Review by RadioGamma
"Full of potential, but ultimately overhyped."
For over 15 years id has brought us many prominent and popular shooters. Doom and Quake are among its most famous products, both of which have re-defined the shooter landscape. Rage is id's latest entry into the FPS genre. After it was announced the game was heavily anticipated to be the next epic shooter that would have players wandering a post-apocalyptic future wasteland in a fashion similar to (but not the same as) Fallout and even Borderlands. I was quite sold on the premise in all the pre-release coverage I read on the game, and picked it up on release day. Ultimately I found the game to be fairly removed from what it was being billed as, and found myself playing a well put together, but generic shooter. In the review will be a detailed breakdown of this game's strengths and weaknesses that will show gameplay is not unimportant if the rest of the title is lacking substance.
The game plays like most standard shooters in its control layout, so FPS veterans will pick this game up quickly. Character movements are smooth and quite realistic, as you will not feel as though your character is merely gliding across the ground as you move about. You can actually see the variance in balance as your character takes each alternating step. Enemies maintain this trend as well, as their own movements are fluid, whether they are rushing to attack you, or find cover. The weapons also handle quite well, and are made unique with upgrades and alternative ammunition types. Some weapons quickly becomes useless however, and soon are just sitting in your inventory not seeing any use, and some alternative ammo types make using some guns feel cheap since they are extremely powerful. This becomes more of a boon than a detriment on higher difficulty levels. The overall difficulty can be set to match your comfort level, and the enemies will change accordingly. Enemy AI is well done with enemies trying to dodge your shots, taking cover, and even falling back to a better position if you start to whittle their numbers down. This makes for tactical fighting rather than a run-n-gun play style, which helps separate Rage from similar sci-fi shooters. An expansive engineering system in Rage allows players to craft secondary weapons or usable items making use of the various odds and ends they find in the wastes and mission levels. The system is straight forward, and simple to use. What items you choose to make depends on your play-style, and some may find others to be useful or useless. The other gameplay aspect that was well done was the vehicles. They all have unique characteristics which change as you modify them. The racing aspect is solid, and makes for a nice distraction when you want to take a break from the campaign, but can be lacking in variety with only two/three race modes, and only a handful of tracks. Finally, the free roaming is too limited. A lot of areas that look like they have places to explore are inaccessible. This makes the environments feel constrained, as I can see a door or open area, but ultimately I can't go to it because an invisible barrier or lack of maneuverability keeps me from getting there. What is accessible is satisfactory to explore, but just feels too linear.
This is what probably hurt this game the absolute most. The premise is quite interesting, even if somewhat familiar. The weakest part of this game is that you are given a brief introduction that gives a basic overview of the game's scenario, and little more after that. Many, many aspects of the game are given little to no explanation. Given that most people compared the game to Fallout or Borderlands (it was published by Bethesda!) this is very disappointing, as the game has many interesting people, places, and creatures, but none of them (including the player's character) get fleshed out at all. The way the story progresses is quite sudden and jarring, as major occurrences seem to happen with little or no foreshadowing. The game leaves players with far more questions than answers in the end. Even if this is a shooter by id (light on story, heavy on action), this particular style they chose deserved more than what is present.
This game is a visual treat for all to enjoy. The first thing players will notice when starting their campaign is the richly detailed environments. The wastelands may be referred to as such, but they are visually stunning. All the various surfaces have great textures that are true-to-life realistic, and the character models are no exception. Every last person you will meet, whether friend or foe, is well detailed. The NPC movements are fluid and their facial details when speaking are spot on. Enemies have this same quality as well, ducking behind debris for cover, crawling up walls to leap into you, and being hurled through the air by explosions. Speaking of explosions, the vehicle details are fantastic! Vehicles visually degrade as they take more damage, including enemy cars. The individual components of the cars are distinguishable and add to the games amazing visual style and detail. This game is not lacking in the graphics department at all.
Since there are multiple aspects to audio, they will be broken down into three separate categories.
Music: The game utilizes a somewhat generic score for moments of action, and moments of foreboding creepiness, but is rather absent outside of combat. The heavy metal rock that can heard when using a vehicle feels so right when blasting around in the wastes. The lack of tunes to be heard isn't terrible, but it'd be nice if the game had more scoring, or themes outside of the slide guitar blues music played in the towns via the local radio.
Sound: From explosions, to hydraulic lifts, to shifting rubble, the sounds of Rage are all spot on. Weaponry sounds distinct between one another, footfalls can be heard as you walk, and things make hissing noises in the dark. Everything fits, and nothing seems dated, recycled, or out of place.
Voices: The voice work in this game is actually quite varied, and well done. There are no actors playing a dozen characters in this game (if there is, then at least they use a different voice for their other parts), and even enemies have unique dialogue. Most enemies will end up recycling some phrases after a while, but what they do say is interesting (even funny!). The various towns have people you can converse with, but sometimes their dialogue is limited, and they can only be spoken to again after more progress is made in your missions, which is a small letdown. Player dialogue is limited to the usual grunts and cries of agony when being damaged.
Replay Value- Moderate
Rage is short, and the main campaign can be beaten in around 14 hours or less. This will vary depending on how many side missions you do, and how much you drive the wastes looking for jumps. Since the game is pretty linear there are missable things, so a second play through can be justified by completionists. Those looking for challenges beyond collecting items will only get the challenge of beating the game on a higher difficulty. In addition to the main campaign are a series of mini-games that can be played in each of the towns you visit. A card game, five finger fillet, and a music game are among them, and each will require skill and a bit of luck to finish. As was made quite clear in all the coverage leading up to release day, Rage contains vehicles, and that means racing. Each town has its own tracks and challenges, and the same in-game modes can be played online against three competitors. The main campaign itself has a two player legend mode, which is the main campaign, but for two players. Given that the game itself was quite short, I can only speculate on whether that changes in co-op mode.
Rage received a lot of media hype and attention, and failed to deliver. What was being looked at as an open world shooter ended up being a fairly standard shooter with linear gameplay, a grossly undeveloped story, and a rather short experience that just felt very disappointing in the end. The game has a lot of potential; it's just a shame that most of it is unrealized. Killer visuals and solid gameplay can only carry a game so much. What's here is only unique enough to make Rage stand out just a little from all the rest. If you feel like this is something you must play, rent or borrow it. The $60 price tag will leave you with sticker shock on how much money you'll invest for a minimal return. Hopefully DLC will be made that can expand upon what could've been a great game.
Final score: 6/10
Reviewer's Rating: 3.0 - Fair
Originally Posted: 10/12/11
Game Release: Rage (US, 10/04/11)
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