Over the last few days I have had RAGE for the Xbox 360 in my possession. RAGE is ID Software’s latest offering within the first person shooter genre and it has a hell of a legacy to live up to. ID Software, in case you didn’t know, were the masterminds behind Wolfenstein 3D and the Doom & Quake franchises. This legacy of outstanding games increased the anticipation (and expectations) for RAGE way beyond what we would normally see. Needless to say that when the game arrived I was pumped to finally get my hands on it.
That excitement didn’t fade as I loaded the game up and jumped into the Wasteland for the first time either. The story quickly unfolds as you find yourself in a sealed chamber that has suffered “outside disturbance” along with half a dozen or so other people, who I now presume were government officials and/or military personnel. A meteor had crashed into earth so you and your colleagues were placed in a quarantined state to ensure that the human race can live on. The problem is, they didn’t live. You were the only survivor. The meteor had damaged all the incubators except yours.
A post-apocalyptic setting in a video game? OK, so it’s hardly original but we’ll see where they’re going with it! Fast forward 10-15 minutes (depending on your level of curiosity) and we discover that we are not alone after all. There is still some civilization. Not much, but some. They don’t take to kindly to you either, attempting to attack you on sight (so that’s where they’re going with it!). Eventually you’re saved by a mystery gunman who wastes little time in giving you your first objective as a way for you to repay him for saving your butt. And with that, suddenly you are off into the Wastelands. Unfortunately that’s pretty much the storyline. There really isn’t too much to it, despite ID promising that they would focus a lot more on the storyline in this title. But does that make it a bad game?
No. Not a chance. Something else had swept me off my feet before my savior had even shown up – the graphics! I had honestly never previously seen graphics this detailed before, everything in your field of vision seems to have been lovingly crafted by artists of the highest caliber. My initial exchange with our gunman is still vivid as I struggled to focus on what he was actually saying due to my fixation on his stunning facial expressions and detailed character animation.
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The environment hasn’t been overlooked either (as you would expect from a production company with such pedigree). Light bounces off buildings correctly, textures of roads change accordingly, as opposed to being a big block of grey with the occasional white line and dust flies up as you drive across the desert in a highly realistic manner. It’s magnificent. For such a large world the minor details have been well observed.
RAGE is a sandbox game, so you aren’t tied down to one objective at a time or any objectives at all for that matter. You can go where you please, when you please. I love to roam and explore game worlds, as I mentioned in my review of Arkham City, so this really did put a smile on my face. The only concern I have here is that while the game is sandbox there is very little to do away from the main storyline. That, in addition to the repetitive nature of the missions, can lead to a tedious grind as you struggle for progression after half a day’s gameplay.
RAGE’s saving grace, however, was the fact that I could decorate the floor with various organs belonging to my foes, adding my own brand of art to the environment. You can admire the views offered within the Wastelands as much as you like, but if you cannot appreciate the pure artistry of a bullet ripping through flesh (without sounding too psychotic!) then this really isn’t the game (or genre) for you. You can feel the impact after every shot which helps lead to a solid state of immersion during prolonged combat. The game does require quick reactions, as you may well expect, due to the amount of things that literally jump out at you. Taking them down before they get in melee range is essential.
The only real rest bite you’ll receive from chaotic firefights is when you jump in a vehicle and abuse that military driving training you received, but don’t expect the game to turn into Forza. There are still bombs, crashes and guns but this time it’s at speeds upwards of 50 miles per hour. You’ll be challenged to races, asked to hunt down targets and play courier at various points within the game, all of which sets you up nicely for the online multiplayer side of things.
Currently (and I say that with plenty of emphasis and much hope) the only game modes available are vehicle based races and combat and co-op missions. No head to head FPS combat. This is a huge let down! While both modes kept me entertained for a good five hours or so, eventually they were wearing thin. The co-op missions seem to be about nothing but high-scores and when combined with the sheer amount of people who just don’t stick it out and finish the game, it becomes too frustrating to even consider adding to my catalog of ‘regular’ online games. The racing is fun and different but I would honestly rather play Mario Cart 64 with my buddies, it has no real lock in value for me.
ID Software really missed a trick here. For many FPS gamers it is the online mode that is the “big one”. The offline campaign is just something to do when your friends aren’t online or the servers are down, assuming you played through it prior to going online in the first place – using the campaign as a lengthy tutorial, something I live by to average success.
With that in mind I have to conclude that this game offers very little once you have completed it once. There is nothing from the storyline that left me feeling like I had to go back and complete, and as previously mentioned the online gameplay hasn’t left me with withdrawal symptoms either. RAGE itself was entertaining while it lasted though, and if you ignore the mundane aspects and focus on the fast paced action then you’ll have a whale of a time.
RAGE’s graphics have left the biggest impression on me though. As I loaded up various other games in my collection this evening I did miss that level of detail, I found myself subconsciously picking up flaws in the graphics. I believe that ID Software has raised the benchmark for graphics substantially with RAGE and that the entire industry will benefit from its development. If they could just cough up a DLC package with a team deathmatch mode then it could truly take its place up there with the big boys. Until then it’s just a pretty blonde with not really much else going for it.