8th October 2011 - What do you do when id Software – the creators of arguably the most influential First Person Shooter games of all time, the Doom and Quake series’ – announce a new FPS-RPG-Racing hybrid game set in a post apocalyptic setting with mutants, guns and buckets of blood? For those of you still trying to comprehend the awesome in that sentence, allow me to give you the answer; you get excited.
From just a synopsis it’s easy to tell that Rage suffers from a lack of originality. I didn’t want to believe it at first, and I put the thought to the back of my mind, hoping id would breath some fresh air into a stale scenario. While resuscitation may have once been imminent, there is a great lack of new ideas here to keep it alive. The story tells of a man awoken from a large underground vault of sorts after spending 100 years in a tube. The Earth was all but destroyed from a meteor while the worlds best and brightest were locked away in the aforementioned vaults.
Mutants and desperate survivors have formed gangs and outposts across the land, and fight to survive from day to day. Sound familiar? That’s because essentially nothing about Rage’s story, or even storytelling, is new. It’s borrowed rather heavily from the likes of Fallout, Mad Max, and about every other post-apocalyptic story you can think of, and with little to no character study or narrative, fails where Half-Life succeeds with the silent hero. This ambitious title would have benefited from a more developed lead character.
But while I may have not found the narrative immersing, I certainly have only good words to speak about the games core gunplay. As we have come to expect from the masters of FPS, Rage has some of the most fluent and polished combat you can buy into. With a decent range of vastly unique weaponry, as well as making use of switchable ammo types for each weapon, the shooting feels and plays very well.
The same can be said about the racing in Rage. As a major component in both the story and gameplay, driving takes the form of action-oriented combat racing, with customisable and upgradable vehicles. It’s actually a very fun part of the game, and I was surprised by the way it’s heavily implemented without feeling forced or gimmicky.
As stated, Rage is a big mash-up of a ton of top genres. There is no thin white line here though, they are all designed to play off one another and create a seamless experience. Without beating around the bush, let me say it actually manages that very well. The gameplay is very varied and everything from the questing and story mechanics down to the fast combat racing is tied together very well and all implements strands of its gameplay counterparts into the mix. The overall feeling it gives players, is one of pure action. And that may just be where the problem lies; it puts far too much weight on its combat, while having seemingly skipped over the rest of it.
Now, this is where Rage really shows its colours (no pun intended). Where the gameplay of the title may range from well crafted to poorly executed or completely lacking, visually, the game is certainly a spectacle to behold. I have never thought of id Software when I think of visually expansive titles, but Rage is possibly one of the best looking games ive seen released this generation.
Given its setting, it was a hard thing to do to create a world that actually stands out from the crowd. But that’s what has been accomplished here, as the gaming world of Rage is quite unlike anything else. That is to say, it looks far better than any post-apocalyptic game I have ever seen. The textures on everything from the smallest object to the mountainous landscape, and from half destroyed buildings to the rusty bridges and barriers of sprawling canyons look beautiful. This is helped with some great atmosphere in the many unique regions and areas you will find yourself travelling along your quest.
Modelling is at a new high also, with id Software’s trademark character and creature creation still a thing of awe. The mutants in the game are frightening, the citizens are believable and it all looks smooth. But to really top it all off, the visual aspects of Rage are made all the merrier by yet again some of this generations most impressive aspects. This time; animation. At a solid 60fps – which I may add, never falls – the animation quality and style is nigh on perfect in this end-world scenario.
The game’s voice acting here is a good deal over the average, with some real gems in amongst it. The characters sound the part of their respective personalities and manage to set themselves apart from one another almost entirely. I don’t think I recall noticing any doubled-up voice actors, which is a rare thing for a game of this size.
Whilst the voice acting genuinely stood out as the prominent feature in this department, the musical score is still of a good quality, with the action tunes definitely being the best tracks on offer. This goes hand in hand with the gameplays more polished action stance too. The ambient and gun sound effects are kinda stocky though, not giving off any excitement or believability in the heat of the battle.
It’s a shame that despite Rage’s many aesthetically pleasing features and quality sound, the people most likely to enjoy it are those just looking for mindless action and the types of gamers who overlook such technicalities.
The main attraction is without a doubt the single player campaign, with a tacked on co-op mode and half decent competitive combat racing features that fail to spark much interest in my experience. But for a solid 20 hour campaign on a lovely looking, and very heavily detailed landscape, Rage is still a load of fun to play through and genuinely experience. It may fall flat on its face in the narrative department, or in any type of innovation, but you forget that most of the time when you’re coming face to face with some of the best character design you are going to see this year, and blasting their faces off with some highly enjoyable weaponry. Sharp Frisbee-like object to the face? Yep! Shotgun blast decapitation? HELL YEAH! Complete body explosions and a cloud of red mist from a frag grenade? Better get the mop & bucket, because you can check that box off too.
By all accounts and definitions – Rage IS action. So make sure you’re okay with that before you buy into this one, or you may come away a little disappointed.
Rage wonderfully showcases id Software’s extensive history of great character design, graphical prowess and top-tier First Person Shooter combat, but sadly fails to uphold their same standard of innovation and creativity. Over-all, its disappointing package, but only when compared to id’s legacy. Rage is still a solid shooter, and is best described as akin to a summer blockbuster film - looks the part and is a great diversion, but is all style and no substance. This will quickly be forgotten.
+ Fluent and polished combat
+ Varied gameplay
+ Visually stunning
- Lack of character
- Little innovation
- Stale setting
Reviewed and Written By John Elliott