It’s all the Rage, but is it any good?
iD Software are done with their 6 year hibernation and charge back into the first-person shooter genre they helped create, with their new game RAGE. We’ve been hearing about RAGE for a few years now and the anticipation to see the final product was at an all time high around here. Finally the time came to open the case, put the disc in and get into the action, and we were blown away.
The story in RAGE is actually pretty cool. They took a real life event, that of asteroid “Apophis” which is supposed to pass over Earth in the year 2026, and forged their version of what may happen when it does. In RAGE, the Government forms a program called Eden where people are cryongenically frozen and buried underground to emerge and rebuild society once it’s safe. You awaken from your pod 100 years after being buried into a strange and dangerous new Earth. Mutants are running wild, groups of survivors have rebuilt new towns, bandits attack you at every turn and you begin your quest to learn what really happened while you were sleeping.
iD aren’t normally known for a great story so it’s really nice to see them evolve and put a much bigger emphasis on it this time. It may not win any awards, but it’s good enough to keep you interested the entire way. The story is told through missions, and via conversations with NPC’s. I’ve read a few people say they weren’t interested in what the NPC’s had to say, but I found the ones who did talk, would help shed a bit more light on another character, a town, an enemy or just the world as it is now in general. You aren’t having long, drawn out conversations but it’s enough to make me want to talk to everyone and soak up as much story as I could. The missions are laid out like an open world game as you can fly through the main story or pick up plenty of side missions around the wasteland, which you have the freedom to complete whenever you choose. It’s very similar to Borderlands in this way and even has a Job board in the towns as well. The great thing about the RAGE job board is that when you accept the mission it automatically spawns you at it’s location so you don’t have to travel back and forth, a very cool feature. Another great feature is that the majority of the missions will take you in a full circle back to where you started, so it avoids going all the way through a level and then having to backtrack when you are done. I really like that.
The main focus in RAGE is being a first-person shooter, but there are few features in the game that some people would call “RPG Elements”. Such as upgrading your weapons/vehicles/armor and crafting items from parts you find around the wasteland. The only problem is they are fairly limited and you will max them out quickly. You don’t earn experience, level-up or have any sort of skill tree to unlock, but it’s nice to see some attempt at adding depth and hopefully they only build on this in the future.
The weapons in RAGE feel great, and most are very powerful. I don’t know if I can remember a Shotgun feeling so good, and I don’t normally care for Shotguns, but the Shotgun in RAGE is a beast and it’s always by my side. You feel the power with each pull of the trigger and the way it shreds through enemies leaves a very satisfying taste in your mouth. Also surprising was how badass the Pistol is, which I ended up using more than the Assualt Rifle. Fatboys are where it’s at, you’ll see. Vehicles also play a big role in RAGE and their weapons are very effective, and I also really liked how you didn’t have to aim while driving, as it auto aims once an enemy is in it’s sights. As you turn away from an enemy it stops shooting, so it’s not just automatically killing everyone, you do have to keep a line of sight. This is a great way to keep driving and shooting at the same time, still fun and easy to use while playing solo.
The vehicles also handle really well. They are fast (thanks to boosting) and very easy to control. The best way to describe it is that they look and feel similar to vehicles in Borderlands, but are 10 x better. As you play you go from owning an ATV to earning more powerful vehicles with machine guns and rocket launchers on them. You also have gadgets you can buy to use while driving, such as a bubble shield, hovering turret, lands mines and more. These are essential when fighting off 5-6 enemy vehicles at once.
The greatest feat in RAGE has to be the graphics, which are some of the best ever on a console (install the game for maxium quality). The art style is that comic/cel shading look, just like Borderlands had. The characters have the same look to them, although the facial animations in RAGE are far superior, even the on-screen font is similar to Borderlands. The graphics may have the same style but they blow Borderlands (and probably most games except maybe Crysis 2) away. Their new id Tech 5 Engine is breaking new ground as far as animations and texturing is concerned. The sound is also really well done, especially with the weapons, which really adds to the satisfying rampage you will embark on. The way enemies move, jump around the environment, and even the way they die is unlike any other game. When a mutant jumps at you and gets a shotgun to the face causing him to spiral in the air and land with one leg bent behind their head really makes them feel alive.
The new engine also helps create some of the most detailed and beautifully created environments. With buildings crumbling, over passes collapsed, and pretty much everything in ruins, it still manages to be quite bright and alive, not something normally seen in a post apocalyptic setting. The world seems very large at first sight, but it’s really quite small in the end, and it would have been nice to have more areas to travel to with more side missions and secrets to find. Hopefully this is something they expand on in RAGE 2.
RAGE isn’t all about shooting people in the face and blowing up vehicles, it’s also about having a fun, full experience and iD did a really smart thing by including mini-games throughout the wasteland. There is RAGE Frenzy which is a card mini-game that is quite possibly the best card mini-game since Final Fantasy 8′s cards (you know it was awesome, Scott knows). You can find collector cards scattered around the wasteland which help you build your deck. The game is probably more complicated than I can describe here quickly so I’ll just let you learn it for yourself, but just know it’s worth the time to learn and master. There are a few other mini-games but none as good as Frenzy. You can also particicpate in races which if won reward you with certificates to be able to buy new parts for your vehicle. All of these extras add depth to the game and are great distractions between missions while the mutant blood washes off your boots.
RAGE isn’t without a few faults, as saving and the mini-map can be frustrating. The game only auto-saves after you enter or exit a level, so save often as there are parts where you may have to retry a few times, and it’s no fun having to do the whole level over a again. More frequent checkpoints would have been appreciated, or even a quick save button to make the manual saving less of a hassle. As for the mini-map, it bothers me that when in a town or mission it goes away. The mini-map is there while driving, which makes sense as the area is much larger, but it would have been nice to have it all the time, or at least have something to give you some help if you get lost. Both are small in the grand scheme of things, but can cause some frustration from time to time.
The co-op in RAGE is interesting to say the least. They took a different route than most games, similar to Spec-Ops in Call of Duty. The levels are short, 2 player missions that require to you blast your way through the enemies to complete a small objective. Some of the later missions get a bit longer, but nothing major to keep you playing for hours on end. Also similar to Spec-Ops is how each mission takes place in a familiar area from the single player game but is playing out an event that took place that you heard about, but didn’t see in the main game. They are action packed and quite fun, they are just too short. Maybe a DLC pack to add more missions will be announced soon.
RAGE also has a decent sized competitive multiplayer suite, that’s all based around vehicular combat. There are 4 game modes to choose, and as you earn kills and wins, you earn experience points and level up to unlock new gadgets and vehicles. All of the modes are fun, I just don’t see many gamers spending much time here with the onslaught of online shooters out this fall, but I do applaud them for taking a chance with the vehicle based multiplayer and not just throwing out another standard multiplayer system. At the very least, playing RAGE online will keep you busy until the new Battlefield and Call of Duty come out.
It’s a standard setup of achievements in RAGE with ones for completing campaign missions, playing the mini-games, collecting cards, completing the co-op missions and other random tasks with weapons. None of them really stand out compared to the rest and most will be easy to obtain. Beating the game on nightmare is a challenge, so that one may take you some time.
With RAGE, iD show they can still create a fantastic shooter, and have set a new benchmark in graphics for console games. It is a great start for what we can only assume will be a successful franchise for years to come and hopefully continue to evolve. It may stumble a bit with the co-op being short and over before you know it, but the single player campaign is fantastic with beautifully detailed environments, action packed missions, and some of the best AI we’ve ever seen. I can’t wait to see what they do with it next.
Final Score: 9.5/10