A great deal of time has passed since we witnessed the intellect of John Carmack gracing our computer screens. The innovators behind such classics as Quake and Doom, id Software rise again to bring forth their latest creation since Doom 3. Rage is an apocalyptic tale of humanities struggle to survive an insurmountable force hellbent on reshaping the earth into a “Wasteland” of human refuge. As a planned survivor of the asteroid that wipes out most life on the planet, you begin your journey as the sole progenitor of your Ark, and proceed to free various towns from the reigns of the “Authority.” Throughout this adventure you will take on various tasks that require a point-to-point adventure in your vehicle of choice in order to arrive at and complete your objectives. Sporting brand new technology held inside id Tech 5, we are treated to a pleasant canvas of environments, stock full of items, sounds and people that give the game a unique spin from past id projects.
While you progress through the campaign you interact with a variety of worlds and characters that help build the believability of the environment you tread. Engrossed with fear and uncertainty for the way of life they have created, many ask for and sometimes demand your services in order to resolve their problems. As you continue through the story, you have plenty of opportunity to learn about the various factions that remain on the planet. Most of the factions have strengths and weaknesses that play into the thematics of the environment and require a bit of impromptu decision making in order to take them on most effectively. As you continue to complete your objectives the towns people will grow more akin to your presence and proceed to divulge more information that can be useful to understanding your enemies throughout the game. Many of the key people you interact with provide compelling dialogue that helps add to the fiction of the universe, however unnecessary the interaction may be beyond the core story arcs. The only flaw I found in this system, is when too many NPCs where contained in close proximity. This caused multiple dialogues to start at the same time, and made it difficult to follow along with both groups. If you moved outside the range of the character by accident, the audio would cut off, and you would lose the ability to playback that bit of information. HOwever the game manages to provides a variety of personalities to behold in the game, from the old and wise to the cautious and benign. Plenty of NPC types exist in the city hubs to interact with, mostly consisting of side missions that provide bonus items and upgrades that can help you progress along the main story. From killing bandits in the wasteland for cash, to racing at the speedways to gain vehicle upgrades, there are enough things to do beyond the central campaign to keep you preoccupied for a few hours. The towns people differ a great deal from place to place, and generally fall in line with the environment they are contained in. From a steampunk western inspired “Wellspring” to cyberpunk futurists in “Subway City” each area provides appropriate settlesments for a post-apocalyptic world.
A large portion of the open world aspects of Rage mostly consist of driving through the Wasteland, which comes in the flavors of desert, and asteroid infused canyons. These locations are extremely sparse, and spatter in some key visual information to the world beyond the canyon walls. Most of the game will see you fighting your way through instanced based sections of the world in order to help eliminate infestations of bandits wreaking havoc on the roads, or taking a trip through the “Dead City” in order to bring back some key evidence to understand the existence of the “Mutants.” These instances are the most diverse portion of the level design and take advantage of the characteristics of the factions that inhabit them, and set the general tone for how the combat will take place. Most of these worlds are Bandit controlled territories that range from tribal brutality to engineering mayhem. The Authority provides the futuristic high tech sleekness that adds a modernistic contrast that blends well with the totalitarian reign they impart. All of this leads to the genious of id Software’s roots, that take full effect by providing a top notch FPS experience, that has graced their games in the past. While the levels are certainly more linear than one might expect for a modern shooter, they take full advantage of the space created. Limited RPG mechanics shine through the most here, as you collect various items and engineer parts on the fly that will assist you in completing your objectives. While most will find this a refresing course to the monotony of the Wasteland, it was all too easy to exploit the environment in order to defeat even the largest and toughest enemies placed within the game.
Even though enemies were easily exploitable, the combat systems employed in Rage work really well to sell the overall interaction between you and your foes. Enemies will take full advantage of the environment around them in thier pursuit to end your life. The fluidity of the animations as the characters run, climb, and crawl throughout the world make for an incredible combat experience that adds vareity and interest to an otherwise typical first person based system. Enemies will jump over objects, fling off of bars and flank off of walls from many angles, that keeps you on your toes, and leery of any areas within the level. Compared to most games where enemies awkwardly flop to their death, Rage increases the creedence of the weapons impact by creating an impercitible blend of animation from running to bullet impact, as enemies lose their balance, or get blown back. Whether you are dismantling body parts with shotguns, or getting precise with rifles, and snipers, every weapon seems to offer its own impact on the enemies. Combine that with the other items you can use such as grenades, sentry bots, and wingsticks, and you can become quite the effective soldier, blowing through enemies like kids with candy. The combat is not all sunshine and rainbows however, with some aspects of the RPG mechanics weighing down on an otherwise perfect combat system. Due to your body being infused with “Nanotrites” that help keep you alive, you can apply enhancement items, such as increased weapon damage, that makes it even easier to kill stronger enemies. These nanotrites also heal you over a set period of time, however if you do manage to get knocked down, your person also comes with a defibrilation unit that enables a little minigame which happens to shock any nearby enemies if you are successful while reviving you to life. This takes away form the combat a little too much and makes for a far less challenging game than it could have been.
The ending of the game provides little closure to the story and the rest of the inhabitants of the Wasteland. The story provides considerable build to the “climactic” finish as you take the fight to the Authority, which was perceived to be an all powerful faction that could work you over easily. The end came, and went, and I was left bewildered, that the game didn’t continue beyond. It felt as if the developers ran out of time to continue building the story out, and had to concieve a quick patch as a tie-in to a possible sequel. There was so much effort placed into the visuals of the game, that the story appeared to be left to ponder its own conclusions. Beyond the ending of the game, there really isn’t much else to do in Rage. Once the game ends, you can not go back to the world to finish any other side missions and tasks that you might have wanted to do. You will either need to keep an abundance of saves to back track and work off of, or start a whole new game. This obviously won’t sit well for those 100% completionist types that like to do everything they can on a single save. Luckily for most of us though, the importance of those side tasks are not required to complete the remainder of the game. Multiplayer seems to be tacked on at the end, and doesn’t really provide enough value to become a staple of Rages’ existence. The multiplayer focuses on the driving aspects of the game, and offers a coop mode if you want to play with a friend, however their is no apparent deathmatch option. This is a bizarre choice for a company that has created some of the most compelling shooters of our time, namely Quake III Arena. While this is not a game breaking experience, it would have been nice to see a more robust multiplayer system placed in the game.
Despite graphical mishaps at the launch of Rages’ existence, we are provided with a varied world of characters and environments that helps push the limits of what id Software is capable of. The combat systems and character interaction far outweight the genericism of the RPG mechanics, and help to sell the world of the Wasteland. Rage marries long standing FPS controls with a imperceptible amount of RPG elements, that tangentially rides the line between fun and tedious. id has provided a strong foundation to build upon in order to help advance the aging FPS shooter market into a new era.