The lights are on
Rage is a beautiful and terrifying game. This was evident from the opening cinematic, which features a massive asteroid crashing into earth; detailed by id’s gorgeous id Tech 5 engine. The entire game’s visuals are incredibly crisp and clear. My only other comparable experiences were with the Frostbite 3, or CryEngine3. The character animations are equally impressive. Mouths and faces actually say the words you’re hearing. Character gestures, such as extending a hand or shrugging one’s shoulders, also appear remarkably natural.
These pristine character animations carry over to the gameplay, where mutants and bandits chase the player with terrifying vigor—wall-running, rolling and dangling from the rafters. Occasionally however, the hostile AI can sometimes feel more like artificial unintelligence. Enemies carrying firearms peek out predictably and senselessly wander from cover to cover. Choice of primary weapon is limited, but it doesn’t restrict the gameplay. Rather, discovering and using a new weapon feels truly rewarding. Each one allows the player to approach combat differently—stealth with the crossbow, long-range with the sniper, or in-your-face with the shotgun for example—but the generally indoor combat areas make the first two feel mostly irrelevant. Wingsticks, engineering bots, weapon upgrades and ammo types further expand the possibilities, though. On the whole, the shooter aspect of the game felt polished, creative and fun.
The driving, however, probably takes a larger role than it should. In reality, it is only an entertaining distraction. It serves very little purpose other than for traversing the surface, a reality that makes investing in racing sidequests and vehicle upgrades feel irrelevant. That said, the driving mechanics and basic vehicular combat are intuitive and smooth.
There are some RPG elements in the mix, too. Not bad ones either. The looting system is simple and easy, and some basic resource management helps bring out the ‘post-apocalyptic wasteland’ without being a huge nuisance. Engineering can be an edge to those who invest in it, but the amount required is minimal. There’s no character customization, but there really isn’t an emphasis on ‘self’ anyway—the protagonist isn’t even named. Limited RPG elements are present for those who want them, but can easily be ignored.
Sadly, the game fails miserably to deliver a compelling or interesting narrative. For the first five hours or so, there is simply no significant story progression. Instead, the player is sent a series ‘fetch quests,’ which are only tolerable because of the enjoyable gameplay. Each new town seems only a new quest-hub, rather than the next step in your purposeful journey. The relationships simply aren’t interesting, either. There are the good guys, the bad guys, and everybody stays inside the lines. The plot most noticeably stumbled with the introduction of the ‘Authority.’ You guessed it: a mysterious, de facto, authoritarian regime that the locals don’t quite get along with. Lets be honest, there’s no way to say that without making it sound like a Fallout 3 rip-off.
In the end, I was very pleased with Rage. The plot could have been better, but the gameplay is some of the most addictive and innovative of any shooter I’ve played. Environments were interesting and immersive, animations were generally stellar. I’d say that this product was worthy of the Id Software brand--notable for products like Wolfenstein, Quake, and Doom--though not without flaws.
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