Developer: id Software
Release Date: Out Now
Players/Online features: Solo campaign, 2-player split screen co-op & 2-4 online.
Rage’s story begins as the Apophis asteroid is heading towards Earth in the year 2029. In order to ensure mankind’s survival, huge Arks are built which were designed to burrow into the ground and re-emerge when it’s safe to in the aftermath of the asteroid’s impact, awaking the nanite-enhanced crew. As the only survivor of Ark 437A you are brought out of cryogenic sleep to find that 109 years has passed and you emerge into a bright sunlit Wasteland, where every structure is mangled and murderous bandits and mutants roam the surface...
You’re saved from a mutant attack by a man called Dan Hagar (voiced by John Goodman) and taken to his settlement; from here you’re given your first set of missions and the use of an ATV. Rage involves a lot of driving, and id didn’t skimp on the handling and physics, they’re easily as good if not better than Motorstorm’s - this is no first person shooter dabbling in driving game mechanics, the vehicles feel great and driving around the landscape is a lot of fun. After the quad ATV you’ll get to drive buggies, souped-up trucks and cars. The larger vehicles all carry weapons in the form of miniguns and rocket launchers, as well as a selection of extras like drop mines, shields and automated homing RC bomb vehicles. All vehicles have a limited ‘boost’ ability that quickly recharges and various bits can be upgraded; from weapons and armour to better suspension or a more powerful engine.
It’s worth getting into the habit of saving the game manually and often as with your first trip on the ATV it’s possible to die, and Rage has no autosave facility other than on a few checkpoints on the very longest of missions and when you change zones, so remember to save frequently unless you like retreading old ground. When starting the game our revered Editor actually explored for 20 minutes or so, got the first mission, turned left rather than right out of the Hagar settlement, did a few joyous donuts and then zoomed off up the road towards a structure and promptly got blown away by a rocket. The only option from here is to ‘load from checkpoint’ which, unless you’ve saved manually in the interim, is the start of the game, intro and all! You soon get into the habit of saving after every tense shootout and close squeak, but the need to save makes the game feel a bit ‘PC’, and a bit ‘old’.
Rage might drive you mad with its lack of autosave (which will cause you some wasted hours of gameplay unless you robotically save after every single event) but as I said you do get used to saving regularly, but I think, almost acting like a compensation for this fact id gave you a defibrillator with which you can bring yourself back to life if you die… we’ll be good gamers and suspend belief for a second and not go in to how exactly this works or say how impossible an idea this is. Anyway, once beaten or shot enough to lose all health and go into cardiac arrest you can come back to life by moving the analogue sticks to the indicated position and pressing both triggers you can zzzap yourself back into existence, stunning any nearby attackers in the process and giving you a second chance. The defibrillator takes a while to recharge (this recharge time is upgradable) so you can’t just use it continually to be immortal.
Even allowing for my Unreal engine-ified eyes and the post-apocalyptic setting Rage has a noticeably different look from the other games around at the moment, and at times it’s absolutely stunning to behold and moves as smoothly as a greasy weasel. If you look closely though, you’ll discover how id keep Rage running so smoothly; The sky, although beautiful is a flat 2D picture with non-moving clouds, and most of the textures are extremely low-res and designed to be viewed from a particular distance, get too close and they reveal their lack of detail and blurriness, get too far away and the game exhibits occasional LOD (level of detail) problems as the texture detail is reduced or expanded. At times the clumsy ‘texture pop’ definitely pokes you in the eye but the overall effect is undeniably impressive and pleasing to the eye.
The level designers at id have provided a sizeable landscape that does a good job of kidding you into thinking that there’s a lot to explore, but looks are deceptive and most outdoor locations are to be driven through and little else. The built-up town and city locales reveal a few pick-upable bits and pieces, but the vast majority are blurry, low-res items that are no more than scenery.
Rage also has more than its fair share of aiming issues, and problems often arise when trying to pop out of cover or play the game like a more traditional military shooter. Most of Rage’s weapons seem to be just as accurate when fired ‘from the hip’ so this isn’t too much of a problem, but when you spy an unsuspecting enemy and don’t get that headshot because scenery-that shouldn’t be in your way but is-blocks your shot it’s undeniably irritating. This problem frequently arises when trying to get a sneaky shot in, being stealthy or using the scoped weapons.
Rage comes on 3 disks, and it’s advisable to install them although the third disk holds just multiplayer data so if you’re only buying the game for the solo campaign you don’t need to worry about that. Since the first update the game has developed a strange error when swapping disks, so id now need to patch their patch! The problem arises because you have to insert the required disk whether you install them or not and if you play the multiplayer game and then return to the solo game, or say return to Wellspring from Subway Town (disk 2 to disk 1) it’ll stupidly insist you insert disk 1 and return you to the dashboard with a message that tells you erroneously that “this game requires an update that couldn’t be found”-even though there is no update and your solo game has reached disk 2. So you then reload the game, load your continue game save and then it’ll ask for disk 2! It’s all a bit crap, clunky and unsatisfactory, and id need to fix it QUICKLY. I find this especially irritating as I don’t really see where all the disk space has gone - I mean, this game doesn’t have the hours of dialogue and amazing facial animations of L.A. Noire, which puts you through a similar but vastly more polished disk-swapping rigmarole.
Minigames come in the form of; Strum (follow the banjo player’s sequence of notes), 5 Finger Filet (the ‘stab yourself in the finger’ with a knife game) and Tombstones, a holographic dice-roll shooting game. There’s also a card game that plays like Rage-specific turn-based version of Top Trumps played with cards that you find scattered around the various locations in the game and relating to in-game characters, weapons and vehicles. Like the driving in the game, Rage Frenzy isn’t just some half-assed mini game it’s a fully realized collectible card game, and it’s like the gaming cycle has come full circle.
You can pick up side missions from just about anyone you talk to and additional jobs from the message boards in Wellspring or Subway Town. These will pay in either cash or useful items, and are completely optional. Rage uses the typical RPG game mechanic of forcing you into doing a job for “Tom” so you get the item that “Dick” asked you for that he wanted for ”Harry” so you’d get the thing you wanted yourself, so one task often becomes three. You’ll meet a host of imaginative (and not so) characters, some friendly, some not, some attractive, some who are actually more repulsive than the mutants (J.K. Stiles).
Rage gives you a typical weapon selection of pistol, shotgun, machine gun, assault rifle, sniper rifle and rocket launcher, and Dan Hagar’s also gives you his crossbow (isn’t that nice?) Doom fans may be wondering if there’s a BFG in the game, and there is, sort of, as the Authority Pulse Cannon that you obtain late in the game fires special BFG rounds that splatter anything in their path. You also get a selection of deadly yet fun toys to play with like explosive R/C cars (you can also use these to scout ahead in some dangerous areas), sentry spider-bots armed with a minigun that follow you around like a faithful pet, shooting at any enemies you encounter, sentry turrets to mind your back and mind control bolts for the crossbow. All weapons can be loaded with more powerful or specialist rounds (like electro bolts and armour-piercing bullets) and you can buy/find/earn schematics so you can make everything from ammo to health enhancement potions, healing bandages, and gadgets like RC bomb cars, sentry droids and lockgrinders (to open locked doors) yourself. You soon find that one of the most useful weapons in the game is the Wingstick, a deadly ninja star/Frisbee that can be assigned as one of your 4 secondary items, selected from the D-pad. A quick press of ‘LB’ will throw a Wingstick and as long as it’s aimed well will usually take out a human-sized enemy in one, often decapitating them in the process!
Enemies are superbly animated and their AI seems to be mostly very good; Mutants attack en masse in a frenzy, some swinging from the ceiling and moving very quickly and fluidly, and bandits and Authority soldiers use cover and shields and cower when injured, sometimes fighting on when downed. The ragdoll physics are excellent and the deaths are rarely the same. But remember how DOOM let you pile up the (admittedly 2D sprite) bodies of the monsters you killed? Rage doesn’t give you that satisfaction because all dead bodies disappear into thin air, although some humans do hang around long enough for you to loot their items before vanishing. A dead body will also sometimes get stuck in a place that makes it spazz uncontrollably until it disappears, which is disappointing.
There are two multiplayer modes, both of which are playable online or as a split-screen game; Road Rage is entirely vehicle-based and features a selection of races and rallies similar to the driving/racing sub games in the solo campaign, set on six maps, and Wasteland Legends which is a 2-player co-op mode that allows you to play through nine scenarios chronicled in Rage’s solo campaign story and using locations from it.
I don’t think there’s any doubt that Rage will win you over with its brutal, satisfying combat, just a little practice and you can take out 4 or 5 enemies in the blink of an eye, with a burst of machinegun fire and a well-aimed Wingstick or two. The post-apocalyptic setting is far from original and if you’ve played Fallout or Borderlands you’re going to feel right at home in Rage. The solo campaign story came to rather an abrupt, climax-lacking end for me, but there is DLC to come and when I finished the game it had 22 hours or so on the clock. So, regardless of what you may have heard on some forums from morons who presumably ran through the game without so much as a sideways glance or completing any side missions or races, Rage has a substantial campaign story and the numerous, mostly fun extra missions, and a surprisingly addictive multiplayer component (that includes a superb split-screen co-op mini sub-campaign) make the game a satisfying package that ticks almost all the boxes.
- The quality is apparent from the start. - Satisfying, brutal and gory combat. - Slick & smooth game engine. - FPS + quality driving component is a good thing. - They won't appeal to all, but the multiplayer modes are refreshingly different. - RPG elements without all the fannying around.
- A few glitches. - The end of the campaign kinda rushes up on you. - A lot of scenery that you can't explore.