Remember Doom 3? Remove the Mars setting, replace it with vast canyons and empty deserts and you have a fair idea of what playing Rage feels like. For a company that made its name with shooters filled to the brim with wave after wave of bad guys, ID certainly hasn’t been very generous with the cannon fodder for its last couple of games. Much like in Doom 3, enemy placement in Rage feels sparse and disconnected, making for a game where nothing happens for extended periods of time.
This drawn-out feel might work for an outer spacestory, where prolonged walks down darkened corridors serve to heighten the tension, but in RAGE it only serves to showcase just how empty the game’s open world really is. ID has created a beautiful environment for RAGE to take place in. It’s too bad they populated it so sparingly.
The actual shooting part of the game fares no better. Graphically, it’s entertaining, as we’ll discuss later on, but in terms of difficulty or simple enjoyment… not so much. The much-touted enemy AI isn’t so much smart as it is random. ID has substituted enemy intelligence and replaced it with sheer randomness of behavior. Yes, watching a bad guy randomly swing from ceiling to ceiling with handheld hooks to close distance with the player is fun to watch until you realize this is exactly the same sort of head-on enemy AI we used to mock in lesser games. Melee combatants will insist on closing ranks with you despite the fact that they’re bringing a knife to an automatic combat shotgun fight.
Another pet peeve is the lack of weapon variety. You’re handed a pistol within minutes of starting the game, but for some reason you can’t pick up weapons from fallen enemies. See a juicy-looking automatic rifle on the ground? Tough cookies! You can’t grab it. There’s no reason for this, the game simply doesn’t want you to get better weapons unless they’re quest rewards, but this system feels artificial and flat. I know I’m turning a dead horse into paste here but the sheer, overwhelming number of weapons on display in Borderlands is sorely missed here. As things stand, you have your standard pistol, shotgun, rifle, things that go boom, and several more exotic weapons to choose from. Standard FPS fare.
One exception is the Wingtip, a boomerang-like weapon that can be fired at enemies and will often score a one-shot kill against weaker foes. Shades of Doom 3’s Soul Cube? You betcha! Not a single original thought here, folks. As I said earlier, there’s nothing overly wrong with RAGE. It’s just so… bland. It’s a perfectly safe, unimpressive shooter that does nothing to distinguish itself from the myriad of other games out there.
RAGE features extended driving sequences that I didn’t much care for. They basically serve to lengthen the game experience and although some quests do involve driving to and fro, it never feels like an organically necessary part of the game.
The PresentationAt the very least, RAGE is gorgeous to stare at. Several people stopped to admire the scenery during my play through, with just cause. While the characters in RAGE are blander than white bread, their designs are suitably dirty and their clothes looked appropriately lived-in.
There’s a ton of detail in the uniforms and the NPCs and bad guys move convincingly most of the time. Very impressive are the death animations. Shoot a bandit in the leg with a shotgun and that appendage will either fly off or twist with gruesome realism. Plug a rushing opponent in the face and he’ll stumble to the ground as if he’s just had the wind knocked out of him. It’s all very creepy, truth be told, how realistic the carnage in Rage looks. Equally visually stellar are the environments. While canyon walls and deserted outposts all blend together after a while, there’s a grungy feel to Rage’s locales only matched by Fallout 3’s wasteland. It’s a shame the inhabitants aren’t more fun to interact with. Towns pepper the landscape, where you’ll often find quest givers and your standard junk seller on which you can unload all the crap you’ve picked up.
Voice acting is surprisingly strong. The aforementioned John Goodman makes a good impression as your early guide, Dan Hagar. He’s got the kind of voice that makes me actually want to go out and murder random people I’ve never met before.
Rage ran amazingly well on my gaming rig. Load times are impressively minimal for such a top-of-the-line game. Entering and exiting new locations never took any longer than 10-15 seconds and I experienced relatively little problems in running the game at a good frame rate. That being said, texture pop-in is omnipresent even on higher-end PCs, a detail that as been noticed by most reviewers. Whether this gets patched or not is up in the air.
The Verdict: [rating:3]
Had RAGE come out five years ago the critics, myself included, would be fawning over it like schoolgirls at a Justin Bieber concert. Unfortunately, the gaming world already has a reigning champ of the post-apocalyptic wasteland genre and its name is Fallout 3. RAGE feels entirely like a me-too product. All of its components are recycled from previous games and it doesn’t have a single original thought in its game play. Sure, the pieces come together in a nice enough package… but so what? If I can go play a better game, why would I waste time on an inferior product?
Your faithful reviewer,