RAGE. Not only do I resist the urge even now to make puns about that name, but I am amazed to say that it defies almost every expectation you have about it. If you told me I'd have some of the freshest fun in an singleplayer open world post-apocalypse game, I'd have laughed in your face. Now, all I can do is hope we someday get a sequel.

<Insert something snarky, ominous, or optimistic here>

The following review is for the PC version of the game.

Wow. Just... wow. I did not expect this. I really didn't. I mean, I expected RAGE to at least be interesting even if it was a flop but... wow! I want more! Even with some gripes in relation to the narrative and progression of the game world, I want to go right back in and enjoy some more of what id Software came up with. In spite of every industry belief that it shouldn't be a good game, RAGE manages to make Borderlands by way of Bioshock by way of Fallout by way of Burnout and Motorstorm look and feel great.

Specific to the PC version, I will note there were some graphical issues. I'm at minimum spec at best for RAGE, so I encountered some screen tear, pausing, lowering frame rates, etc. These did not stop me from enjoying the game by any means, but they did bring down the experience a little. Alright, moving on.

In RAGE, you are... that guy above in the screenshot. You never get a voice or name, but customization of said soldier guy is VERY limited. There sort of is a class system -- you choose one of three outfits early in the game and they give you a perk. One ups armor, one decreases the needed resources to craft items, and another gives you a 5% discount at shops. There is a forth one for those who buy Anarchy Edition, but I was playing a regular Steam copy, so I cannot comment on whether it's worth the exclusivity or not.

The main story of your hero is probably the blandest one in a world of colorful characters. You almost want to sigh when the game focuses on you, as everyone around you is just so much more visceral and real. Immersion, however notorious a buzz word it may be, is the name of the game here. I was heavily immersed by the time I was partway through the beginning hours of RAGE's nine to ten hour main campaign, although that came at the contradiction of me wanting to just stop and smell the roses rather than finish the game for this review.

And my are the roses lovely. Every character has something to say, and often they will specifically comment on your actions. Win a bunch of races in first place, and get noticed for it. Damage your car a lot and the mechanic at the garage comments on it. Do some odd jobs and people will start to smile at your presence, with animations that are clearly climbing out the rarely tread opposing high end of the uncanny valley. They'll twirl their hands, make gestures, move around, fidget, and otherwise respond like actual people would. If this were purely for the townsfolk I wouldn't put it highly, but this applies to all enemies as well.

Not only does this impact gameplay (you can offset an enemy's aim so he misses due to the physical force of your bullets), but it makes everything feel more believable. Watching an enemy run until he drops from loss of blood or claw himself back up with just his pistol after being critically wounded is something I'd normally only expect in a multiplayer game. This focus on making enemies lifelike results in their behaviors being more distinct. The Gearheads hide from behind cover, wearing destructible suits of armor while sending fragile security robots ahead. The Authority takes brunt force at first, but once you tear away armor, they start to fall about, clearly not used to a real challenge. Each gang is distinct in aesthetics, location, gear, abilities, and enemy types. While standard gunmen and suicide chargers exist amongst all of them, only some use machines and even then it's divided by what types and how they use them.

Items in the world also depend upon this sense of frank reality as some can be destroyed or broken so only part of their components work. A remote controlled RC car might be worth looting but if you have to you can shoot it and make it blow up next to it's original owner while still getting it's circuit boards. If you're low on cash and items, there's genuine incentive there to be cautious and pick up all the loose items to bring back to the store instead of just spamming your gun everywhere. When you do, you're treated to a very convenient selection of upgrades, ammo, and at rare times, guns and trading cards.

Yes, trading cards. You see, RAGE is a lot like if you folded Skyrim several times over into itself, making it less than a tenth the size. It's a very small open world, but it has an obsessive attention to detail, and that includes various mini-games. You can play a post-apocalyptic Magic the Gathering, place bets on a slightly more tactical slot machine style dice combat game, and eve play guitar. Most of these have their own focus and rewards if you pursue them, but they are entirely optional. Entire games and mission types are up to you to decide if you bother participating. This also goes for the very enjoyable if lean on content racing game. Only a few racing arenas are provided, and the race courses are small, but they have a very "Motorstorm downscaled" feel to them.

You can freely save game and use quicksave. There's also no weapon limit so you can carry as many guns as you unlock -- sadly you can't loot them from enemies but that's a small price to pay to having nine weapons available at any minute. Shooting is a mix of old and new with iron sights but spray and pray actually still being a workable solution. Over half the weapons have alternative ammo types, some of which can drastically change your playstyle. You cars also carry up to three different weapon types and four power ups. You also can assign four secondary weapons for quick use in the game, be they grenades, the lethal boomerang like Wingsticks, medkits, or mechanized assistance (some are even remote control enabled).

Best of all though is when all the elements come together. Lifelike animation along with good AI and believable NPCs in both combat and non-combat situations set in a fairly decent in game world with unique gameplay mechanics keep the game from feeling stale for hours. However, some of this magic is lost when you transition to the second hub world. It lacks the sense of life that the first hub world does and feels far more bland. You can still go back to the original place, but the blandness prevades all future side missions. The finale in particular only barely holds a candle to the rest of the game -- depending upon a new overpowered weapon and twist on an older pair of enemy sets to keep the interest going before one of the worst cliffhangers in years. It's enough that it might damage your enjoyment of the rest of the experience, but it's still worth sitting through.

There is no New Game Plus mode, so I advise saving your progress early after the tutorial where you have a decent amount of cash, supplies, and ammo, and simply replaying from that point on. Additionally there is a four person competitive car combat/race mode and a two person cooperative shooter mode, but I didn't have time to review them as of this writing (Arkham Origins is pre-loaded in the background). As it stands, RAGE is probably one of the most polished, non-buggy, feature-full, enjoyable titles. The numerous but often quick to complete missions feel like they were built for modern, adult gamers. Much like Telltale's the Walking Dead, I get a sense that the target demographic for this game wasn't twelve year-olds, but actual mature human beings, both in terms of writing and focus. And perhaps that's appropriate, since a lot of id's fans have gotten older since it last released a game. Good to see it grew up with them.


Better to do a lot of small things right than one very important thing wrong...

Paradigm the Fallen

Next Up: Batman: Arkham Origins