Rage HD ReviewCharles Battersby
Nearly a year before the post-apocalyptic shooter Rage launched for consoles and PC's, there was a tie-in game released on the iPhone called Rage HD. The odd timing continues. Three months after Rage came out there's still no DLC for the console versions, but a major update has been put out for the iPhone game including paid DLC levels.
This iPhone adaptation doesn't try to mimic everything about its big brother. Instead it focuses on just one element: Shooting. In the console or PC versions of Rage players will drive through the wasteland, explore towns on foot and interact with NPCs – plus a heaping dose of shooting mutants too. The iPhone game dispenses with everything except the shooting. With very little introduction, players find themselves dumped into a level full of killer monsters that need to be taken down.
The story behind Rage is that a meteor nearly wipes out humanity and the remnants of civilization are at war with feral mutants. Rage HD casts the player as a contestant on a game show called Mutant Bash TV where people are sent through monster-infested ruins to fight off blood-thirsty freaks. It's a pretty thin example of story-telling, but it's a serviceable excuse to bash some mutants.
A quick glance at Rage HD for the iPhone shows off some gorgeous graphics. It looked great when it launched back in November of 2010, but the recent update has enhanced it so that it is easily among the best-looking of its contemporaries. These fancy graphics do come at a price, though. The Player finds themselves in series of small indoor environments, with only a few enemy types, and movement is strictly "On Rails."
Even though the player is moved through the levels automatically on a single path, they can still aim in a fully 3D world. Mutants pop out of holes in the walls, floor and ceiling to throw rocks and attack hand-to-hand. These levels and enemies are highly detailed and gorgeous, or at least as gorgeous as mutants and rubble can look.
Another limitation is that there are only three guns; a pistol with unlimited ammo, plus a shotgun and assault rifle that both require the player to grab ammo power-ups during the levels. The other weapons seen in the console version of the game aren't here, including that nifty crossbow.
Still, the three weapons on hand make up a basic trinity of gameplay tactics, shotgun up close, assault rifle at a distance, and the pistol when you have nothing better. Aside from the ammo, players can also grab other power ups, like health and money. This requires good timing and accuracy because the game is on rails and doesn't leave much time for leisurely examining every little crevice of the rooms.
While there aren't many weapons, there are certainly lots of ways to use them. Rage HD has five different control schemes used for aiming your guns. The standard virtual stick, and touch screen are there, but the best controls are the ones that use the accelerometer. Three slightly different set-ups use the gyroscope to give players their preference, and the combination of On Rails and gryroscopic control is probably the best way to handle first person shooting on a platform that has no physical buttons.
The gameplay is a bit more involved than it might appear. There is a dodge button that can be used to avoid both projectiles and melee attacks. The simple reload has a feature a lot like reloading in Gears of War; if the player taps the reload button twice with perfect timing, they'll get a quicker reload and a temporary bonus to damage. On the higher difficulty levels these techniques need to be mastered, along with precise aiming.
The mutant enemies are also different from the typical goons encountered in shooters. These creatures move just like they do in the console version. They're fast, agile, can jump and roll – even sprint along walls for a second to really make them hard to hit. They're worthy foes and exciting to fight over and over again.
While the story is very weak, the only true problem with Rage HD is its brevity. It comes with just three levels and each of them will take about ten to fifteen minutes to complete. There's a "Mirror Mode" which flops the levels so that everything is a little different (Enemies that usually appear on the left side of the screen will appear on the right side in Mirror Mode) and there are several difficulty levels too. This plus the various control schemes will help extend the replay value of the three maps.
Gamers who take a liking to this will be happy to know that two more levels were just released as an in-game purchase. It's a case of more of the same, but what Rage HD has to offer is definitely worth getting more of.
Disclosure: We are provided copies of games from the game companies for some games that we review.