Is Rage a formula for success, or should it be left in the dry and harsh wasteland?
It’s very difficult not to compare Rage to Fallout. Each story is governed by a world changing event, and while the protagonist isn’t exactly thrown into a vault; it’s pretty close. There’s also that pesky issue of setting. In some ways Rage looks more faithful to the original Fallout than Fallout 3. That’s where the comparison ends however as fundamentally Rage and Fallout are much different. Rage is an RPG/shooter hybrid with the emphasis being on action. In fact, Rage is pretty light on any meaningful RPG elements. I appreciate the emphasis on smooth action; however it’s very apparent that a lot of the RPG elements and general back-story was neglected.
For instance none of the bandit groups have any sort of reason for being the way they are, and can someone explain to me why everyone knows parkour? I get it, suspension of disbelief, however no self respecting RPG could get away with these oddities and why should Rage be any different. The same complaints can be leveled towards the environments. While they look good, they also fall into the same pitfalls. Like some of the characters there’s really not any sort of context to the environments players will be visiting. When you compare it to something like Bioshock it just comes off as really lifeless. There was always some sort of context or at least allure to the environments in Bioshock and you never wondered why things were that way, because it was always implied or explained. It’s the complete opposite in Rage. The characters don’t act like they are part of the environments they inhabit.
As I stated before though, Rage is primarily a shooter and in this regard it’s a success. The action is extremely satisfying, and most importantly unique. Titles have been so caught up in trying to emulate Call of Duty, and Rage does a great job of setting itself apart. One thing that surprised me is just how much fun the enemies are to engage. Enemies duck behind cover and fight in pretty realistic ways. The animations are also a pleasure to watch in action, and the performance (frame-rate) adds another level of enjoyment. It’s not perfect though. At times the hit detection can be wonky, especially if there’s some sort of mesh near the enemy, and I wish id had done something a little bit more interesting with the melee.
Minor issues aside, the combat is one of Rage’s strongest attributes. Rage also features tons of vehicular combat sections as well as racing. Surprisingly these parts offer a nice change of place and are actually done very well. Vehicles handle responsively, and there’s a decent amount of upgrades to unlock. Roaming the wasteland and blasting bandits with your newly upgraded vehicle is just as satisfying as the on-foot sections.
The presentation is where things really start to get inconsistent. The voice acting and general audio design is good all around, but hardly ever outstanding. My biggest issue hands-down with Rage is the texture streaming. Not only is it a presentation issue, but also a technical issue. At least on the PS3 version the textures never fully load. What I mean by that is textures only stream when the player is looking at that area. So textures that fully streamed in an area you just looked at will have to re-stream when you look over again. Every single time the player turns to look at one of the many interesting landmarks it just turns up as a blurry mess. I wanted to enjoy the graphics and sometimes I could, but this issue just kills it. I can’t imagine how frustrated the art team has to be with this technical misstep. It’s the type of issue that in all honesty should have delayed the game, and for a studio like id is just completely unacceptable.
While the main campaign will last around 15 hours (with side-quests), there are a couple of multiplayer modes that extend the life of Rage. The cooperative mode is fun and allows you to play with another friend, participating in a quest structure not so different from the main story arc. The other addition is a competitive mode called Road Rage. In Road Rage, up to four racers can compete in a couple different modes. While this particular game-mode is somewhat shallow it does provide at least a mild distraction from the campaign and cooperative experiences.
Rage is a fun if not flawed experience. While the shooting mechanics are nothing revolutionary they are expertly designed, and most importantly fun. There’s also a lot of content packaged into Rage’s $60 price-tag. Just don’t expect it to be polished to the level we’ve come to expect from id.
For more information on how we review games check out our criteria here. A copy was provided by the publisher for reviewing purposes.