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RAGE Review

by William Schwartz

id Software’s long and storied history in the first person shooter genre is one that goes all the way back to the company roots.  The development house literally invented the genre that now has a stranglehold on the gaming industry .  For the past few years we’ve been teased.  For one, we’ve been teased of id’s new shooter on the horizon, and the tech behind the scenes that makes it all work, with their latest engine: id Tech 5.  All trivialities aside, the genre has changed quite a bit in recent years.  Being an FPS fan now entails knowing how to navigate a corner with extreme prejudice, and mastering the art of staying alive long enough to earn streaks to slay your foes.  What I mean to say is, it’s a different ballgame.  As RAGE finally comes to market, you’ll be pleased to find that the developer built their game from the ground up to stand on it’s own two feet rather than imitating for popularity and profitability’s sake.

RAGE gets back to what first person shooters have always been about, immersion.  Immersing the player in hectic gun fights at nearly every turn in the apocalyptic wasteland of RAGE, id shines brightest in this regard.  Giving enemies an unparalleled level of realism in their movements, and reactions to damage that is dealt, gives the combat in the game a great feel.   Each gunfight feels like one that can be won or lost depending on if you can get that reload off quick enough to defend yourself from these unforgiving batches of varied assailants.  You’ll be meeting many types of them in your time in RAGE.  The enemies all possess different characteristics and tendencies that you’ll do well to learn quickly, to avoid needless deaths.  That’s not to say you won’t die, it’s not to say that at all, because RAGE can be a rather unforgiving game at times.  There’s an on-the-fly feel to the combat of RAGE. The game gives you the tools to improvise as you see fit.  Well, it gives you the ability to purchase the tools necessary to make these improvisations, whether you do it or not is up to you.  With a wide array of weapons at your disposal, experimentation is key in determining which weapons work best in any given scenario.  Whether it be the automated sentry and turret bots, grenades, rc-bomb car, or my personal favorite, the Wingstick, you almost always have something to assist you in a fight.

I say almost, because playing RAGE the “right way” will have you looting your environments for parts and constantly building these tools in your arsenal.  There is a light crafting system in the game which will allow you to build a weapons cache and deploy them to the battlefield as needed.  So while I don’t recommend not visiting your friendly neighborhood merchant to stock up before a big mission, you will have the opportunity to scavenge along the way, in case you don’t.  As the game progresses you can purchase tool schematics that will allow you to build new weapons, or increase the functionality of exisiting weapons.  It’s a vital component to success in your fights, to have the right weapons.  These secondary peices will only get you so far.  You’ll need to master your primary weapons if you really want to suceed at RAGE.  Since ammunition is hard to come by in the wasteland, it’s going to be vital that you put these mutant freaks down in the quickest way possibile to avoid running out of ammo.  Though you will find plenty of drops along the way that will replenish your ammunition in some capacity, but it may not be for your weapon of choice.  By the end of the game’s first act, you should be comfortable with nearly all of what RAGE has to offer in terms of weapon types.  As you progress and move into the second act of the game, you will gain access to new ammunition types that can spice up each individual gun immensely adding new functionality and ways to dispatch your enemies.

On it’s own, the gameplay in RAGE is fantastic.  It’s a great dance between scavenging for resources and deploying them in the heat of the moment.  The gunplay is fast, fun, and brutally rewarding. On a technical level the gameplay feels as smooth as silk.  Though what really hammers home RAGE’s exceptional package is the visual fidelity.  RAGE is probably the best looking game on consoles to date.  That’s tough company to keep, but barring a few minor hindrances like texture pop-in, I can’t say that I have played a better looking game this generation on any console.  Each environment is meticulously crafted in it’s own style, that many times goes hand in hand with the types of enemies that you’ll be facing.  I think you’ll be lying  to yourself if you don’t say “damn this looks good” at least once in your time in RAGE.  Even if the environments don’t do it for you, there are plenty of other areas where the game shines visually.  Namely, the character animation in NPCs.  More specifically, the face modeling and syncing of the audio track.  The game is beyond what others are doing right now, and is just shy of LA Noire in terms of believability of the characters.  Being that nearly the whole story is told through these in-engine conversations between you and the cast of characters in the wasteland, it’s definitely something you’ll appreciate early on in the game.

As with any game, RAGE is going to be all of what you make of it.  If you fall into the trap of rushing from mission to mission, you’ll have a good time with RAGE, though you might not get what is the intended experience.  There’s a fully realized world to explore, while it’s not an open world game by any means, there are more than enough side missions to keep you busy upwards of twenty hours if you chose to try and complete them all.  Hell, I spent five hours toiling over perfecting one of the game’s mini-challenges called five-finger fillet.  It’s just this guy that’s sitting at a table in the bar, allowing you to chance to stab your self in the hand a hundred or so times.  These things are all over the place in RAGE.  Some will have you gambling away your ammo money, others will have you performing fetch quests or other tasks that aren’t necessarily directly related to the main campaign.  Other NPC’s just have a story to tell, so talk to them, it definitely betters the experience.  When it’s said and done, RAGE is a fairly robust single player experience.  While I would have loved to had more plot development in the latter part of the game, it definitely comes to a  fairly satisfying conclusion. The problem is if you just buzz from plot point to plot point you’ll miss some of the good stuff.  So, make sure to listen to the townsfolk as you progress through the campaign.

The most surprising thing about RAGE is how heavily id emphasized the driving aspects of the game.  In the campaign, you’ll find yourself securing a make shift vehicle that will carry you to each new mission.  As it unfolds you’ll upgrade vehicles, and add weapons into the mix, as navigating the wasteland can be a dangerous affair if not properly equipped.  You’ll earn upgrades via an underground racing circuit. This can be found in each of the game’s major hubs.  You’ll race in a variety of events which serve a dual purpose.  One, to give you the proper equipment to progress in the single player.  And two, it’ll prep you for RAGE’s multiplayer offering which is all vehicle based.  It’s a strange decision by id, but one that works in the end.  The multiplayer vehicle gameplay will have you playing in a variety of racing modes which mixes checkpoint style driving challenges while adding in the threat of weapons.  RAGE does also incorporate cooperative play as well on the multiplayer side of things.  Called Legends of the Wasteland, this series of co-op missions are based on the single player campaign, but are a completely different perspective from the main game.  It does well to expand on the game, offering you a good bit of challenge, as well the opportunity to experience RAGE with a friend or through the game’s matchmaking service.

RAGE is phenomenal package that after playing makes the wait seem well worth it.  Sure, there are some small problems that we experienced like sound cut-out in the cooperative loading screens, and as mentioned previously the noticeable texture pop-in.  But all in all, RAGE is superb.  Amazing visuals and a rich game world will have you savoring each mission in RAGE, and the single player is an experience you won’t soon forget.  Since it’s the star of the show in RAGE, it’s surprising  that there is no new game + feature in the mode.  So you’ll need to start the game over from scratch if you want to head back into the wasteland to finish any thing you may have missed.

The Verdict

RAGE offers one of the smoothest playing and best looking shooters on the market today. With gameplay that’ll keep the most grizzled FPS fans on their toes, RAGE doesn’t disappoint. The post-apocalyptic setting is one that many developers have ventured into recently, but none have created a world as rich and convincing as what id has in RAGE. Now if only id Software would license out the id Tech 5 Engine, they could probably extend the console generation another few years singlehandedly.

"loved"
loved

RAGE

  • Available On: Xbox 360, PS3, PC
  • Published By: Bethesda Softworks
  • Developed By: id Software
  • Genre: First Person Shooter
  • US Release Date: October 4th, 2011
  • Reviewed On: Xbox 360
  • Quote: "RAGE offers one of the smoothest playing and best looking shooters on the market today. With gameplay that’ll keep the most grizzled FPS fans on their toes, RAGE doesn’t disappoint."
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