id Software basically invented the first person shooter genre, so when I heard they were coming out with a new game, I was certainly intrigued. I had wasted countless hours as a kid, and later as a college student, playing Doom, and I had loved every second of it. It wasn’t just a linear FPS, but involved complex levels and tons of gore, monsters and guns. What else could you want? Soon I heard that Rage was a little more than a FPS, it was to include some racing elements, some RPG elements, and all sorts of innovative aspects that were sure to piss off purists and sure to intrigue those not so blinded by cynicism. I was sold, and preordered it as soon as I could.
The game features a pretty standard post-apocalyptic setting and is bound to give rise to comparisons to Borderlands and Fallout. But when you first walk out of the room you start in, and step into the world, blinded by the sunlight, you will notice something far different. This world is expansive, this world is beautiful, this world looks real. Rage is the first game I’ve seen that deviates from the standard and says that a barren wasteland doesn’t have to look like shit. No, this world is different. It is amazing looking. The graphics are astounding and take what I thought this generation’s hardware could to do another level. The game has worked hard to cultivate a certain vibe, and this vibe keeps you wanting more.
I’ve been seeing a lot of criticism for this game in forums and comments sections following reviews. People are complaining that this game lacks a blockbuster story. This makes sense, considering the edge of your seat story telling they’ve come to expect from a developer who’s previous games featured a space marine fighting demons on Mars’ moon. I mean, lets get real, people only played Doom for the story, and we as consumers can expect no less from Rage. In all seriousness, I understand people may want a hugely story driven game, and that’s fine. But this game never boasted that it would have an amazing story, and the developer’s pedigree has never involved such accomplishments. You may have fought demons in Doom, but you certainly weren’t accompanied by Dante into hell. You were accompanied by a chainsaw and a few disenfranchised kids from Colorado. It doesn’t make it a bad game if it doesn’t meet your expectations when your expectations aren’t well founded. I complain all the time that my bologna doesn’t taste like foie gras but that doesn’t mean Carl at the Kroger has to take me seriously (and let me tell you, he doesn’t).
But back to the main point, the game is a wildly violent first person shooter (with some auxiliary elements) and it does that very well. My main complaint with many games is the guns are too weak. Not weak as in how they perform against enemies, but weak sounding, weak looking, and simply underwhelming in almost all aspects. Not so here. In Rage, the guns kick hard, they are loud, and they certainly show their stopping power when they hit those little bastards that will run at you from every direction. Shooting a running mutant in the leg will cause him to slide with his momentum to the ground, and then continue hobbling towards you. The action is fast paced and certainly frantic, creating a unnerving feeling during battles. The opponents have fantastic AI, make great use of the environment around them, and are difficult as can be to hit. But when you do hit them, you know it counts. That’s something so rare in games, that a gun actually acts like a gun, its sadly baffling when you do find it.
The voice acting is great as well, and the first voice you are greeted by is none other than John Goodman, infamous Fred Flintstone impersonator. And even as to the story, I don’t find it bad or even lacking. You are in a desolate world after an asteroid strikes the earth and deal with tons of weirdos and interesting people. The voice acting for almost everyone is well done, as are the character animations, and the sheer variety and beauty of the different environments only serve to make this game something so unique, even when featuring a somewhat overused premise, that I find it extremely difficult to put down.
And no wonder, because it also includes some simply fantastic driving mechanics and fighting systems that make Twisted Metal all but forgettable. Borderlands had buggies to drive as well, but bumping a guardrail would slam you to a complete hault, and it was clearly an afterthought thrown in to make traveling less of a bore. Not so here. The driving system was clearly a focus of the developers, and adds a great amount of variety to an already compelling game. Racing and vehicular combat work very well, and the physics of the new id Tech 5 engine make for a very fluid experience that simply works.
The game features a few RPG elements, such as collecting items from the landscape and bodies to either sell or use to craft new items. All weapons are upgradable, as are the vehicles, which gives a great feel of customization to the game. But don’t expect an RPG with Rage, because it certainly isn’t one. It is not an open world sandbox game, it is not a Fallout or Borderlands clone, and I think a lot of the criticisms come from people expecting this to be the case, and then feeling that it falls short. But it doesn’t fall short when you view Rage for what it is, an FPS. id Software invented the genre, and have gone and added other elements from other genres that work, elements that serve to expand on the FPS system they have while staying true to what works. And Rage certainly works well. My only criticisms are a few texture problems that arise occasionally, such as surfaces taking a moment to load. But when you look at the scope of what they have done graphically with this game, the achievement that is the world they’ve created, and the fact that it is an 8Gb install on the PS3, some of that fault has to lie with the six year old hardware it is using. I would say the PC version might fare better, but I’ve heard it is a port that will give users significant problems, so I’d recommend the console if at all possible. Overall, Rage has exceeded my own personal expectations for the game, and has set the bar a little higher when it comes to other shooters, and far higher when it comes to graphics of all genres. I certainly wouldn’t pass this game up.