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Game Review: RAGE is the Salieri in a Season of Mozarts

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By: Stephen Crane

RAGE was released last week, and by rather popular demand I began playing the game for a review. In just under a week I've had quite a bit of play time with the game. Keep reading to find out my thoughts on the title!


Release Date: October 4

Released For: PC, Mac, Xbox360, PS3

System Played On: PC

Hour Played: 11

Single Player Progress: Completed

Single Player Thoughts: RAGE was published by two first person giants in the gaming industry: id and Bethesda Softworks. id, of course, brought us fantastic FPS games like Quake and Doom. Bethesda gave us The Elder Scrolls franchise. With both developers influencing each other, you would think RAGE would be a triumph in an open world with incredibly rich, often disturbing environments and a deep story. Unfortunately, despite having an obvious impact on each other, both studios couldn't produce a game that excelled in what it set out to be.

Let's get a few things cleared up about what RAGE is not. It's not a rich, open world where your decisions effect the plot. It isn't a deep RPG akin to Oblivion or Fallout 3, and I didn't expect it to be. The presentation seems like the game could be a more serious, realistic Borderlands but it really isn't that either.

Right off the bat you are treated to a beautiful, yet barren landscape. You have questions about who you are, why you are the only survivor, and exactly what happened, yet you meet up with Dan Hagar (wonderfully voiced by John Goodman) who picks you up, kills a few bandits, then gives you a gun and tells you to go kill a few yourself. Immersion was almost immediately broken as your silent character is treated like he has no questions, no agency, and should immediately know what is going on.

The game can be pretty fun at its basics. The developers did a fantastic job of emphasizing the need to conserve ammo right from the start, and the controls are incredibly tight. What really impressed me was the ability to shoot helmets off the bandits, or watching them recoil appropriately depending on whether or not you shot them in the leg or the shoulder.

There are a few blunders outside the core shooting, however. First and foremost, the graphics have been quite strained on the PC. It's obviously a driver issue, and it seems to hit AMD cards harder than NVIDIA. That being said, my NVIDIA card was still showing similar issues with framerates and textures taking too long to load. Anyone looking to purchase Rage for the PC needs to be aware of this issue. There are fixes, but they may take a while to figure out. A quick browse around YouTube will definitely help you.


 

Despite the work put into the physical landscapes in the game, they feel lacking in real personality. Everything is rendered beautifully (when rendered properly) but I didn't get to see the personality or the fun quirks in the game. Instead, it just felt like another quick shooter where the mechanics were obviously the focus, but the reason for us to use the mechanics felt rather broken. Why should I go on these missions and kill bandits? Boderlands gave us quirky humor to help move the story along. Fallout 3 gave us a deep story. RAGE gives us neither.

The "open world" in RAGE just felt like a way to pad out the time between missions. Occasionally I would get a twinge of excitement when I saw bandits and had to engage in a battle, but half the time you can just boost by them and they would be none the wiser.

The minigames are decent, fun time-wasters, however the racing felt like a mechanic that was forced into the game. Not too far into the plot the player must complete different races and different race types in order to progress in the story. You can't complete certain missions without certain vehicles or certain weapons, and the absolute only way to get those vehicles and the vehicles' weapons is to race. You never get the sense that the racing really moves the plot along or is integral at all to the whole of the game. I really feel like the racing would have bee much better as a completely optional sidequest instead of the mandatory feature it became early in the game.

Each mechanic is pretty fun on its own. Nothing is done poorly, however nothing really stands out as being memorable either. It's a fun, entertaining shooter with not half bad race and vehicular combat mechanics. Unfortunately, it never felt like it went deeper than that to create a definitive experience for the player.

Multiplayer Progress: Reached level 5

Multiplayer Thoughts: Gamers have only two options for multiplayer in RAGE: Co-Op, or a series of race/vehicular combat gameplay types. The co-op is done nicely so you don't interfere with each others' games and you do feel like you're progressing.

The racing/vehicular combat gameplay is exciting, challenging, and has a level progression system and garage to add to the customization. Like almost all multiplayer modes these days the level progression provides unlockable weapons and vehicles as you go along. Unfortunately, unlike other games, the multiplayer doesn't feel completely balanced at early levels. If you encounter someone who already has a few levels ahead of you, it's almost guaranteed you will get trounced. It may just be that I was horrible at the game, but I still couldn't shake the feeling that my weaponry was tremendously underpowered.

Competitive multiplayer is also completely inside the car. There's no chance to use any of the first person perspective you learned to use in the single player. It's unfortunate because some of the single player weapons were pretty inventive and interesting. It would have been fun to use those in a competitive setting. Instead, we are trapped in the racing game which, while pretty exciting, isn't really enough to make for a unique experience. You can get a similar and more specialized experience playing Twisted Metal.

Overall Thoughts: I want to stress: RAGE is not a bad game. Not by any means. It is beautifully rendered, although sometimes the aesthetics do fall short despite the polygon count being for the most part beautiful. I had a few logistical questions like why the Wasters spoke in Cockney accents, or why the currency was still United States legal tender. I never felt like the game went anywhere other than the surface. It never reached the potential it had and instead settled for being just an average game.

Recommendations: In a season with so many outstanding games that have either already come out or are about to come out, it's tough to recommend the game. It is the Salieri in a season surrounded by so many Amadeus Mozarts. It suffers from being all around mediocre instead of just good at one simple, core mechanic. I would recommend renting the game first, then deciding if you like it enough to buy. It's good enough that it's not worth ignoring out of hand, but not good enough to be worth immediate purchase by everyone.


 

About Stephen Crane

Stephen was hooked by the NES at a very young age and never looked back. He games on a daily basis and is currently trying to climb his way up the ranked ladder on League of Legends! Outside of the video game world he actually likes running and owns a rapidly growing collection of toed shoes. Stephen Crane is the owner of Armed Gamer.

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