Id Software has always been the type of developer to keep its games under wrap–and RAGE is no different. Released on October 4th, RAGE closely follows other id Software games (Doom and Quake) with its first-person-shooter aspect. However, it also pulls RPG elements from the popular Bethesda software title Fallout. Before RAGE‘s release, many gamers guestimated that it would play as a blend of Fallout and Doom and that is exactly what it is; and that is a role it plays extremely well. The only downside? The lack of a robust competitive multiplayer experience.
RAGE is set in a post-apocalyptic future where you take control of the usual generic, nameless, faceless action hero: A man curiously named the Ark Survivor. After an asteroid crashes to Earth, survivors are scarce and those who lived formed factions to survive within the harsh Wasteland. You emerge from the Ark and are immediately saved by a man named Dan Hagar. He explains the situation at hand and keeps hinting to a big brother organization known as “The Authority,” but he keeps any information regarding it vague. After helping Dan around his compound, you will find yourself traveling the Wasteland and completing quests for other NPC’s within the game. There are three main places where players will spend most of their time–Dan Hagar’s compound, Wellspring and Subway Town–but missions will sometimes require the player to head to other areas. Eventually, you meet up with the “Resistance” and attempt to shut down the Authority, but the game tends to keep the reasoning really ambiguous until near the end.
RAGE‘s main story will probably run you about a good 6-8 hours, provided you aren’t playing the extremely troubling “Nightmare” difficulty. However, there are a number of side missions and mini-games that will have you distracted from the main portion of the story. From playing cards to completing races and even providing sniper fire for a convoy, the game is determined to make sure that you get the most for your money and time. There are also a bunch of collectibles scattered across the various areas of the Wasteland such as new weapon schematics to increase the Ark Survivors arsenal.
The enemy AI in RAGE is one of the best I’ve had to pleasure of playing against all year. It smartly makes enemies take cover, call out your location to other fighters, throw extremely accurate grenades, and run from grenades when you toss them. Some of the enemies will even traverse the area with acrobatic feats, dodging your attacks so that they may get up in your face. The single-player portion really shines and I’m glad to say that the multiplayer side doesn’t disappoint.
There are two sections to multiplayer: Competitive and co-operative. The co-operative is truly entertaining as you and a friend, or a random person, complete missions strictly made for the multiplayer known as “The Legends of The Wasteland.” These missions are sub-plot back stories; for example, one details how Dan Hagar got that sniper rifle he loves so much. Another shows what happened in the first episode of the Wasteland’s favorite game show “Mutant Bash TV.” You would expect a first person shooter to at least come some sort of competitive deathmatch option but RAGE did not take that path. In RAGE the only competitive mode “Road Rage,” which is practically a demolition derby with weapon pick-ups a la Twisted Metal. It’s a bit of a letdown to not have a deathmatch or free-for-all option, but with all of the generic online shooters like the Call of Dutys or Battlefields out there it is understandable why id Software would head in a different direction.
RAGE plays mostly like a standard first-person shooter with a few RPG elements such as looting corpses and crafting new items or ammunition. You will play using the most basic of point and shoot controls. With the left trigger for aim, right trigger for shoot, and X as reload, RAGE has one of the most comfortable (and most used) controller configurations when it’s time to go bang bang. Driving is also easy to handle; shooting becomes accelerate and aiming becomes brake, any weapons on your vehicle have a lock-on feature that will target enemy vehicles in range of you, but you can only target one vehicle at a time.
Id Software did an amazing job with RAGE‘s graphics. From character animation to clothing and even particle effects; the game holds up all the way from the beginning to the end and you’ll never get bored with seeing an enemy’s brain splatter over a wall from a well-placed headshot. It’s also pretty cool to see your character interact with the new weapons he receives; it isn’t necessary but it’s still fun to look at. The slight orchestral music comprises RAGE’s soundtrack is a great supplement to the game’s apocalyptic motif. Enemy noises go a long way in helping you know where to look. The voice acting is top notch too, but unfortunately (on Xbox, I can’t speak on the PS3 or PC version) halfway through the game the lip sync timing is thrown off, which results in characters still making speaking motions with their mouths after the voice actors have stopped talking.
All in all, RAGE is a great game and a great way to pass the time. If you want a shooter that will have you working for the kill and giving you that small RPG thrill; go for RAGE. If you want that shooter where you can take online and get some top kills with your friends, look somewhere else. In fact, that’s the only reason why the game doesn’t walk away with a 2D-X Excellence Award. The ending is a bit abrupt; it’ll have you waiting in front of your television for more…and then you’ll see the credits roll. It wasn’t a true cliffhanger, but don’t be surprised if id announces RAGE 2.