Platform/Release: PC, PS3, XBOX360, OSX / Oct 2011
You awake from an over 100-years sleep to find yourself smack dab in a very different world than you were used to. The earth has been scorched to dust and mutants walk the landscape. You rely on makeshift weaponry and gadgets. Welcome to Fall O–…. Welcome to Borderla–…. *Opens Xbox to read disc* Welcome to Rage.
Sure, Rage is another post-apocalyptic run through the wasteland. Sure, the reason for the decimated landscape isn’t as important as your interaction with the NPC’s in the game. Sure, its gritty and brown and grey, but Rage does differ itself from other games following the same premise, to both extremely fun and highly disappointing ends.
There are a lot of people who will try to tell you that Rage has RPG elements. They are fooling you, and any diehard RPG fan will bore quickly bore of this shallow attempt at that genre. There is a weapons crafting system and you can win the favor of certain villages, and that’s pretty much where it ends. What Rage IS, however, is a mighty fine, weighty shooter with some nice freedom and a welcome driving system that isn’t complete shit like most games that try to mix the two types of game hap-hazardly.
First, I will get to the most noticeable aspect of the game to a newcomer: Its beautiful. It’s uniquely beautiful in a slightly cartoonish, and yet highly believable way. Both enemies and friendlies alike are masterfully modeled. Lighting is quite nice and the environment, while grey and brown and mucky, has a visual aspect to it that lends itself to a formerly lush organic environment. Some character movement is a little glitched out, and there is noticeable clipping with some of the bigger and more wall-walky enemies, but for the most part, it has a very novel design that never bores.
The sounds are also, mostly, stellar. Weapons have a great heavy feel to them and enemies snort and grunt rather terrifyingly. The voice acting is not amongst the best you’ll find in contemporary games, but it’s more of a hit or miss problem than being awful across the board. The snarl of your buggy’s engine is believable and the impact of missiles and crashes is satisfying. Ambient sounds are not overly noticeable, but the environment isn’t the star here, the characters are.
Gameplay is another shining attribute to Rage. Combat is fast and fun, and the ability to swap between methods of destruction is just quick enough that it’s not frustrating. There is a plethora of rifles, handguns, and throwables to use while on your feet. Its fun to weave in and out of environmental cover while mutants hop and sprint around you, gnashing their teeth at your character, while the butt of your gun or a flying “wingstick” thuds against their skulls. Unfortunately, you may never use anything other than the wingstick, as it is immensely overpowered, accurate, and replenishable at any weapons dealer if you have the money (believe me, you will).
Vehicular combat, unfortunately, is far more limited. You get a machine gun and a special that can be upgraded a couple times, and that’s it. Luckily, the cars are fun to drive; making the neverending offers for races and destruction derbies just a little less than obnoxious. You’ll enjoy the optional driving quests anyway, if not just for the fact that they help you upgrade your hoopty.
Now on to the uglier aspects of Rage that not only prevent it from being a great game, but actually turn it into a subpar title..
This game seems half finished for MANY different reasons. First, the conversations involved with the NPC’s always seem half-baked. Make that quarter-baked. The first few encounters with a friendly is almost always intriguing, making you want to explore dialogue trees a la Fall Out or Mass Effect. Afterwards, however, no new dialogue is available. You walk up to someone you thought was going to be a major part of the story, and they’ve got nothing left for you. This is frustrating, marring the story and taking you out of the experience.
Next, the enemies drop off substantially halfway through the game. At the end of the first third of the adventure, you face off with a giant lumbering beast with multiple tiny mutants in-tow. Its an amazingly fun fight, and teaches you to better utilize the mechanics of the game, so when you beat the oaf, you feel like a super hero. You’re excited for the next “boss fight,” but they never come. The closest you come to anything remotely as blood-pumping is against a regular guy with a grenade launcher. Because of this, the game’s major attribute, combat, gets boring by the midway mark, and never manages to recover.
Most people who criticize Rage will discuss the vague, unfinished story, and for good reason. For all the reasons described in the last two paragraphs, the story begins with a major feeling of being part of an environment, taking part in the weirdness of the world. It absorbs you initially with depth and excitement, but quickly dissipates into any other competent shooter. I doubt it’ll be enough to get you to leave the game before finishing it, because its still fun. Still, the build up to the end is listless and the end itself is downright horrendous and forgettable. I had a hard time even paying attention to the story as it was happening, opting instead to quickly try and get through levels. It grinds very slowly to a very disappointing halt.
In the beginning of this article, I mentioned Fall Out and Borderlands. Those are two games for the ages, and their sequels just keep getting better. Rage could’ve been one of these all-time experiences. And it starts out as one of these games, making the rest of it all the more depressing and disappointing. Rage came in with a great personality, and left as an awkward, muddy experience. The potential was there, but Bethesda didn’t capture it.
Decree: Its probably cheap enough right now to excuse a purchase, either at a Gamestop or second-hand on Ebay. Play the first 3 hours, then play Fall Out 3 again and pretend that’s the way Rage ends. Game Rating: 6/10