With meteoric impact imminent, civilization rushes to save its greatest members before oncoming annihilation at the hands of an asteroid known as Apophis. It’s common knowledge that the majority of Earth’s population will not survive, but the hope is that some can be saved. Using mechanical wonders known as arks, the chosen are frozen and buried underground, destined to awake one day to re-establish the human race. This is the endangered world of 2029, which players catch a fleeting glimpse of at the beginning of RAGE, from id Software and Bethesda Softworks.
As years go by, the destined few slumber in an induced sleep, awaiting their awakening into a severely altered world. Following impact, the planet we all know and love was changed forever. Cities crumbled into dust and debris, roadways caved and craters became a noticeable geographic addition. Those who somehow survived were left to try to rebuild their lives, forging makeshift settlements using whatever shelter they could find or craft. Enclosed camps eventually became a priority as mutated freaks and dangerous bandits began to walk the land, with nothing but violence and theft on their minds.
Emerging from his induced frozen coma, gamers take the form of an unnamed ark dweller who happens to be the only survivor in his group. After exiting into the wide open wasteland world which used to be one of Earth’s hubs, he’s quickly whisked away to a ramshackle settlement by a buggy-driving stranger. Bandits give speeding chase with bullets flying, but the two manage to make it to safety.
It’s upon the conclusion of this action-packed introduction where players are fully introduced to the new world and its predicaments. Monstrosities and other types of evil run the show, with a ruthless government sect attempting to keep tabs on developments. Known as the Authority, they don’t take kind to disturbances, attempting to run a world where high-priced bounties are placed upon survivors of an almost forgotten world. With humanity in need of a new hero, it’s this unnamed ark inhabitant who steps into the role, taking on odd-jobs which eventually turn into high-action missions to restore peace.
Developed by the well-respected creators of the first-person shooter genre, RAGE is a shoot first, ask questions later affair. It marries arcade gunplay with fast-paced rally racing, adding in some light role-playing elements for good measure. The result is a very fun experience, which is a polished throwback to classic shooters from years past, with modern hints strewn throughout. A triple-A title with bells, whistles and enemies which go boom. It’s certainly a game which should not be demoed for those who don’t take well to crimson gore.
What I liked most about RAGE was how enjoyable it made killing hundreds upon hundreds of ghastly mutations. Its weapon-based mechanics are fast, fluid and incredibly entertaining, which left me looking forward to the next gunfight. Unlike the more modern and realistic shooters out there, this one is more of a twitch and arcade shoot ‘em up. Enemies are almost suicidal at times, rushing in for the attack without fear of the lead-based consequences. The more evolved ones will think to take cover, but they don’t come into play until around the half-way point. Even then, there’s still an evident and fun shooting gallery motif to be found. One which favours the shotgun.
Without a quality arsenal full of a mixed variety of firepower, you’re nothing in this virtual wasteland. Luckily, there’s more than enough weaponry to be found here. The development team did a good job of giving personality to a relatively formulaic group of weapons, representing the bullet-spewing gun types we’re used to seeing in most shooters. There’s your pistol, shotgun, machine guns, sniper rifle and a few new twists. The character comes in the form of advanced ammunition types, which can be picked up, purchased or concocted through the mixture of certain ingredients. They can add explosive, electrical, mind controlling and even dynamite effects to your everyday bullets and arrows.
RAGE is easy to compare to elements from three popular series: Doom, Fallout and Borderlands. Being that this is an id title, it’s understandable that there’s a lot of Doom-esque shoot first action with visceral consequences. This is complemented by open world exploration and collecting (ingredients can be used to create certain items, ammunition types or weapons), similar to what is found in Bethesda‘s Fallout series. The Borderlands comparisons come in via the title’s arcade nature, wasteland setting, use of vehicles and its occasional desire to add in some humour. All three of those aforementioned games are personal favourites of mine.
It’s important to note that RAGE doesn’t revolutionize the first-person shooter genre. Instead, it polishes what has drawn us to the genre for almost two decades: action. From start to finish, it rarely eases up on the gas pedal, only taking a break for dialogue or trips to town. There are two main hubs in the game world; one which is open early on, though the other doesn’t present itself until much later. They’re vastly different in terms of design and each feature interesting new troubles to deal with. Both are full of civilians to talk to, people needing help (side missions,) races and a handful of mini-games.
Let’s talk about the mini-games first. It’s a category of which there are several types to be found. All of them have the same basis however, which is gambling. Pick your bet and try to make it grow, through quick games. Included within is five finger fillet, a memory-based banjo sequence game, a neat hologram board game with bullseye dice and a card-battling game. There’s a good amount of challenge to be found with each one, which makes them addicting yet fair. It was impressive to see that these weren’t just thrown together ideas, but polished diversions instead.
The last one on that list is the one which needs explanation, being the most fully fleshed out one of the bunch, though the others are also quite fun. Hidden throughout the game world are fifty-four different cards, which can be used to create a deck for use in this game. They contain imagery and characteristics of heroes, mutants and weaponry found within the wasteland, though it’s all boiled down to a Magic: The Gathering style formula. Approaching one of the two card players in the game (conveniently found in bars), you can enter into battle with the use of a chosen deck. Matches are fun and challenging in this mode, which is a standout addition.
Located in a distant part of the dusty world is a murderous game show known as Mutant Bash TV. It plays almost exactly as it sounds: enemies rush towards the player in packs and scores are awarded based on kill chains, par times and a slot-machine component. The game, along with its host, is both quirky and disturbing. Most of all though, it’s just plain fun. There’s more than one episode to play through, as the challenge ramps up a bit. The same scenarios and hazard rooms are used, which is a bit of a downside, as I wish there was more variety. Regardless, it’s still a heck of a lot of fun and a great way to spend an hour or two with your trusty arsenal.
Getting around its vast open world in order to find these cards and fulfill your destiny is where the vehicular combat section of the game comes into play. Buggies and ATVs allow for quick movement from point to point, though making sure they’re well-fortified and filled with weaponry is a must. Bandits rule the roads with deadly accuracy and high speed capabilities, never shying away from a rocket battle or mini-gun fight for supremacy. The physics are tight, allowing for a good amount of drift combined with a relaxing amount of control. Performance upgrades, advanced armor types and new tires can be purchased to let players customize their ride to their taste.
Flying through the sand and crater rock at high speeds with weapons gunning isn’t limited to only travel. There’s also a huge racing component within RAGE. In fact, it’s so prevalent that it’s easy to give it second-billing as a racing game. Mixed between the two town hubs are between twenty and thirty races of varying types, including non-combat races, weapons races and rallies. The latter is a points-based affair where the winner is the driver who speeds through the most rally points, while fending off his competition. It sounds easy, but certainly is not, as the computer-controlled challengers are ruthless and happen to be determined to win. All three modes are fun and challenging, with polished mechanics.
Races, mini-games and job board side missions combine to add depth to an entertaining and action-packed campaign. The story-related missions themselves tend to be formulaic, mixing exploration with all-out gun battles, but this game is so much fun that it’s easy to overlook that repetition. I had a blast playing through RAGE, from start to finish, spending about seventeen hours inside of its dusty world. Compared to a lot of other shooters on the market, it’s a pretty lengthy affair, though I must say that I expected it to be a bit longer based on pre-release buzz.
Other than a couple of small hiccups where I got stuck underneath an elevator and eventually fell through the map at one point, RAGE ran like a dream. It’s fluid and visceral without stuttering frames or content-heavy slowdown. There was the odd noticeable glitch, but those were rare and minor. Putting your money down on the counter at your local game store will ensure that you’re getting a polished and engaging experience, which feels finished and refined. It’s easy to tell that this game was a passion project for the folks at id Software, as there’s an easy to notice coat of shiny polish spread over the entire experience.
Rounding out the package is a full multiplayer offering, complete with competitive racing action and co-operative shooting. Unlike almost every other shooter out there, RAGE doesn’t feature any sort of team or solo gun-related deathmatch options. Instead, its main multiplayer component is focused solely on rally racing and free-for-all combat arenas. It’s pretty fun, packs quite a challenge and adds some unique flavour to the shooter scene, but it didn’t live up to my high hopes. There’s nothing wrong with it at all, as there’s a decent amount of modes, tracks and customization unlocks, but it just doesn’t pack the punch that some other games’ online offerings do.
Joining the vehicular carnage is a set of Wasteland Legends. These passed down tales of past events allow for two players to shoot their way through bandits, freaks and mutations for the common good. I was glad to see that these were offered, as many may be dismayed that the core campaign is single player only. To me, that’s not a big deal as I’ve always been a single player-first kind of gamer. Those who are disappointed by that fact will find a lot to like with these Legends, which employ the structuring found in many of the campaign’s missions, adding twists onto visited sections such as Mutant Bash TV.
If there’s one recommendation I could levy upon the multiplayer side of things, it would be that the card mini-game should have factored in. It’s a really neat game, which does a great job of making what would be monotonous collectibles into playable heroes. Being that it’s such an interesting aspect of the campaign, I’m of the opinion that it would have flourished online as a third game type offering.
Running on the id Tech-5 engine, RAGE is a shiny and beautiful game. In fact, it’s one of the best-looking virtual experiences I’ve ever laid my eyes upon, with graphics that will wow you. Its visual designs are gritty and apocalyptic, with colour added in to make it feel lifelike. The action takes place in varied locations, with tons of detail and degradation. Enemies take very heinous forms, making them even easier to shoot, with some outstanding gore effects which make the bullets count. A lot of time went into polishing this one, which shows in every facet of its delivery. What’s most impressive is that it looks so good and also plays like a dream.
The visual department isn’t the only area where RAGE spent a lot of development time in the polish chair. Its audio offerings are also well-designed and utterly impressive, with pounding explosions, devastatingly gruesome sound effects and some really solid voice acting. The inhabitants of its beleaguered world feel alive and tell informative tales of great interest to the player. Generally speaking, this is the type of game which goes well as a tester for a new sound system, or one which is in need of some more use. To say that it’s boisterous and manly would be an understatement for sure.
My time spent with this game was done so using a copy of the XBOX 360 version. Yes, the one that is three discs. Don’t let that deter you from checking it out, as it’s really not that cumbersome at all. In fact, you only need to switch from disc one to disc two once throughout the campaign. The third disc is utilized for multiplayer. One tip would be to install the first two discs, as I found it ran better when installed. Load times were shorter, too.
Looking back, it’s been quite a wait for RAGE, filled with tons of collective anticipation and drool. Having played it from beginning to end plus some, I’m happy to report that this is a great game which was certainly worth the wait. Although it’s not a revolutionary experience with amazing new mechanics, this complaint is outweighed by its great fun factor and noticeable coat of polish. Fans of twitch shooters and arcade racing games will eat this one up and then want to go back for more, because it’s just that good. Thankfully, there’s a lot of content to be found for its sixty dollar admission, meaning that quite a bit of time will pass by before you’re ready for seconds.
RAGE was released on October 4, 2011. This review is based upon a copy of the game, which we received for review purposes.