Developer(s): id Software
Publisher(s): Bethesda Softworks, Square Enix
Reviewed: January 2014
Game Type: First-person shooter, action-adventure, vehicular combat, racing
A bit of a mixture; that's my best way to describe RAGE, id Software's most recent foray into shooter territory. It feels almost like a bridge between their linear older titles, like Doom 3 and Quake 4, and more recent open-world games, such as, say, Fallout 3. There's a reason I mentioned that game – Bethesda Softworks is the publisher for both that and RAGE. Unfortunately, what made Fallout 3 a great game (obviously depending on personal opinions) seems to be missing from RAGE, as it just doesn't contain enough depth. It is a shame, really, as there is certainly alot of promise, and things are not all bad with the game. In fact, it has a rather solid base, with decent combat, interesting mini-games, and a good, if slightly overused [in recent games], post-apocalyptic setting.
You start out as a character awakened from an 'Ark', one of a large number of refuges that were buried under ground to escape the imminent desruction of the Earth in the form of an asteroid strike. The plan was to repopulate the Earth years later, and help rebuild the planet, but that plan was sabotaged, and now, the Earth is run by the aptly named 'Authority'. I'll not continue any further with the plot/story, as I want to keep as much of what story there is in the game for you to discover yourself.
The main gameplay area is set amongst a rocky environment that would serve well as a Wild-West setting, along with ruined parts of one of the cities that once covered the planet. Most of the game is spent in two main areas, which serve effectively as roadways between a couple of scattered settlements, mission-specific areas and the main town in the first big zone, and just the mission areas and the main town in the second zone.
The environment is nice enough to look at graphically, and is interesting enough to explore and traverse, but it feels incredibly small and limited compared to other open-world games. You are given vehicles to explore the area, and once you have one, it is pretty much pointless making your way on foot anywhere. While you may encounter the odd bandits that randomly spawn around the map, racing around in their own vehicles, and you can either engage them in combat, or just drive away to wherever you want to go, the bulk of the action in the game takes place in seperately loading areas that you can visit, on foot only, when given missions that ask you to go to them and retrieve some random item. You'll inititially be able to get such missions from the two small settlements close by to where you start off in the game, but once you've done everything you can with them, you'll be mainly doing missions given by characters in the first of two major towns in the game, called Wellspring. The second town and gameplay zone is only 'unlocked' once you reach a certain point in the story, around two-thirds of the way through the game, and is called Subway Town.
It is a shame that the game world isn't bigger, as these towns act as hubs for hosting further quests, buying and selling items, upgrading your vehicle(s), and taking part in a selection of around four mini-game types and a selection of racing modes. It is these mini-games that helped to break up the repetitiveness of the main game, and as well as being fun enough by themselves, they can also aid you in upgrading your vehicle or simply making a bit more cash on the side to supplement what you gain from selling loot or completing missions/quests.
There are plenty of weapons to choose from (including sniper rifles, shotguns, machine guns, rocket launchers; the usual sort) as you progress through the game, and some of these can be put into a quick menu, of which you can have four main weapons at any one time, but the others are still accessible from your main inventory screen. You'll have different grenades you can use, too, with EMP ones as well as the standard sort, and if you don't want to use them, you can also use something called a Wingstick, that is effectively like a boomerang with three wings rather than the normal two. I found myself using alot early on in the game, but later on it becomes a bit more redundant.
If you ever die in the game, you get a chance to come back to life using a built-in defibrillator, that requires you to hit a key when two nodes meet in the center of the screen. For the most part you'll probably rarely need to use it though, unless you are playing with the hardest difficulty settings.
You'll be able to craft certain items from stuff you find, such as creating extra grenades, bandages, and turrets that you can place to aid defending some areas, but the most 'fun' was being able to create a little radio-controlled car that you could use to deliver a bomb to your enemies. It's nothing to shout about, but it is a nice little touch that I thought was quite cool. I was also able to collect some bobbleheads, like in Fallout 3, but there are only a few of them, and you don't get a fancy display cabinet for them; they can either sit in your inventory or you sell them on for a half-decent amount of cash.
One thing I must mention is bugs, something that most people getting the game may already know about anyway. I encountered two major issues, one was that on highest settings, the textures seem to load on-the-fly, so when you turn your head quickly, you'll see a noticeable delay between an extremely low-res place-holder texture and the high-res textures that you should see appearing. The only way I could get around this was running the medium textures. Perhaps a higher-end card or one with more graphics memory would have done better, but from what I could tell from my forum searches, even that isn't fool-proof.
The bugs that irked me more, though, included one of save game corruption, which caught me out a couple of times, but which themselves were both caused by the numerous crashes I had when moving to new areas, or during the transition from a racing event back to the town you were in, for example. Luckily, most of the time, the game auto-saved your progress during these events (you can manual-save normally), so if you had just won a race, and the game crashed, you'd usually reload the game to find that you were back in the town and didn't have to redo that race. It did happen far too often though (at least a dozen times) and the corruption of the save-game files on the odd occasion just tipped things over the edge. These issue should have been fixed by now.
Going back to the game-play and story, I must add that the game seemed to finish rather quickly and felt rather anti-climactic. During most of the lead-up, I was lead to believe, or at least assumed, that there would be some sort of major show-down or epic battle in the final part of the game, so when I was told about this final mission, I bought up every bit of ammunition that I could for the best weapons that I had, and went into that last section of the game using my weakest weapons first and saving the best stuff until last, when I thought I would really need it. While there certainly was plenty of combat, I ended up reaching the very end only just starting to make use of my best weapons after the ammunition on the other weaker weapons ran out, so it had all been saved up for nothing.
I guess all it did was effectively prolong those battles just slightly, but they certainly didn't really feel any harder, not any more so than any other sections of the game anyway. You do get an ending that explains things, and I won't spoil it for you, but I feel that it could have been done better. While it is nice when a game doesn't throw a difficulty curve-ball at you in the final part of a game, a game like this could have really done with something at least a little bit more challenging, and also the whole setting for the final game-play just felt like some random meaningless area. Even the areas preceding it looked far more fancy and impressive.
There are a few more extra missions that can be completed at any time, I gather, and extend the game a little bit more. They are designed specifically for co-op, but I think it is just about possible to make it round by yourself, if you are good. I haven't had the opportunity to try it with my fellow reviewer yet, but from what I've seen of game-play videos, it looks like pretty much more of the same, so if you liked the game, and like co-op game-play, this will be a welcome addition for you. It's a shame they didn't make the whole game co-op, though, as I think that would have added to the fun too.
While RAGE is ultimately not a bad game at all, and is actually quite decent, it ultimately falls short of being the triple-A title it was supposed to be. Part of that can be blamed on the bugs, but even putting them aside, there just doesn't seem the depth to the game that there should have been.
The characters, while well modelled, and voiced decently enough, just don't leave any lasting memories, and are quite forgetable. A week after finishing the game and I can't remember a single name.The missions themselves too often end up feeling far too samey, especially when the same trick of revisiting an area and simply placing you on the same linear route, just the opposite way round, gets used too many times. On the plus side, the mini-games and racing modes did much to save the game from being completely average, particularly the fun racing mode.
Should you get this game? Well, if you get it on a nice discount when the next Steam sale is on, I'd definately say yes, but please don't pay too much, as the game isn't worthy enough of a higher price. It is a solid enough game to bridge the gap between better titles when you have run out of games to play, but don't get it expecting something special.
Arbitrary Final Score:
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