Game: RAGE

Genre: First-Person Shooter

Developer: id Software

Publisher: Bethesda Softworks

Platform: PC, PS3, Xbox 360

Score: no, just upset.

 

A blend of glorious run-and-gun combat from the past with technology and terrain design from the future make RAGE a truly memorable experience – while it lasts.

The plot is basic, but with very logical progression. The characters have flawed, often ugly features that add wonderful flavor. The setting: Mad Max, and done very well. In fact, the opening cut scene is downright moving. It had me question what sort of game I’d signed up for. Was I being prepared for an id story that was mature, emotional, even deep?

You wake up disoriented.  You’re in a time capsule.  Everyone that shared the chamber with you has become an ancient mummy.  You step out into the sun for the first time in 106 years, its harsh light blinding.  You shield your eyes from the oppressive rays.  Suddenly, two vicious mutants attack.  You struggle, still weak from nanite-induced hibernation.  Is this the end?

Mini-games added to id's normal formula for success.

RAGE adds collectible Pokeman cards and shit.

Nope, John Fucking Goodman snipes them both in the brain pan from his tricked-out road warrior.  You get in and he proceeds to inform you that this will not, in fact, be deep. The one-sided conversation continues as he tells you that you will enjoy shooting a million rad-mutants with ten different guns for the next 15-odd hours. John Goodman, that is awesome! Wait, only 15 hours?

This is RAGE.

So it’s an id shooter, except outdoors and bright instead of claustrophobic and dark. Let’s do a question and answer session based solely on this information.

  • “Do I get a shotgun?”

Yes.  Two if you preordered it.

  • “Can I carry ten different guns at the same time and use a bunch of different ammos?”

Absolutely.

  • “That’s so unrealistic.  Who could carry all those weapons and ammo?”

Oh, I don’t know, some sort of post apocalyptic badass hell-bent on having fun.

  • “You said it’s Mad Max.  Do I get death cars with missiles and shit?”

And you race your death car and blow up other death cars with your missiles and shit.

  • “In Mad Max, there was this little kid and she had this razor-sharp boomerang…”

Yeah, they’re called wingsticks, and they’re a lot more awesome than the name implies.  In fact, go watch Mad Max, they’re about that awesome.

I’m sure I’ll never need this.

To annotate:  the gameplay is good.  You fight various flavors of kinda-mutant, total-mutant, bandit, and militant across a variety of beautiful maps.  The cover is practical and there if you need it – the apocalypse happened, after all, so there’s plenty of rubble to hide behind.  It’s not all chest-high, immune to damage, and made out of magnets, though. This is good because real men strafe, run, and shoot sweet guns.  Sometimes you shoot sweet guns in corridors, sometimes in open areas, but you’re always shooting and it’s always sweet – especially since enemies react realistically to every bullet you put in them.  You can even engineer your guns to shoot on their own or walk around and shoot things so you don’t have to – but you still do.  Ammo rains from the sky.  If enemies aren’t dropping the bullets you’re using, shoot them with a different gun.

Oh Look, a Boss Fight

I was wrong.

The vehicle combat that exists in RAGE isn’t too annoying or unwieldy.  The controls are good, the explosions satisfying. I personally took the time to do many optional races – and I hate races.  My Death Cruiser needed wheel spikes; sue me.  Online multiplayer allows for more vehicular violence for those interested in playing a toned down but better looking Twisted Metal (can’t imagine that’s too many people to be honest).

Beyond the combat, RAGE is a beautiful game.  I’m not talking about graphics here, I’m talking about art.  id’s artists spent years lovingly painting each room, pile of debris, building, and expanse of land. The houses looked lived in, the streets looked used. Landscapes and character design in RAGE are amongst the best I’ve ever seen.  Even a short, unimportant cave that just bridges the gap between the open world and a quest area called the Distillery is more detailed and vibrant than other games’ magnum opus artistic showcase levels.

Poor Jerry.

After spending roughly 18 hours thoroughly enjoying RAGE’s lush world and refreshing shoot ‘em up gameplay, I began to notice something discouraging; the game was drawing to a close, but the story wasn’t.  A lot of the quests seemed to be padding; going back to old areas and cleaning out new monsters. And then there’s the ten full hours of gameplay that are just missing from RAGE. The game foreshadows content and never delivers.  Two mayors go missing (in one way or another) and you decide it’s not worth searching for them, even knowing where one is. Attempting to visit our old pal John Goodman will reveal that he’s gone too.  He went off to a new city in search of more rad-mutants to brain, I guess.  The city is mentioned again in the first major town.  The game seemed to be heavily implying that you’d go to it later – it’s just you never do. Then I got rushed to the final stage. A massive, mysterious city-fortress a hundred years in the making, controlled by evil General Demon-Robot (I assumed – he’s referred to by name earlier). I’m repeatedly told that no one knows what goes on in there and no one could ever come out alive.

So I spend 20 minutes in copy-pasted futuristic corridors shooting reskinned mutants. Nothing plot or information related happens or is learned in any way. The “Final Boss” is a 10 minute wave of those same spawning mutants before I press a green button. The End. No exploring a vast, secret cyber fortress of evil. No meeting any NPCs or rescuing the missing people that could be here. No exposition. No huge cyber demon. No General that was mentioned earlier. No “Boss” at all. You fight a creature-wave and press a God. Damn. Button.

As I watched the ending cutscene flicker on (which was as subdued and meaningful as the opening one) I kept thinking that this couldn’t possibly be how this game ends. Then the credits roll (to one of the coolest, most fitting ending songs to date, even). I’m tossed back to the main menu. No New Game+, no extras.

A huge gun…

…and a meaningful ending.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

So ended a game destined for solid gold, but clearly and tragically cut a full third short by, I can only assume, some decree from on high. I don’t regret my time played but I can’t, in good conscience, recommend that others pay full price for an experience this amputated.

This game was reviewed on the PC.