Review: Rage

Review: Rage

Never before has a game been given a title that so accurately describes the emotion most commonly associated with it. I’ll refrain from recounting my previous frustrations with this game as you can read all about the, right here. After nearly a week of fighting and arguing with my Steam application, including but not limited to several 9+ hour downloads that only yielded the same result, I caved in and just got the game on PS3. That seemed to take care of that issue.

 What’s Going on Here?

Rage

Rage has been somewhat of an enigma ever since it was first announced and to be quite honest, I really didn’t know exactly what to expect going into it. I’ve seen all the trailers, I’ve read all the hype, and I’ve certainly talked a great deal about it with other gamers, but a general consensus could never quite be reached as to solid feeling on the game. Coming from the company that is arguably responsible for the modern first person shooter, this game had some exceptionally large, bloody shoes to fill.

The obvious trend of the past 5 years or so has been zombies and/or some sort of living dead threatening death and destruction, but as with all trends, it is slowly giving way to the trend of post-apocalyptic settings. We’ve seen a rash of games lately where the entirety of the setting and story revolve around what life may be like after humans finally get around to killing themselves (or at least most of themselves) off in a massive nuclear battle. Rage may have initially been at the leading edge of this trend, but due to its lengthy production time, I can’t help but find myself thinking, ‘Right, this old place again.’

I hate to start a review off on a bad note, but Rage suffers from a very acute but serious case of ‘paper thin plot’. There isn’t much I can say about the game’s plot that won’t give away integral plot points regarding the end of the game because frankly, you have absolutely no idea what hell is going on until about 6 hours into the 8 hour game. My thought process for the first 5 ½ hours of the game went something like this:

“Alright, so I’m a dude who crashed into a planet riding a mechanized asteroid called an Ark. Seems plausible enough.

How fortunate. Someone just happened to find me and take me to their hideout and offer to help me because I look like a nice enough guy, but my duds aren’t exactly what would be considered currently trendy so I have take fashion advice from an old dude who sounds like Dan Aykroyd. Fair enough, he’s a cool dude.

Alright, it’s been an hour. What’s going on here?

Ah yes, bandits. They like to kill people. I think I’ll kill some of them for fun because their heads explode nicely. Oh look! An ATV.

Three hours now? Seriously… WTF IS GOING ON?

Would you look at that… some of those bandits seem to have mutated. Their guts go nicely on the grill of my dune buggy… with machine guns and rocket launchers? Nice.

Oh… there you are, story! I found you. It’s only been 6 hours! Now it all makes sense… kind of.”

That’s about as much detail as I can honestly give you about the storyline without giving away anything majorly important, so you’ll just have to take my word for it and trust that it all kind of comes together in the end.

It’s obvious that a comprehensible story really wasn’t the focus with this title. Rather, the development team seemed to be more concerned about churning out an artistic and technical masterpiece worthy of their name. And that they have done. There are so many good things about this game that a poor story is easily forgivable. I’m not going to say that this game really introduces anything new at all, because honestly, a majority of what I did in this game felt exactly like 2 or 3 other titles mashed together into one grand adventure. Not bad by any means, but still…

 Id’s Graphical Opus

Rage Mayor

Graphically, this game is a technical marvel. Everything looks and feels absolutely amazing. The post apocalyptic wasteland has never felt so teeming with life or been given such a truly desolate atmosphere. New Vegas attempted to do just that, but Rage places a massive emphasis on your interactions with the environment and the people within that it’s easy to get sucked in and forget you are just playing a game.

The people within the game are what truly make the experience more engaging. Everyone is simply bursting with so much charisma and personality that they seem to be real people trapped in a digital world. Certain people don’t interact with you at all while others will approach you and talk your ear off for a good long time before finally shutting up. However, those people are just a drop in the bucket compared to the major NPCs.

The people you get the quests from will react when you walk into a room and depending on the status of your mission/quest they will respond accordingly. One of the most subtle things I noticed that actually made a huge impact on me was the fact that I never had to find a person and press a button to get them to acknowledge that I was done with a quest. I would walk into a room and have the story (what little there was) seamlessly continue without so much as a press of a button.

The most notable attention to detail came with the character’s faces. You are free to move about while people are talking to you, but their faces are so intricately animated that it would be a shame to miss out just how good they look by walking away to look at a blurry can of beans on the shelf. Everything from wrinkles and eyebrows to lips and cheeks all move in perfect harmony. I’m sure you could find a way to look inside you could probably see their tongue moving, that’s how detailed these people are. Personality, style, expressions, and masterfully done voiceovers make the characters in this game one of the obvious highlights.

Rage

With a game this technically beautiful, surely there couldn’t be a downside to all the sexiness, right? Well… sort of. Everything is beyond gorgeous… if it loads.

Beneath the Surface

The PC community was/is ablaze with hatred for this game’s textures and graphics, not because they look bad, but because they hardly load. Sadly, the console versions didn’t escape this issue either. I spent a great deal of time staring at blurry textures wondering just exactly was on the other side of them only to turn around and have them load as I walked away. They would always eventually load, but as to how long they took was a crap shoot. This mostly occurred with static textures on walls and buildings, but occasionally my gun would just look like a blurry mass in my hands for a few seconds. But, if you are patient enough and can wait for things to load, you will be treated to quite the graphical buffet.

 Conservative Weaponry

Rage Weapons

Rage is a first person shooter through and through, but several other genres pop in to say hi from time to time. The action is quite balanced and there are hardly any lulls once you begin. You start out with a small basic pistol, but quickly acquire a wide assortment of weapons with which to splatter your enemy’s guts across the landscape. Don’t expect to find anything exciting and out of the ordinary in terms of weaponry because Rage is pretty basic; although a pistol, machine gun, assault rifle, rocket launcher, crossbow, and sniper rifle are about the only weapons you’ll use, they get the job done quite nicely.

The weapons actually feel as though they have some weight to them and actually impact the environment accordingly. To see what I mean I suggest cranking up your volume, equipping the shotgun, and blasting a mutant in the chest from 2 feet away. You’ll get the point.

You can only carry four weapons at a time, but each can be equipped with a variety of ammo. Not every weapon has alternate ammo nor do you need the alternate ammo to make it through the game. Maybe I just have a thing for shotguns, but I found myself dropping most of my hard earned cash on pop shots for the shotgun which instantly liquefy your enemies upon contact. Quite handy, but very expensive.

I was initially excited at the prospect of weapon upgrades when I was able to take a busted binocular and use it as a scope on my pistol, but I soon found that was the end of that dream. For a game centered on guns, you’d think either more weapons or more weapon customization would be included.

 Familiar Faces at Frustrating Paces

As far as who and what you are shooting at, there is very little variety as well. You have your basic bandit, mutant, and authority guard. Some of the guards will have a shield, and you may occasionally run across something that looks like a rock golem from Oblivion, but that’s about the extent of what you’re going to get to pour lead into.

Rage

Surprisingly, this really didn’t have an effect on me because I was enjoying shooting them far too much. What did bother me a bit, though, was the manner in which I was assigned to kill them.

It may be an attempt to replicate real-life and convey the point that nothing comes free, but the mission system in Rage becomes rather agitating at times. Almost all of the missions are your basic fetch and return assignments, but it doesn’t end there. Someone will give you a quest where you have to go and procure an item from another person, but that other person isn’t ready to relinquish said item just yet and asks you to complete another fetch and return quest for them before you can complete the other one. I know, it gets complicated. I think the longest that went on was 3, maybe 4 people. I usually just went to wherever the white dot on the map was leading me as the story hadn’t developed enough by that point for me to care/know what was going on.

Fortunately, getting from point A to point B was quite fun though.

I’m Playing Rage, Right?

Rage Vehicle Combat

I’m going to draw a comparison here that a lot of you may not truly grasp until you play the game, but try to follow along here. Rage is at its heart a shooter, like I said, but its clear that somewhere along the line someone wanted to incorporate some racing. It seems as though rather than develop an entirely new  racing mechanic, the team took a page from the insanely popular Motorstorm book. Every time I got behind the wheel of my ATV, dune buggy, or what have you I had to remind myself that I wasn’t playing Motorstorm because everything about the way vehicles handled to the way they sounded was telling that somehow some rogue Motorstorm data from my system had hijacked my game and inserted itself into Rage. The cars had the exact same floaty feel and the exact same boost noise as Motorstorm, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, it just felt a bit out of place.

The physical racing aspect of the game only forces itself upon you once in the game, but upgrading your ride may require you to do a bit more racing. If you prefer your feet over wheels you’ll be happy to know that you don’t technically have to drive anywhere, but it certainly makes the game a lot easier and far more entertaining, especially once you start equipping machine guns and homing missiles to them.

Looping Audio and Break Dancing Mutants

All the initial anger and frustration aside, Rage is quite a decent game that is at least worthy of trying. I did run across a few other technical bugs besides the glaring texture issues that didn’t entirely ruin the experience. Rather, they made it a bit more… interesting.

On multiple occasions I would shoot an enemy as they jumped down from a high place only to have them die and hang in mid air, or slap their head against the wall on the way down and get it lodged, causing them to hang there. One on occasion I even was treated to a dance routine by a dead mutant whose head was quite forcefully wedged into a brick wall. His body twitched and turned for a good 3 minutes before beginning to slide up and down the side of the building and ultimately rocketing off into the sky like a spaceship. It didn’t end there, though. He came down almost directly where he took off from and continued to have a serious fit for another minute or so before simply vanishing. Certainly one of the many highlights of the game.

The music, when it’s audible, is a bit lackluster and loops in very obvious spots. I began to memorize the songs as I worked through a level and could predict exactly when the end of the song was coming. I think that particular occurrence is referred to as a musical brick wall.

I’m still deciding whether or not this is some sort of hint or Easter Egg, but I did run across a hidden poster in the game that read “50% Rage 2 and Doom 5!” Neither have been confirmed, Doom 4 hasn’t even been ‘officially’ announced yet, so this could be a sort of teaser of things to come in the distant future.

Finally, make sure you save often. Rage suffers from a lack of an effective auto save system that leaves you in charge of pressing pause and manually saving your game. Failure to do so may result in loads of lost time. It only takes one or two times of losing half an hour for it really sink in.

If you can get over the technical issues and remind yourself that you are playing Rage, not Motorstorm or Doom 3 or Borderlands, you will find an extremely enjoyable game that really needs to be experienced at least once. If you happen to have a buddy who wants to join in the action, Rage features a great co-op system that functions quite similarly to Borderlands, so grab a friend and experience the slew of emotions together.

Pros:

  • Engaging characters
  • Weapons actually have feeling
  • Beautiful Graphics (when they load)
  • Vehicles with weapons
  • Loads of gore

Cons:

  • Where’s the story?
  • Frustrating mission structure/variety
  • No weapon customization
  • Manual saving
  • Extremely short

Score: 8/10

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