Developer: id Software
Publisher: Bethesda Softworks
Platform: Windows / STEAM / PlayStation 3 / XBOX 360 / IOS
Genre: Science Fiction / Action Thriller / Adventure / Driving
OFLC Rating: MA
What is Rage?
Unless you’re looking for the actual definition of the word, it is id Software’s latest original creation and debutante to use their latest technology, the idTech 5 engine or (simply) ID5. Now before I continue here many people have approached this game with all the wrong expectations and left disappointed. I have often stated in reviews of certain games that the right approach makes all the difference when looking to get the most out of a game. If you’re looking for a post-apocalyptic open world action roleplaying game from Rage you’ve made your first mistake by taking that approach. However if you come expecting an old-school fast paced action game that will keep you on your toes, then you will be better able to appreciate Rage for what it is.
As I said this game is “Old-School” and unlike what Duke Nukem Forever was and failed miserably. Rage delivers that fast paced action that “Shooter” fans back in the day (1990s to be precise) know and love. Id Software is hugely known for defining this experience if not introducing it. Technology aside Doom, Quake and Rage perform in a strikingly similar way (if not the same) where you are constantly reacting to action that is constantly unfolding – Whether it’s the shotgun wielding zombie popping out for around the corner from Doom: Knee Deep In The Deep, the shambler busting out the door ready to obliterate you from Quake or the tank commander who storms out the elevator from Quake II. As predictable as the action became, it always had a habit of staying fresh as you have learned to be ready for anything. For all gripes over lack of autosave checkpoints it just goes to show how lazy and complacent players have become over the years. Rage like it’s idTech predecessors saving your games strategically was something gamers of old did religiously (pardon the pun), because the only autosaves that do occur (like Quake 2) are between loading screens. Back in the days of Doom and Quake, saving was somewhat of a skill rather than a convenience, at the end of the day only idiots rely on the autosave.
As I said Rage is the type of game (like it’s predecessors) that will keep you on your toes where you are having to be ready for whatever or whoever jumps out at you and offers action that (almost) requires you to be constantly on your toes, whenever you engage your adversaries (AI enemy NPCs and Multiplayer competition alike). In the story campaign Rage offers four skill settings that effect how you take damage rather than the size of your opposition. Easy is for beginners and casual gamers alike. Normal is for the regulars (The “Weekend Warrior” class gamer), more or less those familiar with action games. Hard is probably what I’d term as a skill setting for both veterans and enthusiasts of the category. Nightmare is as in any of Id’s shooters, the elitist skill setting as two hits will bring you to death’s door, if not incapacitate or kill you. As with all skill settings there really isn’t much difference as to how the AI will engage you – So the higher the setting, the more reflex and manoeuvres you will need to stay alive.
I think by now with emphasis on how tough this game is that sharp reflexes and quick thinking are the key to staying on top of the action.
Now we’ve looked at what Rage has taken from previous Id titles and the question that presents itself is. How does Rage build upon this?
The environment in which you play is the first thing you are going to notice as it is still confined yet offers that vast sense of openness with impressively crafted outdoor landscapes, overall presenting stunning detail that really shows of the visual power of the ID5 engine. The next thing is the way Rage offers a richer emphasis on storytelling with some nicely scripted moments and a cast of the lively characters ever to see (sure to give LA Noire a run for it’s money). When I say lively I’m referring to how ID5 allows for some relatively lifelike character animations, particularly with attention to detail rendering facial expressions and gestures giving those you interact with (an almost) realistic sense of personality. Along with using detail animations for storytelling this is seen in combat with regard to how enemies react to hits – For example a pistol round to the knee will often cause an enemy to limp after getting back up as they continue to give chase.
The last thing you’re going to notice is the gameplay. For starters, in addition to the first person gunplay action and character interaction, now you have a third person driving component that offers some high octane vehicular firefights. However I have noticed when you are using ATVs there is an element of sadistic hilarity that Flatout fans would take notice of as your character can be flung (screaming) from the ATV upon crashing into something, this is expanded on as you can do this purposely to fly through field goals (presumably) scattered throughout the world. Rest assured no saving is required as you are respawned (in perfect condition) back on foot next your ATV.
Aside from the ATV tomfoolery and open road combat (part of getting place to place) you have circuit races, rallies and time trials using the other vehicles (Buggies, Cuprinos and Monarchs). One thing I have noticed about the vehicle combat sequences (competition or travels) is that you have a soundtrack piece that has cheesy retro 16-Bit feel to it that you would expect to find in the Road Rash games adding what I thought to be a nice old-school touch.
One of the other things you will notice is that you have regenerative health that you would find from Call of Duty’s more recent titles. But one of the really noticeable additions is that of a nice selection of detailed mini-games each serving their own purpose. One of these is the “Defibrillator” feature that makes you harder to kill and adds a nasty self-defence mechanism (any idiot close enough is in for one rude shock – pun intended) when performed successfully, however this is one example of how both PC and console versions differ from each other as this is played out differently. In the PC version you more or less have to press your action key at right moment as you wait for two diamonds to line up with symmetrically placed vertical line markers. The console (360/PS3) expands on this as you power up using two cursors (controlled by your analog sticks) to tag designated points until charged, then press both trigger/shoulder buttons (depending on which layout you’re currently using) when both diamonds fly into line with their vertical markers. The other mini-games offer a lighthearted diversion and a means to make a little cash on the side. These include Tombstones (a Dungeons & Dragons-esque Rage themed dice rolling game), Five Finger Fillet (remember that hand and knife game from Aliens – DON’T EVEN think about doing that for real unless you by some chance know exactly what you’re doing!), Strum (a Guitar Hero-esque game) and Rage Frenzy (a trading card duelling game that would explain why you’re picking up collector cards scattered throughout the world).
The big addition is the range of ammunition types for various firearms that are available (as opposed to throwing in more guns than you have number keys to bind them all), along with the use of “Off-Hand” weapons and other “Quickuse” items. In total there are eight weapons and ten if you have the “Anarchy Edition” of the game. These are the “Fists of Rage” (Anarchy Ed.), the Settler’s Pistol, the Double-Barrel Shotgun (Anarchy Ed.), the Combat Shotgun, the Settler’s Rifle, the Sniper Rifle, the Striker Crossbow, the Authority Machine Gun (AMG), the Rocket Launcher, the Authority Pulse Cannon (APC). Main weapons aside there are twenty different ammunition types with some packing a better punch or those that have unique qualities to them offering you different ways to retool your firearms for a range of purposes. In further detail the munitions are (for the Pistol) Pistol Rounds, Fatboys (a “Magnum” slug), Killbursts (a single shot rapid fire burst) and Fat Mommas (a “Super-Magnum” slug). For the Shotguns you have Buckshots, Pulse Shots (EMP Buckshot) and Pop Rockets (a high explosive slug – great for blowing idiots to Kingdom Come). For the Rifle you have Steel-Tipped Rounds and Feltrite Rounds (harder hitting rounds crafted from the alien ore left over from the impact). The Sniper Rifle only has one munition type. Then with the AMG you have Authority MG Rounds and the harder hitting Authority AV2x Rounds. The Crossbow (being the one of the more interesting weapons) has Steel-Tipped Bolts, Electro Bolts (great fun for electrocuting a group idiots splashing around in puddles), Mind Control Bolts (turns victims into suicide bombers that can move a short range at a very slow rate) and Dynamite Bolts (The kind of crossbow version of high explosives Rambo used from a longbow). For the Rocket Launcher you have HE Rockets (regular rockets) and Viper Rockets (Anti-Vehicle rockets). And finally the APC offers Authority Pulse Rounds and BFG (Big F’ing Gun – in case you haven’t figured that out by now – a shot that can clear a room) both of which resemble equivalents to Doom’s Plasma Rifle and BFG 9000.
Along with these you have what Rage calls “Quickuse” items which include weapons and assisting items. These are the Wingstick (a three-point boomerang-like throwing star), HE (High Explosive) Grenades, EMP (Electromagnetic Pulse) Grenades, RC Bomb Cars, Sentry Turrets, Sentry Bots (vicious Robo-Spiders armed with a machinegun), Lock Grinders (for grinding bolted door locks) and various health/damage boosts along with improved versions of the Wingsticks and Sentries.
This is probably the most noticeable difference between PC and console versions with regard to how you play. PC you have the all main weapons bound to the number row keys, the Quickuse and Ammunition is selected using respected cycling (Previous / Next) keys. With the console versions you hold the Weapon select button (being right trigger or shoulder again depending on your layout) and move respected analog sticks (right stick for weapons and left for ammunition of the weapon highlighted) in one of four directions then release once you have the desired combination, whereas Quickuse can be called up using one of the fire D-Pad buttons. Personally I believe the console versions to have the better setups (unless the PC version has XBOX Controller support) as it steers you toward specialisation which can of course be tailored to individual play styles – Thus my next point. The great thing about Rage is that you can apply almost any playing style as the game gives you a nice degree of freedom with the weapons and items at your disposal. From what I have noticed there are three core playing playing styles that can be applied to the game and for each one I will suggest some ideal potential loadouts. Firstly you have the typical “Charge In All Guns Blazing” player – For that I would be inclined to recommend using the Rifle, Shotguns, AMG, APC with the full range of munition types along with grenades, a sentry bot and some wingsticks on hand. For the “Campers” (those who are clever and cheeky enough to pull it off) the Sniper Rifle, a Pistol (make sure you have the monocular) using the hard hitting slugs with sentry turrets on side and some grenades. As for the Stealthy (Stealth in Rage entails catching enemies off guard and unaware rather than sneaking through without being noticed) the Striker Crossbow with the full ammunition range, Fists of Rage, wingsticks, RC bomb cars and grenades will work wonders. As the gamepad scheme of selection uses three sets of four interchangeable slots, it is surprisingly good as it offers a fast “On-The-Fly” means for getting the right tools for right job (when you need them). Although with fast cycling and main weapon selection via the number row, the keyboard / mouse setup can offer a more precise and direct scheme of control. But that’s how business can be done “On Foot”.
Driving however offers quite a surprisingly simple layout with hardly any difference between PC and console versions. You have steering, camera controls, main weapon toggle select, target select, accelerator, brake/reverse, handbrake, boost, four-way Quickuse select buttons with respected weapon and Quickuse triggers. The handling of the vehicles is relatively similar to the Burnout games offering an arcade feel to the game giving Rage a nice retrospective touch. The Quickuse items you can use whilst driving include shield and armour replacements along with a selection of support weapons that can be equipped in the garage before setting out.
With the story-driven campaign you interact with characters in “Hub” areas who in turn give you missions much like you would expect when playing a Roleplaying game, the missions (from an RPG standpoint) play out like a set of “Dungeon Crawls” as you play through linear levels – But that’s as far as the Roleplaying comparisons go.
Rage’s story follows a post-apocalyptic future that is result of an asteroid hitting Earth (specifically the actual asteroid from 2004, Apophis 99942 which is due to pass Earth on April 13 2029 – That’s a chilling thought given there’s a slim chance of it hitting on the same day in 2036!) rather than the all too common “Nuclear Winter” / “Scorched Earth” scenario as (recently) told by the Fallout games. The game begins with a pre-rendered cutscene showing Apophis making it’s way to Earth from deep space during which you also see Ark volunteers prepare. The final clip shows the asteroid skimming across the surface of the moon before hitting Earth like a nuclear missile from Hell. Throughout the entire cut scene is a brilliant piece of music that starts off with the piano gently playing and coming in with a string assortment ending with a strong symphonic collaboration between the two while capturing the sense of hope through a time of impending doom. Personally I believe that particular overture to be one of the best pieces from Rage’s soundtrack. Now the story in a nutshell (without giving too much away) is a little vague, but very well done none the less.
Apophis is on a crash course with Earth. A global initiative using (deep) underground stasis chambers to preserve humanity are built. The volunteers who enter stasis are injected with “Nanotrites” (computer/robotic organisms in the bloodstream designed augment body), these you learn more about as you progress through the campaign. You emerge from your Ark roughly a century from the time of impact – Rage is set sometime in the twenty second century.
You start the campaign finding your self in the company of one of the settlement leaders who comes to your aid at the start (for reasons I will let you find out for yourselves). Rage’s tutorial spands the entire prologue as you carry out jobs for the two settlements in the area. The story takes off once you reach the town of Wellspring and conclude your business with the settlement leader (whom meet in the very beginner) Dan Hagar who is (masterfully) voiced by John Goodman. Throughout the story you will often hear mention and (eventually) encounter “The Authority” which is the global totalitarian dictatorship regime which has established itself presumably shortly after the cataclysm. The campaign will have you doing battles with bandit tribes, slaughtering mutant hordes, partaking in local motorsport events and ultimately waging war with The Authority.
The campaign alone is sure to offer plenty of heart pounding action to keep you occupied for about twenty hours or more, should you be inclined to check out all side missions and activities available. However the multiplayer action I believe to be equally satisfying. In multiplayer you have two modes to choose from, the competitive vehicle-only Road Rage and the cooperative Wasteland Legends.
Road Rage is the four player competitive side of Rage which is quite a surprise, as it only offers vehicle events that include various rallies and “Carnage” being the deathmatch mode. Similar to multiplayer feature in most triple-A action titles you have a rank system where you gain experience to progress through levels and are rewarded with unlockable items – In this case vehicles and weapons.
Wasteland Legends on the other hand, plays out using first person on-foot as you complete story-based scenarios that give backstories into the major characters in the world of Rage. You can play two player online and splitscreen as you fight through a “Survival Course” style scenario racking a score with every kill.
For those who are used to multiplayer action that is commonly seen in games like Borderlands, Call of Duty, Battlefield, etc. Rage can take a bit of getting used to as it can offer different and refreshing changes to those who are open to it.
Overall Rage is an awesome package waiting to offer an experience that I believe can be summed up as a High Octane, Heart-Pounding Action Science Fiction Thrillride!
Is Rage worth the purchase?
If “Post-Apocalyse” is your thing… Definitely!
If you’re looking for fast paced retrospective action game… Hell yeah!
If you are fan of id Software’s original works… What the hell are you waiting for?!?!? (go for Anarchy Edition)
Seriously Rage is one such title I would quote as being “Promising”!