For those in the know, RAGE has been highly anticipated over the past few years throughout the gaming industry and for those who are out of the loop; you might see this release as just another post-apocalyptic shooter game (that has become a popular genre over the last few years). Created fully in-house by the now acclaimed games development company id Software, RAGE has had huge expectations slapped onto it, with the past efforts from the company seeing the likes of Doom, Wolfenstein and Quake. RAGE HD was released on the App Store last year and has gained considerably positive reviews and further increased the expectations of RAGE’s release, but was all this hype worthwhile?
You are welcomed into the game with a highly polished introductory movie that does exceedingly well in explaining the plight of the human race as the world faces potential annihilation, as it has been discovered that a huge Asteroid is on course to collide with Earth. The scene is set, the pods with frozen humans are buried (to try and preserve the human race) and many years pass before you awaken into the world of RAGE. The very moment you leave “The Ark” in which you alone have survived (in a somewhat obvious metaphorical re-birth), you will be greeted with strong sunlight shining over the barren landscape of the new world. Your journey will take you through baron wastelands, desert canyons, dim laboratories, sewers, broken cities and many more locations each fuelled with a visual style that makes it easy to become immersed within the dangerous world you now live in. Although the world looks beautiful from a distance, there are occasions in which textures up close seem to be surprisingly poor and there were a few occasions of screen tearing – but certainly nothing that a patch can’t fix. Despite this game being on PC, there are extremely limited ways in which you can customise the graphic settings (without finding and editing the configuration files) which strikes me as a strange move, considering how the nature of PC gaming is famed for the ability to tweak and customise settings more than any other platform.
The core gameplay offers some refreshing ideas that help give this game its own quirky personality, one that definitely stands out in today’s gaming market. You will often be faced with brilliant looking enemies in large groups, with the A.I. that powers them offering genuinely interesting and challenging gameplay that makes it hard for combat to become stagnated. If you kill enough of the group they can often be heard shouting out to “retreat” or “I’m out of here” and they will do as they say and run out of the fight. Melee-orientated enemies will do their best to avoid your bullets as they charge towards you whether it is rolling to cover, climbing a nearby wall or throwing implements of death towards your face. As the game progresses the difficulty begins to curve upwards (with a very reasonable learning curve). You will begin to realise that despite having the gift to revive yourself (that recharges over time) when killed through a brief mini-game, you will need to be very careful in some situations and charging in all-guns-blazing will likely end your game pretty swiftly. When this happens you may become frustrated to find that the last auto save was many hours ago and that unless you are constantly saving before each engagement there are almost no checkpoints or auto save locations (it will become second nature to quick save after a battle).
Throughout the somewhat cliché story you find yourself in (one that doesn’t do well in making you want to be involved and fight for the “cause”) you will meet a very impressive range of characters who are able to hook you into their world through great animations, appearance and voice acting (with stars such as John Goodman voicing the characters how can you not become attached?). Throughout your travels these characters will ask for your help and you will travel between towns in a range of vehicles ranging from a small quad bike to a heavily armoured truck. All of the vehicles on offer you can upgrade to have better weapons and armour to help fight the numerous vehicular enemies you will encounter (who unfortunately never pose much of a threat to you). This is especially noticeable during the races you are forced to be a part of in order to upgrade your vehicles and unlock the later types. Your opponents in the races available (ranging from a traditional race to rocket-fuelled meteor collecting) never seem to make much impact on your chances of securing the gold medal and you may want to increase the difficulty to try and make it feel a bit more satisfying to win these races.
Despite RAGE offering some fantastic locations scattered across the now broken earth there is unfortunately very little for you to do. The limited side missions along with the main story unsuccessfully attempt to pad out the somewhat wasted world in which you are now a part of. There are the usual driving jumps for you to try and complete and some timed delivery jobs but nothing really goes the extra lengths to make use of the often jaw-dropping locations available to you, a mercenary of the new world. You will be travelling through most of the game by vehicle to get to each location and frustratingly there is no free look option, limiting your ability to appreciate the surroundings fairly noticeably. Combining this with sometimes sluggish driving controls you get the feeling that the driving aspects of the game were given less attention than the well-crafted shooter sections.
Aside from the single player story mode on offer, RAGE features a few multiplayer modes (both racing and FPS modes are available). The driving sections offer you the ability to race up to 3 opponents online and compete for achievements and experience, with the experience allowing you to upgrade to new vehicles. Although it attempts to add some depth, the driving aspect of the multiplayer seems to be something that will be merely a time waster rather than a fully-fledged standalone section of the game. The shooting section of multiplayer definitely offers a better experience, with you and a friend having the ability to play through 9 missions (all mentioned in the single player story) with the same fun weapons and A.I. you will expect along with a combo system designed to make it more competitive. Although multiplayer doesn’t add huge amounts to the game itself, it is a nice feature to offer where many developers might have left out completely.
To suggest this game is a genre-redefining experience would be an exaggeration to say the least, but this is not always a bad thing as RAGE has proven. The landscapes look eerily realistic with eye-candy fuelled backdrops and locations oozing out of the dying earth. The combat remains gripping through a well-crafted mix of interesting A.I., a good selection of weapons and gadgets and a wide mix of locations you will find yourself in. Although it’s arguably let down a little by a shallow upgrade system, linear gameplay and a weak story, this game delivers one of the best post-apocalyptic shooters you will find on the market. It may not be quite on the same level as the Fallout series, but for a first effort in a new series it has done fantastically well. A warning comes attached with this game; after playing this for some time you will begin to severely miss the brilliant wingsticks in any other game you play.