You'll be fuming.
As a self-touted AAA title, RAGE subsequently received the typical fanfare and media bravado which is predictably lavished upon any potential big hitter in the video games market. Unlike the abundance of multi-million-dollar big budget games however, RAGE entered the spotlight for one reason and one reason only; the studio behind it.
There are few studios which command as much respect, global acknowledgement and idolisation from a loyal fan base than the creators of this recent apocalyptic multi-platform FPS. Of course, I’m referring to the godfathers and inventors of the first person shooter genre itself, id Software.
Maybe you’ve heard of a certain title called Castle Wolfenstein 3D, or perhaps you’ve possibly heard of Doom? Maybe the title Quake rings a bell? Surely, you’ve become accustomed with the term ‘DeathMatch’? Simply put, unless you’ve somehow been in a state of embryonic solitude, it’s impossible not to recognise the monumental impact that id Software has had on the evolution of the gaming industry, especially the FPS genre.
Time’s A Changing
As is the way of life, nothing can stay the same forever. Looks begin to fade; life succumbs to death and King’s fall to the order of natural succession. There’s always fresh, new ambitious talent yearning to usurp their former heroes. As they say, the King is dead, long live the King.
It’s fair to say that id Software hasn’t exactly lived up to their illustrious reputation as of recent times. Quake 4 and Enemy Territory: Quake Wars didn’t meet the prestigious standards of id’s previous releases. Sadly, id’s latest current-gen offering, Rage, fails to rectify this unfortunate cycle.
One of the most appealing aspects of RAGE is its phenomenal visuals and pleasing art style. Remarkably, id Software has managed to create one of the finest looking shooters on the consoles, thanks to the clever in-house technology known as ‘MegaTexture’. Powered by id Tech 5, Rage utilises revolutionary texture streaming technology which allows fantastic, detailed textures to be rendered without compromising overall performance. The result is impressive, with large outside environments (an area that usually suffers from low texture quality) producing impressive detail, though the technology is far from perfect. In-door environments seem to be more susceptible to texture pop-in or the odd poorly rendered object, in-fact sometimes a texture can fail to load at all. Anti-aliasing is also lacking, resulting in some particularly unattractive jaggies.
RAGE is certainly one of the best looking games of this generation.
Overall, graphically, RAGE is an admirable technical achievement and certainly one of the best looking games of this generation though it fails to leave a truly lasting impression. As a consequence to the apocalyptic setting (tied only in popularity to zombies), the majority of the colour palette is muted browns, reds, blacks and greys. It harks back to the early nex-gen days, when consoles were in their infancy. Developers decided to bizarrely create a plethora of titles which constituted solely of an unimaginative colour set. Admittedly, it’s difficult to include a splash of vibrancy through the use of fresh vegetation for example; this is supposed to be an apocalyptic wasteland after all, though I found myself yearning for a change of scenery as you roam the countless dusty trails. The art style is rather catching, with inventive character attires and a satisfying sense of post-apocalyptic, forced progression.
Spin Me A Yarn
Story telling in video games has improved dramatically over the years, scaling unthinkable heights in recent times. Innovative, bold titles such as Heavy Rain, Mass Effect and Uncharted have set the standard. An unpredictable, well written story can be one of the most important tools when it comes to fully immersing a modern day gamer into a fantastical world. Gamers bond with the characters, they become determined to progress the story and eventually develop a true emotional attachment with the title itself. Even the blockbuster Call of Duty franchise provides the player with a roller coaster ride based on explosive, captivating story telling. So it’s almost criminal that RAGE has barely any story or memorable plot to speak of.
Maybe this is no surprise, considering the founder of id Software, John Carmack, once famously said that ‘Story in a game is like story in a porn movie. It’s expected to be there but it’s not important’. RAGE certainly has the glamour of a porn star, enticing compliments and interest through her pretty visuals, but as soon as she opens her mouth and begins to talk, it’s like someone running their nails down a chalk board. RAGE basically involves a voiceless stranger waking up to an apocalyptic wasteland which has consequently become inhabited by mutants and over run by bandits. After leaving the relative safety of your craft, you are saved by a kind stranger. You’re then transformed into a massive, glorified errand boy, which leads to the biggest criticism of RAGE itself.
The structure of the game is terribly boring. Tedious, monotonous, tiresome, call it what you will, no satisfaction can be gained from ‘Find me these parts’, ‘Thanks, now do this for me’, ‘Ok, good, go see him and he will tell you to do this’. There’s absolutely no feeling of choice, meaningful character interaction or reasoning behind your numerous tasks. However, the lack of story is but one factor which leaves the player cold.
If there’s one aspect that one could regard as id Software’s area of expertise, then it’ll probably be the actual shooting mechanics of an FPS. After all, id laid the foundations for all the popular, blockbuster franchises that exist in the market today. So, it’s a bound to be a bit of a no brainer that the shooting and gun mechanics will be solid right? Well, to be honest, they’re not.
Everything works as you’d expect, you line up your cross-hair and shoot the bad guys until they succumb to the will of your boom stick. It’s something that we’re all familiar with, in fact, something that maybe we’re too familiar with. Nowadays, games must strive to individualise, innovate and form their own identity. RAGE attempts to do this by providing the player with inventive ammo types and interesting weapons, but it’s never feels enough. This is mostly due to a combination of lacklustre sound effects and generic, forgettable enemies.
Are You Not Entertained!?
The guns sound ridiculously feeble which ultimately deters from the perception of power and the clear conscious decision made by the developer to focus on highlighting the weaponry. The same is applicable to the vehicle sound effects, with each press off the accelerator activating or deactivating a horrible engine audio sample. Conversely, environmental sound effects such as the flicker of abandoned fires and snarls of mutant enemies are recreated wonderfully with believable audio effects. The same can be said for the voice acting by the NPCs, with solid delivery throughout, though half the time they will just be assigning you another chore.
In regards to the enemies, pre-canned animation cycles and unimaginative design (mutants and bandits, wow) result in excruciatingly boring fire fights. Swarms of bandits and mutants mindlessly plough forward into your aim or fists, while other opponents camp behind cover. Bullet impacts feel detached, lacking any real conviction with the blood splatter the only indication you’ve tagged your enemy.
Boss battles are also included and they’re just as uninspiring as the rest of the enemies. Oversized enemies with big weapons and big health bars involve a bucket load of bullets to take down. There’s no real thought process involved, just whether you can survive their attacks and have enough bullets in the chamber.
So you’ve just bought an FPS, which means you’re naturally expecting an overwhelming amount of driving and vehicular combat! Wait, you weren’t? Well neither was I, but yet that is the grim reality that reared its ugly, petrol-fuelled head. Driving (if you can call it that) is a rather large part of the RAGE experience. Vehicles are used to quickly transverse the open environments, which obviously seemed like a reasonable design choice. The strange thing is that RAGE offers a hub world rather than a true sandbox, with each level type area usually requiring a load time, completely separated from the main world. The transition is jarring at times, emphasising the lack of continuity to the do-this-do-that gameplay.
Vehicles handle reasonably well, though the same can’t be said for the animation, often appearing as if the motions are stuck in fast forward rather than portraying a convincing sense of speed. In the end the result is a poor man’s version of Motorstorm, making driving neither exciting or engaging.
Vehicular combat is relatively simple and makes the drive across the dusty planes more bearable, provoking a Mad Max vibe. Upgrades can be earned to sup up your buggy of chaos; however, upgrades are earned by completing races such as time trials or battles. Once again this is an area which falls flat as RAGE isn’t a racer, nor is it a very good one.
So what are we left with? Well there’s a multiplayer component, though it consists of online competitive vehicular combat (yawn) and co-op. There’s collectables, plenty of looting to do, extra side missions, secrets to find and differentiating difficulty levels. Thus, RAGE will offer enough to warrant the entry price for admission.
RAGE is a title which frustrates. Flaws such as the need to enter the pause menu to save (you can’t rely on any auto-saves here) can result in hours of grinding lost; it’s not in console gamers nature to pause and save every two minutes. I found myself disinterested, longing for RAGE to grab me by the shoulders and shake things up. Unfortunately, I was presented with errand after errand, predictable gunplay and a constant dissatisfaction.
RAGE was reviewed on Xbox 360.
Unfortunately, this isn’t a ride worth taking. We’ve seen better and more successful attempts at RAGE’s formula. Borderlands and Fallout 3 offer far richer and more rewarding experiences. RAGE flatters to deceive, offering a solid but deeply flawed game simply due to the fact we’ve seen it all before and it’s been done better. Unacceptable admissions such as a complete desire to provide a worthy story line, uninspiring mechanics culminates in repetitive and generic gameplay; a deadly combination. It’s frustrating to find such startling, school boy errors from one of the world’s most respected developers, however, gaming has changed; it’s an industry which never stands still and where a developer is judged to be only as good as their last game. RAGE will satisfy some, however, in such a stagnated competitive market, the graphics alone aren’t enough to paper over the obvious cracks. Hopefully the old master of the FPS genre will have learnt a few important lessons. Maybe one day it can return to its currently, heavily occupied throne.