only a small amount of side missions there. It's by far not comparable to the wide variety of side missions available in games like GTA or Infamous.
With that said, don't take "Rage" as a sandbox game but more like a linear shooter experience with some space to roam in.

The game also features some nice RPG elements: before each mission you are able to stock up on different ammo types, weapons, gadgets, etc. at shops. Also you are able to upgrade your suit, weapons and most importantly your vehicle via taking part in races. Each town in "Rage" gives the player a variety of mini-games, which can be pretty fun and enhance the gameplay. Especially the racing is a huge element of the game, which is absolutely necessary to survive in the wasteland, due to the vehicle upgrades you get.
I admit that i found all those RPG elements a bit overwhelming at first, but you will quickly find out that most of those aspects are not necessary to complete the main missions (well except maybe the stocking up on stuff at the shop before each mission.).

For 90% of the time, you will encounter enemies only in their hideouts and not in the wasteland (only enemy vehicles). Each main mission brings you to another specific location, mainly to get a specific item that you need, with each location featuring another enemy type/bandit clan.
It's obvious that "Rage" plays like any other shooter, but where the game truely shines is the enemiey A.I..
The enemies' attacks (especially the mutants') are unpredictable. I was first quite a bit shocked how hard it is to aim and kill one of those things. They move very fluidly, realistically dodge your attacks and shots, acrobatically climb at walls and any given object in the room and rarely just sprint at you. Hitting an enemy makes each limb individually snap back or make the enemy move differently (for example shooting them in the leg makes them limp), giving your weapon and the impacts a heavier feel.
Additionally, most of the time mutants will attack you in packs, which makes combat very tricky and challenging.
"Rage" features a nice pallet of enemy types and clans with individual, specific combat behaviour, weapons and characterstics, often forcing you to take different strategic approaches.

Yet, this brings me to another annoying aspect of the game: the saving system. Autosave checkpoints during missions are very far apart and force you to manually save pretty often. While the saving without a doubt is very annoying, it more or less gets balanced by the fact that when you die, you will get to play a short heart defibrillator mini-game, that revives you and gives you a second chance (but it has to charge up).

The missions are very fun, long and sometimes feature some nice set piece moments, but it could have been way better with a bit more "colorful" arsenal of weapons. But on the other hand, i think that the different ammo types make up for it. Different from modern shooters nowadays, you are not limited to 2 weapons.
You can carry every weapon you purchase around and use it at any given time. Also you are able to build gadgets like the very useful sentry bot or turret out of junk you find throughout the wasteland.


Graphics

Running at 60 frames per second and looking this incredibly good, it's a sheer miracle how id Software managed to deliever such a gaming experience on 5 year old consoles. However, it doesn't come with a few shortcomings: frequent texture pop-in (hopefully getting fixed) and long loading times may hamper the fun for some.
Yet still, "Rage" is one of the best looking games out there, supported by a fantastic art design, that created an awesome and fascinating post-apocalyptic world.


Sound

Gun sounds are very well handled in "Rage", making each gun feel heavy.
Also the mutant sounds are a nice cross between monster and zombie (monster=zombie?), resulting in some missions making the game feel like it belongs to the horror genre.
The soundtrack does a good job enhancing the atmosphere, but it could have been quite a bit more memorable.


Multiplayer

Suprisingly, "Rage" being a first-person shooter, does not feature competitive shooting in the multiplayer.
Next to a solid co-op experience, it only features racing based multiplayer modes, comparable to "Twisted Metal".
Personally, i think this is not that much of a bad thing. In my opinion, "Rage" wouldn't hold up that well as a competitive shooter among all the military online shooters out there. Therefore, a co-op and racing multiplayer seems like a good move to me.


The Verdict

"Rage" is a game that didn't really disappoint me but that could have been better. From a shooter standpoint, it doesn't invent anything new but gives you exactly what you wanted and paid for (except if you wanted a post-apocalyptic GTA).
Especially the enemy A.I. in the game has the potential to revolutionize enemies in games (like Crysis 2 promised but didn't deliever).
It's true that id Software yet again failed to give us interesting characters or a great story to deepen the experience and make it more memorable, but honestly, i also didn't really expect that (yet it would have been nice).
It's exactly the post-apocalyptic shooter experience i have been waiting for so long, with exactly the right amount of RPG elements.
However, it all comes down to another great game from id, that might not be quite as strong storywise, compared to other post-apo games like Fallout 3, but which gameplaywise has one thing or two, the competition can learn.


Final Verdict: 8 out of 10

Status: Try it out

 

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