Daniel our resident Xbox 360 expert takes a look at Rage.
It’s no secret that today’s console gaming culture is ruled by shooters. Too often are we given a new Call of Duty, a new Halo, a new Battlefield; Each has their own well deserved strengths, but I can’t help but feel like none of them have really mixed up the traditional formula of the genre: Go here, shoot this, go there, shoot that, repeat. It all feels very serious and constricted. It can lead to some good games, but it doesn’t really scratch that itch. You don’t get that rush of enjoyment that you were hoping for, and your left slightly dissatisfied. However, not all is lost. Every few years there comes a game that gives you that feeling, and provides you an experience like you’ve never had before. Today, that game is Rage. Rage has proven that id Software still knows how to make the best shooters around, while offering something diverse and extremely entertaining.
When you play Rage, the first thing you’ll notice is how great the graphics are here. Just take a moment to examine the skyboxes in the western wasteland to see what I mean. This is a truly gorgeous game, with highly detailed textures, beautiful hand-crafted environments, and NPC’s with some of the smoothest animations of any current-gen game out there. It’s unfortunate though, to see a game with this level of visual quality stick with such a bland color palette. There’s a decent mix of reds, blues, and greens, particularly when fighting against The Authority, the game’s primary antagonist, but outside of that you’re getting the typical postapocalyptic brown and grey. While this is a problem, it doesn’t detract too severely from the game.
Another high point is the level design. There are some truly unique, albeit linear, play areas here. My favorite would have to be the Dead City, which sends you through office buildings and abandoned shopping squares. These levels are fun to navigate, with mutants around every corner to blast through, and impressive attention to detail in the form of boxes, pipes, papers, control panels, switches, and debris from the buildings themselves littered throughout the environments. However, none of this would matter if the enemies weren’t challenging enough to make progressing through the world worth it. Luckily, they are. Rage boasts some of the most top-notch AI performance in all of modern gaming. Each clan of enemies feels unique with fighting styles ranging from ninja kamikaze combat to more reserved, cover taking gunmen, all the way to head on melee attackers. Each enemy has their own tactics, and they help to keep gunplay fresh. One trait they have in common though, is the way they react to you, and I mean that in the best way possible. Enemies don’t just take damage, they’ll trip, shake, grunt, and actually acknowledge that a bullet has penetrated their body. For example, if you dish out a shot to the leg, they’ll fall, and limp or crawl their way to cover before taking another shot at you. It’s subtle, but it really helps immerse you in Rage’s overall experience, and what an experience it is.
There’s a lot of good fun to be had here, especially in the game’s primary function: Shooting. Every weapon is fun to use, and the different ammo types allow you pull off some crazy kills. One weapon that stood out to me is the Wingstick. This boomerang-like melee weapon has provided ridiculous amounts of entertainment to me. Rarely have I experienced anything as satisfying as throwing a weapon, cutting an enemy’s head off, and having that weapon fly back to me to use again. Once you’ve killed an enemy, you can loot their body for anything from money, to parts that you can use to craft things like sentry bots, bandages, special ammo types, or various other gadgets you’ll use to help you achieve your goals. The icing on the cake would have to be the controls though. Aiming is tight and precise, and switching between your equipped weapons and ammo is smooth and doesn’t take you out of the fast paced moments of combat. Everything just feels right, save for the jump button which is mapped to “Y” (I played the game on the 360)
I said shooting was Rage’s primary function, its second being driving. Vehicles are fun to drive and make navigating the wasteland a blast. Vehicular combat also plays a large part in Rage, with plenty of upgrades and weapons to make sure that you’re always prepared for those pesky bandits that like to drive around different parts of the world. Once again, the controls are great and make driving fun to execute. I have yet to take this game online, but I’m sure it will be fun to race against real human beings that can present a better challenge than the game’s slightly too easy AI drivers.
If there’s one thing the game is lacking in, its story. I’ll be honest, the plot is pretty generic, “You are a survivor of the apocalypse, The Authority wants you, go find out why.” It’s not very compelling, but it doesn’t bother me all that much. I’m too caught up in taking down bandits and racing townsfolk to question it. I’m not expecting a story that stacks up against something like Metal Gear Solid, just let me have fun with the game, and I’ll be happy. That’s exactly what id has delivered with Rage. If you’re looking for a serious, realistic, shooting simulator, look elsewhere. If you just want to blast through some enemies with insane weapons and not take things too seriously, you’re going to have a hell of a time with Rage.
It may not be perfect, no game is, but I haven’t played a game in a long time that offers me what Rage offers: A chance to relax, pick up a controller and just have some fun, plain and simple. That’s exactly what I was hoping for, and it’s exactly what I’ve been given.