Platform: 360, PS3, PC
Publisher: Bethesda Softworks
Developer: id Software
Review By: Eric Stuckart
After years of development and hype, Rage has finally hit consoles and PC alike, unfortunately with a resounding thud. It’s hard not to look at the game as a disappointment more than anything else, as it excels at doing everything in its power to underwhelm players, especially knowing how much potential the game has in its possession.
Given id Software’s penchant for developing games heavy on the action and gameplay with the least bit of emphasis falling on the shoulders of the game’s story — one need not look further than Doom for that — it should come to no surprise that the game’s story isn’t exactly the greatest. It wouldn’t even be much of a stretch to say that it makes that of Borderlands look fleshed out, but in Rage’s defense, that partly might be due to the design of the game. Much of the attention is clearly being directed to the visuals and the gunplay, which are far superior to much of the first person shooter competition out there. Unfortunately, it’s not enough to really make up for everything else that Rage has to offer.
Rage spins its own version of the ever-popular post-apocalyptic yarn, with just enough of an original flair to make it somewhat interesting — at first, at least. Taking the real-life asteroid Apophis and using scientists’ theoretical fears that it will hit the Earth in 2029, and crafting a story around that is an interesting and great concept in its own right. However, after the excellent opening cinematic and introductory sequence, not much is really made of the aftermath of the asteroid in the game’s universe. The only thing we find out is that the player’s nameless, speechless character is one of the chosen ones from the past, put into some sort of stasis to rebuild the Earth after the asteroid hits and the smoke clears. By some turn of events, most of these “survivors” didn’t make it, and the ones that did end up getting picked off by the warring tribes that overran the planet while they slept. Because he was lucky enough to emerge when and where he did, it seems that everyone he encounters needs something returned to them, or someone killed, or someone killed to return something to someone else, and it seems like everyone needs a favor.
Employing the subtlest of RPG elements into the gameplay, much of Rage’s missions have the potential to feel like hyperviolent fetch quests. Fortunately, the game brings some of the most spectacular gunplay that I’ve ever had the pleasure of experiencing in a first person shooter. With the Mad Max-esque world overrun by the tribes and groups of settlers, there’s a lot of room for various types of mooks to take out, and it’s truly the game’s greatest asset. Different tribes behave differently, and all require the player to develop a different plan of attack on each. Some are acrobatic and aggressive, while others retreat and attempt to establish cover, but one thing’s for certain: no two enemy groups fight the same way. Also, the guns — after getting used to them — behave uniquely enough to make combat feel like more of a learned skill. It’s a much-needed breath of fresh air to the FPS genre, and truly the most engaging part of Rage.
The part that was fun but not as engaging was the vehicle-based elements that felt shoehorned into the single player campaign. Some of the game’s main missions don’t allow the player to continue until he has upgraded his vehicle to have weaponry, and later on, specific types of cars must be won as well. In an effort to force the player to actually get his feet wet from the racing component, such upgrades are only purchasable by earning racing certificates, awarded by winning races or killing bandits out in the wasteland, which requires a bit of vehicular combat; the requisite vehicles are only available by winning them in races. These races are fun for the most part, but some of them can get a little annoying, requiring a bit of precision that shouldn’t really be the focus in a first person shooter.
Unfortunately, players looking to get the most out of Rage better like the racing bits, because its competitive multiplayer is devoted to racing one hundred percent. It’s a bold move for id Software to make. The idea that the developers — arguably the architects of the first person shooter — would ignore the gameplay modes that put them on the map is bewildering at best, and confounding at its worst. It’s forgivable that a portion of the multiplayer is devoted to racing, but to not include even the most basic of FPS multiplayer modes is odd. Granted, it could be argued that there is a FPS-oriented multiplayer mode in the form of Legends of the Wasteland, a co-op portion of the game featuring short missions for players to play either online or via splitscreen, but that’s not the main draw for many FPS players. Besides, the way the co-op missions really jack up the difficulty for most players is bound to be a turnoff.
To add insult to injury, the multiplayer lacks a pure racing mode, centering on vehicular combat modes. While fun in their own light, they really don’t offer enough to really warrant much long-term playablity, save for players that are really into that type of gameplay. It just seems like any of the no-brainer elements that could have been injected into Rage were ignored in favor of going completely against the grain. id Software deserve credit for trying to do something different, but doing it just to be different is questionable. Considering how unique the gunplay was in the game, and how differently the guns act compared to most current shooters, its lack of Team Deathmatch or any such ilk was a regrettable offense.
Long story short, Rage is a game that is much higher on flash than substance. Despite being visually stunning and having some great action, its open world feels empty and hollow, with a quest that focuses purely on sending the player from one area to the next, without much reward for exploring. Its characters feel more like cardboard cutouts than living, breathing people, and the game features one of the most disappointing endings I’ve ever experienced. It’s the type of game that feels really cool while it’s on, but afterwards not much can be remembered of it. The gameplay, while very tight and exciting, doesn’t make up for the fact that it could have really done something different and special, but it just ends with a bunch of wasted potential.
For more information, visit rage.com
Pads & Panels received a copy of the game courtesy of the publisher for review purposes.