Developer/s: id Software
Publisher/s: Bethesda Softworks
Platform/s: PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, Microsoft Windows
Genre: First-person shooter, adventure, semi-open world
Release Date: 2011-09-04
id Software is one of the heavy-hitters in the computer and video-game industry, perhaps best known for Doom, a game that pretty much pioneered the first-person shooter genre, Doom has been the influential building blocks for games of its ilk for decades now. With Doom came the first id Tech engine which would eventually pave the way for id Tech 5, the engine used by Rage. Since id Software only releases a new game once every few years – their last game being Enemy Territory: Quake Wars which was released back in 2007 – the company always builds excitement and much anticipation with each new title. And so, almost four years later, Rage has been released showcasing the new id Tech 5 engine (which will be used in the forthcoming, Doom 4), but will it live up to the high expectations or be crushed beneath the myriad of other first-person shooters available?
The premise is this – a huge asteroid named Apophis impacts with Earth on August 23, 2029. The planet is devastated, the few remaining pockets of humanity rejoin to create settlements in the remaining habitable locations. These settlements are fiercely defended from the mutants and bandits that now populate what is referred to as The Wasteland. You play as an Ark survivor – Ark was a scientific faction that froze scientists and other prolific candidates in underground cryo-pods so that they may survive the catastrophe and rebuild civilization. You awaken from your Ark pod 106 years later, in a world populated by madmen, mutants and The Authority – the de facto government faction, and having no memory of who you are or what your purpose is, it’s up to you to discover the truth…and stay alive.
Rage draws a lot of inspiration from the Mad Max film series as it’s set in a dystopic future setting where the world has been reduced to a desert-type landscape after a huge cataclysm and rampant factions are in control. Rage even acknowledges its similarity to the film with various references throughout the game, a nice touch indeed. Much like Mad Max, driving plays a large role in Rage. Starting off with a simple quad bike, you will soon upgrade to a souped-up vehicle of destruction as you navigate from one town to the next, all the while fighting off bandit doom buggies and Authority tanks. Racing also plays a large role in this game, as winning races earns you the means to upgrade your vehicle into something truly formidable. Though the racing is entirely optional (save for a few sections requiring you to race in order to progress the main plot) it is highly recommended as the landscape is populated by outlaws that will attempt to kill you as you navigate The Wasteland. The benefits of purchasing upgrades for your vehicle will allow you to dispatch your foes more easily and the driving component of Rage is an extremely fun one drawing heavy influence from games like Borderlands and MotorStorm.
The driving aspect however is a secondary component to what is fundamentally a first-person shooter. Like the majority of id Software’s creations, you play as a lone warrior who navigates the game environment (for the most part) in first-person along a somewhat linear path. Though The Wasteland is quite open-ended, and there is a decent amount of exploration to be had, it serves as a conduit from one locale to the next (kind of like the word map in an old Final Fantasy game) as you will most likely navigate the landscape quite quickly in order to get on with the main plot. You will also find that while the maps seem to be expansive, in actuality they are quite linear, allowing very little chance for players to become lost or frustrated. The game is linear by design in that, you go to a town, meet a person (be it a mayor, sheriff, resistance leader or what have you), are given missions and then set off to do them in order to progress the main plot. Thankfully, I found the story to be quite engrossing, and because the game mechanics are just so satisfyingly fun, the linear game design never deterred from the game’s atmosphere and overall enjoyment.
Though entertaining, the game-play mechanics are somewhat predictable in that Rage works with event triggers. To elaborate, for example you could be in a section devoid of enemies until such a point where you reach a switch or entrance-way that will trigger a barrage of enemies for you to dispatch (much like Doom 3). The number of enemies is always finite and oftentimes you will be required to kill all of them before you can progress. Thankfully, Rage employs some pretty good enemy AI and proves to be quite challenging at times, with enemies strafing, ducking for cover, flanking and sometimes when they’ve received too much opposing gunfire, they’ll retreat all together. The enemies are also rather diverse, ranging from bandits, mutants, armoured enforcers and so forth and in the traditional id style, expect to contend with various imposing end of level guardians. Apart from the main quest, there are a myriad of sub-quests to partake in as a lot of the world’s denizens have favours to ask or jobs that need doing. Whether you’re required to escort a convoy, snipe mutants or destroy outlaw buggies, there is always something to do in The Wasteland, rewarding you with either money, guns and ammo or some rare and useful item.
So what would an id shooter be without a huge array of destructive weaponry? Well, fear not, because Rage delivers in spades with an arsenal ranging from the usual stock pistol, shotgun etc to more exotic weaponry such as wingsticks (a three-pronged sort of boomerang), striker crossbow (complete with mind-control arrows), Authority pulse cannon and more. While your ‘fists of rage’ are rather effective in a brawl, you’ll want to upgrade to some sort of firearm fairly early into the game as it’s just so damn satisfying to unload a clip into some mutated degenerate or outlaw reprobate. Weapons are intuitive, fun to use and have a satisfying oomph to them. Be sure to have a fair amount of coin though as large quantities of dough will be spent upgrading your guns or purchasing untold amounts of ammunition. I also highly recommend that you stock up on ammo before each mission as you’ll be needing it…
Unfortunately, Rage is not without flaws and though there are only a few problems, the most frustrating of all is definitely the terrible amount of pixel-popping present throughout the entire game. Basically, you will be looking at something in the game, be it a mountain, weapon, person or whatever and it will appear low resolution until the proper textures kick in a few seconds later. I’ve never seen textures delayed to this degree before and it really kills the overall enjoyment of the game. In fact, some of the textures never pop up in certain sections (like the urban environments or dark corners of a building), with the result that one is left staring at a blank, non-detailed piece of scenery resembling something from the PSX era. Disappointing indeed, as well as unexpected as id Software is known for its highly impressive game-engines. Though it seems that Carmack is aware of this problem and I read an article stating that the game was originally over 100gigs, but that the developers had to compress it down to something ‘workable’ so that it could be stored onto DVD and Blu-Ray. I imagine this was a cause of much frustration to the texture artists who spent years working on the game. The general consensus is that the PS3 version looks the most impressive with PC a close second (PC version has had a myriad of problems) and then with Xbox 360 placing last. Though I imagine that realistically the PC version (given the available hardware) would be the best-looking in the end. As far as I know, there has been no patch or update released for the PS3 version addressing the pixel-popping bug. Apart from the low-res textures , the game-engine is truly beautiful – the skies look amazing, the environments are richly detailed and interesting and the character models are brilliant. The id Tech 5 engine is truly a masterwork and I look forward to seeing what other third-party developers will be able to squeeze out of it.
The only other gripe that I have with Rage is that the game ends too abruptly, with the final level being a complete cake-walk, I spent every last penny I had on ammunition expecting a final battle to end all battles only to be left feeling cheated and disappointed. Rage could really have benefited from another 10 – 15 hours game-play but oh well, what can you do?
Rage is a highly addictive, engrossing game and a worthy addition to id Software’s library of kick-assery, unfortunately, some unnecessary (for today’s standards) texture problems and a half-baked ending detract from the overall enjoyment of what could have easily been the best first-person shooter of the year. Otherwise, Rage is a worthy addition to your gaming library, I just hope that id Tech 5’s texture problems don’t carry over to future releases.