RAGE, Id Software's latest shooter has released this week. Is it an interesting new franchise from the FPS pedigree developer or does it come up just short of the mark?
The truth is, it's kind of both. What do I mean by that? RAGE may be the title of the game but delight was what I felt during my playtime.
The first person shooter market is very diverse but only a few big names come up: Call of Duty, Battlefield, and Halo to name a few. Of course, there are also games that aren't as well known or have fewer games out - but are still great experiences, such as Crysis 2. RAGE is a brand new franchise for id Software and it works on many layers, but there are some portions that could have been better.
That said, RAGE is still a very satisfying, and more importantly, fun first person shooter. id Software has succeeded in crafting a first person shooter that does shine. The few problems with the game are mostly small issues or moments where players might be left scratching their heads. Everything else that has gone into the game, though, works and works well.
90% of RAGE the experience comes down to the gameplay - the other 10% is divided between a somewhat weak story and non-combat interaction players will have in the world (that won't involve a weapon expending ammunition). RAGE is an id game, as a result, there is a lot of shooting, which isn't a bad thing at all, and there's very little time in the game where players are not behind a gun.
The weapons come across as a Frankenstein-ed version of a familiar FPS guns - and each weapon is allowed different ammo types that players can buy or create by finding ingredients in the world. Each ammo type results in a different sound - some of which pack some real punch. Weapons were a major focus in development - and, of course, the gibbing factor is pretty satisfying.
Enemies can be broken down into essentially three categories: melee, ranged, and heavy. Melee enemies will always rush and attack players, ranged enemies will stick behind cover and fire, and heavy ones are usually the boss characters that take minor strategy (or a lot of bullets) to kill. As a result, a lot of the enemy fights are redundant. Players will approach different encounters with iterations of the same approach: melee enemies should be dealt with first (dispatched by a shotgun or wingstick), then players can turn their attention to ranged combatants - who don't typically bother to flank.
RAGE attempts to deepen this formula with gadgets and crafting opportunities - though these options are not imperative to survival. More than a couple of enemies are pressed into a small space - and players will only be able to manage the flood through implementation of more than one weapon, ammo type, or gadget. As mentioned, Wingsticks (a combination of a boomerang and the Kull glaive), are capable of killing enemies in one hit - which was a lot of fun to use. Other gadgets include the grenades, RC bomb car, sentry guns and bots, healing, temporary health boosts, etc. The variety makes for a nice addition but may of the weapons could have been left on the cutting room floor - in favor of a better story and deeper exposition.
When players are not walking around, they'll be driving. Unfortunately, the driving in RAGE is boxed into a set arena - and eager drivers won't be able to explore the entirety of the game's world. The self contained areas do offer some interesting insights into the larger world, in a Book of Eli fashion (where destructed civilization has been re-purposed for other means) but barely scratch the surface. The vehicles themselves handle well and can be upgraded, by winning racing certificates, to maximize performance. As a result, vehicular combat in RAGE works, but isn't necessarily as fun as it could have been. It's understandable that driving from point A to point B with no action in between could be boring, and combat serves to break up that monotony, but it isn't nearly as fun or fully realized as it could have been.
The story in RAGE is pretty simple. Players control a person placed into an Ark, special capsules built for civilians to take refuge in during a cataclysmic asteroid strike that destroys much of the Earth and renders it a wasteland. Fast forward 106 years later, and the player wakes up and is quickly thrust into the role of hired gun. A simple story, but it provides the basest motivation for the player to continue until the end. The problem with the simplicity is that there is very little explanation of the world. Things players will want to know more about might never be discussed or even brought up.
The primary motivation of the supporting cast is another problem - especially since everyone immediately looks to the player character to fix their problems - as if their problems had been incredibly difficult to fix without the aid of a nameless stranger from many years past. I know time are hard, but c'mon, if anyone can shoot and kill bandits, why aren't they?
Art direction is outstanding and id Tech 5, John Carmack's latest proprietary engine for id Software games, is quite simply, gorgeous. Vistas are breathtaking - albeit inaccessible. The world of RAGE is fully realized and each area offers something new to check - allowing players to be intrigued by the kind of lives that have been salvaged after an apocalypse. I found myself stopping and looking at things after gun fights more often than not - just to see the what id Tech 5 is capable of. Needless to say, I was not disappointed. It will be very, very interesting to see how id will utilize their new engine to power a new DOOM or Quake game.
The graphics are not all perfect, at least when it comes to the Xbox 360 version. I played the game without installing it - just to see how well the game looked without aid. RAGE looked fantastic 95% of the time. Once in awhile, there was slow texture loading, blurry textures, and very occasional slowdown but frame rate was steady at the promised 60 FPS and I didn't notice any significant slowdown during hectic moments.
The multiplayer features in RAGE are a bit different from the norm. There is a competitive mode but it focuses on vehicles not traditional shooting. Players are put into an arena and can go crazy with their vehicles... interesting, but how about some actual shooting deathmatch?
In addition to the vehicle multiplayer, RAGE also features cooperative play in the form of "Legends of the Wasteland" where you and a buddy can play either online or split-screen - and complete a series of missions that compliment the main storyline. "Legends of the Wastelands' is comprised of a series of 9 missions that take place prior to the game's original story. Each particular mission adds a tiny, tiny bit to the back story of different characters in RAGE. Players find out where Dan Hagar's trusted sniper rifle came from, what the first episode of Mutant Bash TV was really like, and how the town of Wellspring had gotten into trouble before the Ark stranger arrived.
The actual cooperative experience is enjoyable and is slightly reminiscent of Modern Warfare 2's Spec Ops mode. Missions are pretty straightforward and similar to the campaign's modus operandi: shoot bad guys and complete objectives. While it's nice to have the co-op element as a side feature, it would have been a lot better if it was featured into the actual story line. Maybe next time...
Players can expect around 8-10 hours of RAGE gameplay in the single player campaign with an additional 2-3 for anyone who jumps into the cooperative play. The game is an interesting addition to the id Software lineup. Unfortunately, the strong shooting, vast world, great graphics, and interesting take on the apocalypse is marred by an uninteresting story, similar enemies, and lack of tactical advantages from weapons. As a result, RAGE is a good game that could have been better.
RAGE is available now for Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, and PC.
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