It’s hard to put your finger on exactly what Rage is. At first, it seems like a standard post-apocalyptic shooter, not unlike Borderlands or Fallout. That’s undeniably why it got so much stick in its early stages. But in reality, Rage is so much more than any other post-apocalyptic game: it’s more than just a story, it’s an experience.
The story of Rage is well-crafted and realistic; the world has been reduced to little more than rubble following the 2029 impact of the meteor 99942, Apophis (which is real, by the way, but forget about that), and small bands of survivors have either split off into simple folk in settlements, bandits, an authority faction or a resistance faction. As for you, well… you are a survivor of a cryogenic experiment – upon the meteor’s collision with Earth, you were put into a pod called an Ark with several other men and women with various uses to the future of the human race. Unfortunately, you were the only survivor of your Ark, and you came out a little late. Now the world is in ruins, and you have to find your way around it, narrowly dodging getting captured by the authority, who are very interested in your kind.
Whilst it’s certainly not an original storyline, it’s handled in a way that makes it fresh and exciting, no matter how seasoned an apocalypse-survivor you are. The characters stand out, and, despite the desolate setting, it all meshes very well to grip you from the outset, which is important with what Rage is gunning for – the beginning of a new franchise.
id Software really had their work cut out when they set out to craft Rage. Trying to live up to their reputation after Doom and Quake with a new IP, as well as entering an already well-established niche with a new title was no easy challenge from the beginning, as some skepticism has proven. But what has come out is a brilliant take on the end of the world, and a well-rounded experience.
Rage is an absolute riot to play. It is complete anarchy. There are no rules, no worries, just you, a handful of guns, and enough ammunition to cause an enjoyable amount of bloodshed. The core of the game consists of following missions set by other wasteland-dwellers, often having you enter strongholds of your enemies, blasting them to pieces, retrieving something and heading back to whoever sent you. It’s a basic formula that is familiar to all comers, but where it differs is the level of fun it provides. Where some games have you killing people over and over again until it becomes monotonous, Rage is a constant competition with yourself. Can you kill somebody in an even cooler way? Can you decapitate one more person than you did last time? How many headshots can you pull off? The gunplay is fun, and that’s something that’s very important in a new shooter. The weapons are exciting and different, but at the same time familiar enough that they don’t feel confusing or throw you off. It’s clear to see what really makes Rage‘s combat stand out in a crowd of shooters: how real it feels. It runs on the well-crafted id Tech 5 engine, and what a rush it is! It’s exciting to see a bullet exploding from your gun and hitting the enemy, but what makes it even better is the reaction. If you shoot an enemy in the leg, they fall down; if you shoot somebody in the chest, they fly back. It’s all a well thought-out process that seems real and engaging – there’s nothing quite like it.
Rage has also received some attention for its racing sections. Commuting from one place to another would surely be a pain without Rage‘s buggies and trucks. Even with vehicles, the game runs the risk of becoming repetitive, especially when traveling – there is no fast-travel option like in many other open-world games -, but the driving is simple enough to master and fun enough to keep doing that the game does not drag in between missions.
But there’s more to driving than getting from A to B. In certain settlements throughout the game you will find speedways and racetracks that are just waiting for you to kick up some dust. By participating in these races, you are awarded tokens that you can then use to upgrade your set of wheels. These upgrades range from new weapons such as rocket launchers, to more practical additions such as a better engine or more boost. It’s a great aside from the rest of the game, and a nice way to unwind if you’re a little too scared to go exploring the wasteland just yet!
But perhaps the best part of the game is the feeling it gives you. As soon as you start playing, it’s clear that this is supposed to be entertaining. The game isn’t brutishly hard (although there are some panicked frenzy moments), and it doesn’t take itself too seriously. Basically, it’s everything you need to just pick up and play. Whilst it will suit hardcore gamers with its missions and expansive collectables, side-missions and everything in between, it’s also easy enough to just pop the disc in and have a good time blowing some mutants away.
Enter the Wasteland
In most instances of gaming, the first thing the player notices is the way the game looks. Whilst that is not to say that Rage doesn’t look good, it’s not what grabs you from the start.
After a short opening cinematic, which chronicles the events prior to the meteor’s impact with our planet, including how you found yourself in your Ark, you are awoken within your cryogenic chamber, surrounded by others like you. Except they’re all dead, and you’re quite clearly not. As you get out of the chamber and into the central area of your Ark, it dawns on you, the player, how realistic the whole experience feels. As you move around, perhaps examining your dead companions, or maybe just heading straight for the exit, you feel as though it’s real. Your movement is jerky and cautious, and as you take a step, your head moves in the same way that it would if you were walking in the real world. Every little movement is carefully thought out by id, who obviously want to outdo their post-apocalyptic opponents with realistic gameplay that creates resounding feelings within the player.
All this and you haven’t even left the Ark yet. And, of course, when you do, everything gets so much more interesting. The first real understanding of how amazing this game feels and looks will not occur until you are well out of the chamber from whence you came. Whilst yes, the opening cutscene does look amazing, and the small confined space of the Ark makes you excited as to how good the game will look on the outside, there’s nothing quite like seeing it for yourself.
As you head outside for the first time in who knows how long, the light blinds you, and your hand rises up to shield your eyes. As you gain focus, you see the sky, and the wasteland that lies below it.
Despite the wasteland of Rage being deliberately bleak, it’s hard to think of a more beautiful dystopia. Rubble and ruin lay as far as the eye can see, and despite it being a disturbing look into the potential future of mankind, it’s very awe-inspiring. The vast space that stretches before you will surely make you gasp with glee. Rage was built to impress.
The detail put into every nook and cranny of this game is what makes it so visually stunning. Every rock, every door, every single part of the game has been crafted to perfection to give you a real feeling of “this is the end of the world”.
Unfortunately, Rage does have some mild technical annoyances. They’re certainly not issues, because, providing you follow the advice of id Software, you can bypass them. However, if you’re one of these people with minimal hard drive space on your console, you may find that not installing the game will cause you some problems.
As was announced very early on in the game’s development, installing the game to PC will cost you 25GB of hard drive space, the PS3 will need 8GB free to install, and the Xbox 360 has seen the game released on three discs, with 22GB needed if you want to install it. Obviously, the installation has its upsides – the game will run much faster than if you’re playing straight from the disc(s), which means faster rendering, quicker loading screens, and generally a better experience.
However, if you’ve chosen not to install the game, you will be buffeted by long loading screens at times, as well as occasionally slow rendering. Rage is a free-roaming game for the most part, which means if you want to travel around, you have to get used to the game rendering things as you go. More than a few times I have been in and out of a settlement before the rendering has been fully completed. It’s not something that’s wrong with the game (in fact, the brilliant graphics and huge install size makes everything right with it), but if you want to avoid the frustration of waiting and waiting, it’s recommended that you install the game.
If all that running around, all those missions, or all that loneliness of the post-apocalyptic world have left you wanting more, there’s always multiplayer mode, which is divided into two sections.
The first is a standard versus mode, but instead of shooting one another with guns, you are trying to wreck one another’s cars. Of course, your vehicles are kitted out with guns and launchers, but it’s certainly not your standard versus mode. In each game type, you are presented with a different goal that you must do before any of your opponents, whether it’s collect as much of a mysterious power source as you can before the time runs out, or race around a circuit trying not to get yourself blown up, there is a game for everybody, even if you don’t particularly like racing. The driving within Rage is easy to pick up – it’s a straight forwards/backwards setup that is probably impossible to confuse anybody.
The versus modes are good fun, and a great little timewaster before continuing that tricky or intimidating mission in the campaign. It’s certainly different for a FPS to have a driving versus mode as its only versus option, but that’s what makes Rage so brilliant – it’s breaking the conventions of what a post-apocalyptic shooter should be.
But if versus road rage isn’t for you, there’s always the co-op mode, titled Legends of the Wasteland. These mini-missions can either be played online or offline with two players, and are a really clever touch that, whilst not essential to understanding the main game, really open it up to a much deeper experience.
With your companion, you are sent on missions around the wasteland, completing them as you would in the campaign. However, you are now a different character, a “Legend of the Wasteland”. The brilliant thing about this mode is that everything you do ties up into the campaign of Rage. The first mission you are sent on is a raid on an old, abandoned (and kinda creepy) prison, which is being used as a base of operations for some bandits that are drilling for something. Whilst trying to shut their operation down, you recover a familiar weapon – an old sniper rifle that will later be given to your character in the campaign. It’s nice touches like this that make you want to do and explore everything there is in Rage‘s wasteland – the whole thing is expansive and whole.
The Final Verdict
Rage is a harmonic medley of beautiful visuals, fun gunplay and fierce driving modes, that, when combined as well as id Software has, work well in creating a mind-blowing experience for the player. The game has a distinct feel that will stay with you long after you stop playing (if you can put it down, that is).
It doesn’t try to be anything it’s not by living in the shadows of its well-established counterparts, whether they be Doom or Borderlands, but what it is is brilliant fun, with exciting missions, and, most importantly, an expansive world and setting. There is no doubt in my mind that the crown of the post-apocalypse niche sits firmly on the head of Rage.