RAGE ReviewMatthew Pettit
Four years in the making, Rage is a game that pushes consoles to the limit. This year, Rage finally came out, developed by the famous id Software and under publisher Bethesda, and it proved to be quite a departure for what id is known for. DOOM and Quake were the games that put first-person shooters on the map and brought id a claim to fame, no doubt. But Rage is something entirely different in its own right. So what is it?
First and foremost, it's a FPS made by the guys who perfected the FPS. This time, John Carmack and creative director Tim Willits set out to create a light open-world, questing, action adventure/first-person shooter game that would test a consoles ability to keep up with its PC cousin. The beautiful visuals match that of a high-end PC and the 60 FPS keeps combat fluid and fun. The big world in Rage sports a hefty mandatory install for the PS3 and an install of 22GB on a 360 (and that's recommended). There's a lot of content in Rage to keep you busy and the campaign will easily give you 10-12 hours of game play. That time could be extended giving how much time you'll spend with side-quests or the many mini-games there are. Each of Rage's mini-games will net you some money for winning, but some are just downright fun to play over and over. One that I had a lot of fun playing with is the light Yu-Gi-Oh! style battle-card game that pits cards you collect throughout the game over the dealers' hand.
The campaign is nothing spectacular and it doesn't re-invent the wheel, but that doesn't mean that it's not a lot of fun. I played Rage on the 360, so there were two discs for the campaign. I was enjoying the game right off the bat with Rage's satisfying shooting and movement but I did notice that the first disc was like one big tutorial. There weren't tool tips popping up every mission you played, but the difficulty just didn't ramp up enough from one quest to another. There were some good moments, like a huge boss battle and smaller ones in between, in terms of higher difficulty, but nothing ever tipped the scales in favor of the AI. Playing the game on Hard after already playing it once on Normal wasn't a big increase in challenge either, other than taking more damage.
The mission structure is much like what you would expect from a game like Borderlands. You're on the rails as much as you are free to explore in the wasteland. You're mainly going from town to town, talking to the locals, and then picking up some quests. You go kill bandits, fetch something, protect someone, or kill more bandits and come back for a reward. There isn't a lot of variety in what you do, but the mechanics in Rage make those missions a lot of fun to play. The one thing that gets frustrating as far as missions go is actually finding those missions. I played through the game once and I had missed a few missions here or there, just because I didn't talk to everyone in town. There are no markers above an NPC's head to give you any indication that you need to talk to them for a quest. There is also no HUD when you're in a town so you have to navigate it by yourself. This is really cool in a sense but can also be a bit aggravating. I played through a second time, talking to every NPC I saw and picked up at least eight extra quests. It goes without saying that exploring the towns and even the wasteland will yield rewards in the form of missions and loot. There is no real map in the game so you're mini-map will pave the direction in the wasteland with a quest marker. So those underground sewers that are a free download with your new copy of Rage will only show up if you look for them!
Different styles of game play in Rage make combat extremely fun and interesting. I found myself switching between weapons a lot. Weapons are what you'd expect from an FPS, but the different ammo types are what really change things up. Switching between powerful 'Feltrite' ammo and regular steel ammo for your assault rifle can make a notable difference in taking down armored targets. Using some of the more fun ammo types like pop rockets for your shotgun will send your enemies flying. There are even mind-control darts for your crossbow. Simply shoot them at an enemy and you'll be able to control them for a few seconds and then watch them explode. Every situation in Rage will force you to switch between guns and that in itself really keeps things moving. I know that when I play a game like this, things can get pretty stale if you just use the same gun over and over. Fortunately, Rage supports a great blueprint and crafting system that allows you to make some pretty awesome equipment types. Equipment can range from wing sticks, which are like really sharp boomerangs, to remote-controlled bomb cars and machine-gun wielding robots. It's really fun to use all of the equipment at your disposal to tackle difficult combat situations with ease.
Multiplayer brings four-player vehicle combat into the frenzy. Your own customized buggies and roadsters go head to head with other racers. There is also a co-op component with an interesting set-up. The co-op missions let you play through stories the game only mentions in the main storyline. Those missions can be fun online or in split-screen, but there aren't enough to keep you entertained for very long. The only thing that will keep you coming back to play that mode is if you love the combat in Rage. This is not a bad thing because I do love the combat.
The mechanical triumph of Rage is hard to ignore. This game looks astounding on an Xbox and that's not the only thing that sets this game apart technically. The animations you see when shooting an enemy shows their reactions to the shot. Depending on where and how much you shoot them, they will die a different way. Enemies will move fast and try to dodge your attacks, or even traverse the environment, to get the drop on you. The integration of vehicle combat and FPS combat is easy and both remain a ton of fun. Melding all that Rage has to offer in one package is an achievement in itself.
I can say that my time with RAGE was not wasted one bit. When I get to play a game like this, I am just amazed how it all comes together. All the time and effort put into the game is seen just by playing a few minutes of it. You can really tell how much care was put into this game. I know if I was working at id, Rage would be quite the achievement and would be highlighted on my resume.
Disclosure: We are provided copies of games from the game companies for some games that we review.