id Software have delivered in the past. Does RAGE pave the way for the next generation of First-Person Shooters?
- Worth The Time?Definitely. Decapitating mutants and blowing brains across walls never gets old
- Things LovedThe fantastic art direction and beautiful visuals (when they load), various different guns with varying ammo types keeps the shooting entertaining, vehicles feel and handle well, lengthy campaign, split-screen co-op missions, exciting and enormously fun online multiplayer
- Things HatedFrequent and annoying texture pop-ins, meaningless and boring story, some odd voice acting here and there, unforgiving checkpoint system, abrupt and disappointing finale, most missions are simply fetch quests, not enough side-missions, nothing overly special
- RecommendationRAGE is a fantastic shooter, but don't expect anything better or deeper than that. It certainly is not a blend of RPG elements and Shooting, and it certainly isn't a game changer that many were expecting. It simply is a great shooter that does what it needs to, and never takes any real risks. I recommend it to any fan of the genre, but don't expect anything overly special.
- Name: RAGE
- Genre: First-Person Shooter
- Players: 1-2
- Multiplayer: 4-Player Competative Online, 2-Player Co-op
- Platforms: PS3, Xbox 360 and PC
- Developer: id Software
- Publisher: Bethesda Softworks
- Price: R329.95 (PC), R499.95 (PS3/Xbox 360)
- Reviewed On: PS3
id Software are no strangers to the FPS genre. In fact, they were pioneers in the shooting industry, producing instant classics such as Wolfenstein 3D, Doom and Quake. These games reshaped and redefined the way we played first-person shooters, and helped drive the industry to where it is today. So, with that type of pedigree following them around, id created RAGE. Another First-Person shooter, this time set in an apocalyptic wasteland, which included RPG elements and vehicular combat. Sounds awesome, right? Well, you would be spot on, because RAGE is an outrageously awesome shooter and a fantastic game. What it is not, however, is another genre changing or defining title, but rather one that slips comfortable into the company around it.
RAGE is a gorgeous shooter that takes place in a spectacle of a wasteland. id Software have really gone all out to great one of the most jaw-dropping beautiful games on the market now, with the idTech 5 engine and their new Mega textures technology. Sadly, especially on the PS3 version, this beauty is hampered by numerous visual glitches, that cause textures to frequently pop-in and often cause delays in texture loading. Fantastic shooting, strong AI and great voice acting make up for this, but ultimately the story lets you down. With no real meaning or incentive behind your actions, you simply become everyone’s errand boy and finally the single last hope for civilisation. As I said before, id didn’t take many risks with this title, producing a fantastic shooter, but certainly not one that will go down in the history books.
Your story starts a few hundred years in the future. The earth has been hit by a massive meteorite, leaving the plant looking like the face of Mars and devastating the human population. Luckily, you were one of few people to be enclosed in special pods buried beneath the earth’s surface, quietly waiting in cryo sleep, until you are woken up and tasked with rebuilding civilisation. Thing is, not everyone in your pod survives, and from the moment you wake up, you are alone on a near unfamiliar planet. The Wasteland takes no prisoners, and it’s not long before death comes knocking at your door, only to be hampered by a local survivor with a keen rifle eye. And so begins your quest through the Wasteland, aiding and conversing with anything that stands upright, and putting yourself in perilous positions in order to discover what really happened while you were asleep.
So I’m sure many of you are like “Wait, there’s a game really similar to that,” namely Fallout 3. Yes, sadly even the apocalyptic setting is becoming somewhat of a bore now, and RAGE fails to bring anything new to the table on that front. The story presented in RAGE is boring, uninspired and easily forgettable. In fact, you’re not even sure who you’re really fighting until about 3 hours into the game, when you start hearing whispers of an oppressive organisation called “The Authority”. Eventually you stumble upon the local resistance fighters, who then take you under their wing and force you to go and put yourself in any more danger for a cause that you don’t even entirely understand. Hell, up until the last hour or so, you’re not even sure why The Authority is seen as an oppressive organisation, especially when 90% of the rest of the population is out to kill everyone else as well. In short, there really is no reason to actually focus on the story in RAGE, since there is absolutely no depth or originality. Rather focus on the fantastic shooting sections and AI, which really make RAGE shine.
The Wasteland is an extremely hostile place, and there are many creatures, bandits and ghouls just waiting for the right opportunity to take your head off. Each section of the Wasteland belongs to a specific group of nasties, and once you venture into their strongholds and dens, the differences of each become immediately apparent. You’ll be sent to various different “mission hubs” as I like to call them, which are basically dens that require you to shoot through tons of enemies, pick up something near the end, and then watch as a quick shortcut to your entrance is made so that you can make a hastily escape. Missions will be given to you by main quest givers, but explore the game’s two central hubs and various little settlements, and you’ll find others in need of your services. It is a bit of a shame that id chose to focus specifically on FPS action in this regard, meaning that side-missions really get elaborate or different, and finish u way too quickly. They often involve you visiting a den that you have already blasted through, which doesn’t really incentivise you to go looking for even more quest givers. Thankfully, shooting is what RAGE does best, so revisiting areas is always exciting and extremely fun.
Enemies in RAGE aren’t dumb. though they may turn to complete ragdolls when they die, with the sense that they lose all bone structure upon the last bullet hit, they rarely go down without a fight. Mutants are the fodder of the Wasteland, and can easily be killed, but don’t except them to make it easy for you. They hop and jump about, evading your fire and forcing you to constantly move around, especially when a group of four or more decide to attack simultaneously. Then you get various different bandits, whose armour and attack patterns can vary from clan to clan. Near the beginning, most bandits are retarded British redneck type folk, who wear little to no armour and most run at you with flaming torches. More advanced enemies include Gearheads and Authority soldiers, which will require the right weapon and ammo types to dispatch. Enemies react realistically to bullet fire, and will often hop around on one foot after you shoot them, or even crawl on the ground and fire off some final rounds at you before you end them in brutal and gory fashion. These varying enemies help keep the shooting fresh and exciting, but this is only half of the shooting pie. The other half comes from the array of different weapons you have at your disposal, which will certainly keep you experimenting.
RAGE offers quite a few weapons for you to decapitate, blow up and mangle enemies with. From the massive Settlers Pistol, to the Automatic Crossbow, and even a massive Minigun that shoots BG rounds (Doom anyone?). There may not be many unique weapons in RAGE, but the different ammo toes for each weapon helps keep each of them feeling fresh and exciting. How about a Shotgun that can shoot electric grenades, of a Crossbow that shoots mind control bolts that turn your enemies into walking time bombs. The Settler Pistol can fire off all six of its rounds at one, and the Assault Rifle can fire off shots that are embedded with crystal pieces from meteorites. These varying ammo types might just be all fun and games at the beginning, but near the end of the campaign the right ammo type will become crucial to success. Running head first into a group of enemies will usually mean death, but thankfully RAGE is quite forgiving in this regard. You have the ability to revive yourself when you go down, similar to Borderlands except a bit more restricted. After using your defibrillator, you have to allow it to recharge, meaning death in the few minutes while it does could mean a checkpoint reload. And considering that RAGE’s checkpoint system is so badly spaced, you will have to regularly save your game, or risk losing up to nearly 30 minutes of your game time.
There are also various gadgets that you are able to craft in order to bring a different kind of sending off to your foes. Remote control explosive cars and EMP make up the normal gadgets, while walking Sentry bots and Wingsticks spice up combat in a mew way. Wingsticks are easily the most fun weapon to use in RAGE, delivering instant death to most enemies you through them at. Upgraded them and watch one Wingstick decapitate three foes directly in front of you, sending a barrage of heads flying all over the place. Gathering loot is also crucial to your survival in RAGE, with all manners of ammo and crafting items lying all over the place. Vendors are always able to sell your anything you need, but since money is not always an easy commodity to come across, looting is often your best option. Vehicular gameplay also makes up a large part of RAGE, and with many small trips and races scattered around the Wasteland, you are never without an excuse to hop into the nearest Buggy and take down some bandits. The lock-on system works extremely well, making driving and shooting on the fly a breeze and extremely enjoyable. It’s just a bit of a shame that the races against AI opponents is rarely difficult, and your will hardly ever encounter a close finish.
Online is where this problem can be rectified, offering exciting and extremely fun racing against three other opponents. Events such as weapons specific races and pure racing are fun, but Rallies are where the fun is at. In these events, you rush around a closed off race track, collecting big beacons for points. You also gain points for destroying other enemies cars, meaning that rush towards every single beacon does not ensure success. These events are explosive and chaotic, though the lack of anything else means that the multiplayer aspect of RAGE is also a missed opportunity. With all these fantastic weapons introduced in the single-player, it’s a shame that there is no real competitive multiplayer to really test them in. There is, however, a fairly short yet fun co-operative mode named Legends of the Wasteland. In this mode, you are able to go online or hit up split-screen with a friend and tackle some short yet explosive backstory missions. These short missions flesh out some of the stories you are bound to hear NPC’s talk about during the campaign, and do a great job at realising some exciting Wasteland legends. While they are fun, there are only 9 missions on offer, meaning the experience ends way too soon.
Now, with all of that out of the way, I can get down to the one single thing that utterly annoys me about RAGE: texture pop-in. Ok, so for those who don’t know, texture pop-in is the term used when texture take a few seconds to finally come into detail and bloom into their full resolution. Now, games that this is also noticeable in include Gears of War, which is known for having a few texture pop-ins during cutscenes and beginnings of multiplayer matches. Now, that is nothing compared to RAGE. On both the PS3 and Xbox 360, there are major issue with textures, meaning that id Software’s new Mega Texture technology has a few glitches on current hardware. On the PS3, a 8GB install is mandatory, while a 22GB install in optional on the Xbox 360. The greater install size on the Xbox 360 means that texture’s load a lot quicker on Microsoft’s system, whereas Sony’s console really suffers. Textures are constantly popping up everywhere, and often make this otherwise gorgeous game look like an old, pixelated mess. The reasoning behind this rest on the way the PS3 stores installed data. Rather than having one massive file that can be constantly accessed, the PS3 splits it’s install files into thousands of smaller files, meaning the game has to constantly look for the relevant one in order to load this texture. While this can convert to only 1 or so seconds in the game, it is still noticeable and removes any sort of immersion the Wasteland might put you under.
The same occurs on the Xbox if you choose not to install the textures, meaning that you will need a large HDD in order to enjoy what RAGE has to offer. id Software also made a big deal about how they wanted RAGE to run at the optimal 60 frames per second on consoles. Well, they achieved this, but at a price as well. In order to keep the game running at a silky smooth 60-fps, the game reduces the resolution in order to alleviate the stress on the hardware. What’s worse is that this system is never consistent, with nearly no resolution degrade in high action sequences, and then ridiculous amounts of stress during simple strolls through the city. It’s honestly baffling how id Software could release a game that did this, as it show bad coding and programming. The PC version has also had its fair share of technical difficulties, though by now many patches have gone a long way to fix this. On the bright side, character animations during dialogue are beyond astonishing, bringing each and every character alive, and really making each dialogue sequence one to look forward to.
All these technical difficulties aside, RAGE is still an awesome game that should catch your attention. These visual issues are irritating because they take away from such a beautiful game, and really ruin a package that is so close to the most beautiful looking game ever made. However, nothing can take away from the exhilarating shooting, the tight vehicular gameplay, a lengthy campaign and fantastic art direction. The lack of a better story is indeed a bit of a disappointment, but id have really set the stage for something that could seriously be built on. If they do decide to continue this RAGE franchise, there is not much they will need to do in order to blow our minds. Fix the Mega Textures and weave a fantastic story, and they’ll have a winning formula.