After spending an undisclosed amount of time frozen in some kind of Cryogenic sleep, the idea of a nice, hot desert environment may well seem welcoming. But once that environment is revealed to be a post-apocalyptic wasteland, filled with buggy-driving bandits and unbelievably agile mutants, the idea of a nice kip in a freezer may well be preferable.
But such is the way of things in RAGE, the latest title from id Software. The player finds themselves being rescued by the appropriately grizzled Dan Hagar and given the briefest of explanations as to what is going on. What follows will take the player on a journey lasting in excess of 10 hours and feature not just FPS action, but also a reasonable chunk of RPG gameplay and even some driving fun. What more could a guy that has just crawled out of the freezer want?
The player is first presented with some simple tasks to run for Mr Hagar as an introduction to the game world and its core concepts. Perhaps the most important, and most fun, is the combat, which is brilliantly implicated. Realistically, what more would you expect from the developers behind such iconic games as Wolfenstein, Quake and Doom. The mechanics work incredibly well and are further enhanced by a very decent collection of weapons that can be used. From the humble shotgun or pistol, all the way though to the more exotic crossbow, the weapons themselves give the player good feedback and feel as they should. Things get more interesting later in the game as the player comes across different ammo types that change the effects of the weapons, allowing even the humble pistol to become a high-powered stopping machine.
The enemies also go a long way to keeping things interesting. The Bandits and mutants mentioned earlier on come with enough variety to keep things interesting, and there are some truly impressive boss battles to be fought. The enemy AI is competent enough to give the player a challenge right from the get go, with the mutants leaping around like crazy and proving difficult to hit, and the Bandits making use of cover and moving around rather than standing and waiting to be hit. Players will be finding themselves wasting a lot more ammo than they perhaps would expect as they advance. In fact, the vast majority of funds that the player gathers throughout the game will likely be spent on ammo.
Quite early on the player is introduced to the vehicles of the game. These “Mad Max” style vehicles have a couple of uses within the game, the primary one being a means of traveling from area to area. The world of RAGE is presented as an “open world” environment, but the reality is that firstly many routes will be closed off until later in the game and secondly there is not a huge amount of exploration to be had in the wasteland. Sure, the player can hunt around for some loot or pick a fight with roaming enemies, but for the most part the player will be traveling across the wasteland just to reach their next destination. Players expecting a fully open world may well be disappointed, but personally I prefer some structure otherwise I tend to spend hours doing very little.
The other use for the vehicles is racing and combat. The buggies can be upgraded through the course of the game and have weapons added, or gadgets that provide mines or shields. The player can then hold their own in vehicular combat with the various enemies in the wasteland, or even compete in races for cash or upgrades. Whilst the buggy combat is perhaps not the deepest of gameplay mechanics, it is a lot of fun in a “Twisted Metal” fashion. The racing offers a similar lack of depth, but still remains fun and brings something different to the game that breaks up the FPS quests.
Which do make up the majority of the game. Players pick up side-quests and continue the story by talking to the abundance of interesting characters that can be found throughout the game or checking out job boards. Rather than sticking to a few overused mission types, RAGE actually offers quite a variety in their quests, keeping things fresh. The side quests in RAGE, along with the majority of the racing, are completely optional. The player can earn some extra cash, find some loot or even get upgrades for their buggy from these, but a lot of the time the player will actually find the side quests costing them more than they gain in terms of ammo or health.
Another completely optional aspect is the crafting system. As the player explores, they will come across items that can be combined to create other items. However, for the most part, it is just as easy to purchase the items in the first place and just sell the junk. There is also a trading card game that can be played at the tavern which, although completely optional, is actually quite a lot of fun, especially for a player who needs to take a break from the action.
Perhaps the highlight of the game is the visual detail. To say that the game looks stunning would be an understatement. The new graphics engine created by id really shines in RAGE, creating a living world which is quite unlike the usual bland post-apocalyptic environments that we have perhaps become used to. And the level of detail can be seen in every aspect of the game, from the incredible set-pieces, to the enemies and even the weapons. Even when it comes to the inhabitants of the cities, each of them are well finished and brilliantly animated. Even their voices seem appropriate and fitting, revealing a good quality of voice-acting. Spending time in the world of RAGE is truly a joy.
Once the single player game is finished, it would be time to try out the multiplayer options. There are two modes, one for co-op and one for competitive. The competitive mode features some buggy racing combat as players rush around trying to stay alive whilst collecting symbols. Whilst this mode is a great deal of fun, especially with some friends, it is not the deepest multiplayer experience.
The co-op multiplayer comes in the form of missions that take place throughout the wasteland from the past. These “Legends” emphasise team work and will see the players working together to complete. Again, they are a lot of fun, but a full co-op campaign would have been preferable.
RAGE is a stunning-looking game that offers a decent variety of gameplay. It may not offer anything we haven’t seen before, but what it does offer is damn good fun and, above all, memorable. An addictive shooter for players that want more than an average game.