Guest Author - James Shea
A post-apocalyptic FPS / vehicle combat game, "RAGE" attempts to deliver fast-paced gameplay but bogs itself down with unnecessary RPG elements.
"RAGE" is the product of Id Software, better known for games like Doom and Quake. RAGE attempts to incorporate both on-foot shooting and third-person buggy-driving combat as part of an "open-world" concept. Its setting is heavily based on Mad Max and other post-apocalyptic standards; following a comet strike on the Earth, the surviving humans basically turned into the cliche division of honest settlers and evil raiders in football gear. Really, there's not much more of an explanation beyond that: you play an individual with special technology who was locked into a survival pod before the comet hit, and when you emerge there's "raiders and stuff".
A low-story game isn't a bad thing - that allows it to focus on gameplay, after all. However, despite their barely developed setting, the game insists on trying to shove story in where it doesn't belong. The game advances primarily through doing quests, and doing quests basically means going to talk to someone before going to the next "shoot everyone on this linear path" dungeon. The story is incredibly lackluster (the good guys are named the "resistance" and the bad guys are named the "authority", and there's no real explanation why one's good and the other's evil), and really it just serves as an obstacle to shooting things. In one case I was doing a quest so that I could do a quest so that I could do a quest - three nested quests for one routine mission. They're the usual fetch-quests and "go kill everyone in this building" quests, but they seem ultimately pointless.
To be fair, when the game does get to the shooting, it's pretty decent. There's two main kinds of enemies: humans and mutants. Humans mostly use guns and grenades, meaning that fighting them involves using cover and tactics. Mutants rush headlong with claws and occasionally slow-moving projectiles, which means that fighting mutants is much more fast-paced. Human enemies have a lot of variety in design terms (different gangs and so on), but not so much in actual combat terms. The game's occasional bosses are more gimmicky than reflexive; the one that stands out the most clearly is a giant mutant who targets you with highly visible attacks while you shoot at him with an infinite-ammo rocket launcher.
There's a decent, if standard, collection of guns in the game, including pistols, shotguns, machine guns, rocket launchers, and so on. Each weapon also has three types of ammo, which provides some diversity. None of the guns were really worth getting excited about; the crossbow's mind-control bolts are the only vaguely unique thing, and all they let you do is blow up one guy. The rest of the ammo types are either "does more damage to x enemy" or something simple like exploding ammo or lightning ammo. One element that mixes it up a bit is the presence of support items. These items include basic things like medkits and grenades, but also encompass more advanced tech like radio-controlled explosive cars, sentry guns, and deployable robots. One such item, the "wingstick", is a razor-sharp boomerang that serves as the game's main logo. These items are relatively interesting and add some variety to the run-and-gun process.
The other main part of the game is the driving segments. Over the course of the game you will obtain buggies of various kinds which can be used to drive from area to area (you can also walk, but naturally it takes longer). Buggies can be upgraded with better engines, armor, weapons, and so on by winning races. The vehicle combat is fairly solid, although it's more of an obstacle than anything - you're trying to get somewhere, there's some enemy buggies in your way, kill them. It might be more interesting if the world was actually open, but it's not. RAGE's world is a winding set of paths with a few branches; there's no real exploration because every interesting place is eventually a mandatory quest point. At one point I found a mortar outside an enemy base and was curious about it; it turned out to be a quest item like five minutes later. Everything interesting is something pre-planned, and there's not a lot of "hey I found something pretty cool" moments. The game has crafting based on ingredients you can find around the world, but the linear maps means that "finding ingredients" means progressing forward and grabbing everything you see.
RAGE has multiplayer of several kinds, including shooting deathmatches, driving deathmatches, and co-op missions. It seems strange that the main campaign doesn't have cooperative play, only isolated challenges do. The game's graphics are decent but uninspired, drawing upon a tired array of post-apocalyptic concepts with the occasional steampunk or Wild West imagery thrown in for good measure. The music, however, was definitely a letdown. The game actually becomes way more enjoyable if you throw on some rock-and-roll or anything fast-paced, because the game's shooting action doesn't exactly match up with the slow, meandering soundtrack.
Overall, RAGE wasn't a good game. It was a chore to push through, and the decent shooting doesn't make up for what a bore it is. If it had JUST been shooting, maybe it would have been okay, but the incredibly forced questing and the laughable world bog down the core gameplay by a huge amount. 5/10.
Purchased through Steam with our own funds.