The lights are on
What new ideas the game brings to the table and how well old ideas are presented.
How good a game looks, taking into account any flaws such as bad collision or pop-up.
Does the game’s music and sound effects get you involved or do they make you resolve to always play with the volume down?
Basically, the controller to human interface. The less you think about the hunk of plastic in your hands, the better the playability.
Flat out, just how fun the game is to play. The most important factor in rating a game.
The name id Software rings of nostalgia. Franchises like Wolfenstein,
Doom, and Quake laid the groundwork for the first-person shooter genre,
and I can still see their designs influencing many of today’s new
releases. Despite the studio’s pedigree, it hasn’t developed an FPS
title since 2004’s Doom 3. The genre has changed significantly in the
years that have followed. Franchises like Half-Life and Call of Duty are
the genre’s trendsetters. Now, id Software makes its long-awaited FPS
return with a new franchise called Rage. Can the father of the FPS
reemerge as the powerhouse it once was, or will it be playing catch-up
to the genre’s latest trends? The answer is a little of both.
At this year’s QuakeCon expo, John Carmack, id co-founder and Rage’s
lead programmer, revealed he had been working on this new title for the
better part of six years. The lengthy gestation period has produced one
of the most technically sound shooters to date. Rage roars at a constant
60 frames per second, offers sophisticated gunplay, and lights up the
screen with an incredible level of graphical detail. The game
continually wowed me with its technology and small touches, such as
every NPC having unique animations scripted to each word they utter, and
an enemy being smart enough to recognize that the quickest path to the
player’s location isn’t a winding path, but rather cutting the distance
by jumping over fences.
The lengthy development cycle could also be responsible for the
game’s most disappointing component: the story. After a gorgeous
introductory cinematic which shows an enormous asteroid crashing to
Earth in the year 2029, producing a post-apocalyptic wasteland, players
are introduced to their avatar in this world, a silent protagonist who
ends up being the whipping boy of every person with a problem that needs
fixing. He’s the perfect accomplice to an uneventful narrative that
slogs along with all the excitement of a dehydrated person slowly
shuffling his feet in the wasteland’s sands. Just when it seems this
story might produce a meaty plot thread, the game ends unexpectedly with
no major confrontation or sense of victory leading up to it. The best
comparison I can think of is if Star Wars ended with Obi-Wan lowering the Death Star’s tractor beam. Roll credits.
While most people will likely rave about Rage’s technology, this
game’s most impressive component is its gunplay. This is largely due to
the game’s fearless foes. Like Left 4 Dead’s bloodthirsty zombies, the
mutated hostiles of the wastes sprint toward the player. They crawl out
of the woodwork, scamper along walls, and create a sense of absolute
terror. I can’t overstate how impressive this game’s animation system
is. Shooting a mutant in the side might make it slam into a wall, but
its legs never stop moving. It drags itself along, eyes glued to yours,
and fights to regain balance to continue its rapid pace. Interestingly,
the player is not equipped for close quarters melee. In fact, the rifle
butt and punch attacks rank among the weakest I’ve seen in a current-gen
FPS. The challenge posed to the player is to put them down quickly, or
pray that every close range shotgun blast hits a large chuck of flesh.
Most of the major battles unfolded with me panicking, firing off shots
with a furious intensity, and escaping with the feeling that I had
accomplished a miraculous feat.
There’s a nice selection of close- and long- range weapons, and while
id’s patented BFG makes an appearance in the form of special
ammunition, this arsenal’s most trusted killer is oddly a boomerang
called the wingstick – one of the most satisfying weapons in any FPS.
The wingstick is designed with the specific goal of lopping off heads.
Watching a mutant in a full-on sprint lose his noggin and collapse to
the ground just as the wingstick flies back into your hand is a
supremely satisfying spectacle.
Rage isn’t a standard level-to-level shooter. At any point in the
game, players have the opportunity to freely explore a moderately sized
open world. Outside of illustrating how the asteroid affected the world
and how mankind has adapted to it, this vast playing space’s primary
function is to shuttle players from a hub city to a mission marker. The
means of travel is a vehicle tricked out with weapons galore. Bandits in
vehicles of their own will try to derail your quest, but even on the
highest difficulty setting they pose little challenge. As much fun as it
is to blow these adversaries away with rockets, the vehicular
component, which includes races, is an entertaining distraction and
A slew of other diversionary minigames, such as an awesome
collectible card game, are included into the hub cities. However, the
most satisfying side activity is looting, which makes the lack of
content in the overworld more disappointing. Every item that flashes in
the environment – be it gas cans or bandages – can be picked up and
stored in a limitless inventory. At first, these items may seem
completely random, but as the game progresses and new weapon and item
blueprints are obtained, they can be combined for on-the-go crafting.
Turrets, remote control cars, healing items, grenades, and other handy
devices can be created from anywhere, even in the heat of battle.
Rage’s story and overworld design feel dated, but its heart-pounding
gunplay is a nice change of pace in a market filled with “follow me” and
pop-and-fire shooters. While light RPG elements are present, this is
mainly a game for players who love challenging combat experiences.
MultiplayerRage’s gunplay seems like a perfect fit for classic id-style
deathmatching, but the only multiplayer options offered are six-player
vehicular combat and two-player co-op challenges. The co-op levels are
sections stripped from the campaign and outfitted with new enemy
formations. They’re a blast to play, but they can be completed in a few
hours total. The vehicular warfare doesn’t offer a large number of maps,
and as nicely crafted as the controls are, grows old quickly. While the
completist in me wanted to reach rank 20, my interest was fully tapped
around rank 10.
Email the author Andrew Reiner, or follow on Twitter, Facebook, and Game Informer.