If you know games, you’ll know the name John Carmack. Having effectively invented the first-person shooter genre with Catacomb 3D in 1991, he went on to create legendary, epoch-defining games such as Doom, Castle Wolfenstein and Quake that will forever be classics of their kind. RAGE, however, has been a product long in the works, and does not strictly stay to narrow, FPS action, but makes a foray into the sandbox genre.
Firstly, there are many similarities to be seen to 2009’s Borderlands: it’s a post-apocalyptic shooter in an open sandy wasteland, with crazed bandits and mutants and Mad Max-style vehicles, but RAGE does not pride itself on originality. Instead, it grasps the bare necessities of a shooter and a sandbox game, and aims to perfect them, and in many ways it succeeds.
Action feels visceral and excellently paced, custom gadgets such as deployable sentry bots and exploding remote control cars contribute to the gunplay perfectly and naturally, and the game has one of the best engines I have ever seen, looking absolutely stunning in HD with a silky smooth framerate. It also does not carry the FPS curse of brevity, sporting a 15-20 hour campaign that takes the player through a great variety of destroyed cities, sewers, desert landscapes and subway tunnels.
There are, on the other hand, plenty of issues elsewhere to be aware of. Albeit an open world, exploring the wasteland is both incredibly difficult (bizarrely, there is no in-game map) and pointless, with most areas only being opened up during an appropriate mission. Many of its features which lean towards an RPG influence, such as side missions, have no merit whatsoever considering a lack of levelling or character customisation, and are themselves not a great deal of fun.
With that said, there are times where RAGE really comes into its own, such as the buggy death racing, and although there is a lack of any compelling plot (perhaps just as well, as not many stories could justify such quantities of violence without being preposterous) characters are very well voiced and each given unique flair, on top of having outstandingly convincing facial animation.
Additional credit must be given to the AI programming of the game, as enemies flinch and cower and bullets fly over their shoulder, vault over fences in total fluid movement, and charge at you in desperation when they feel they have lost, creating a vivid combat experience like nothing seen before.
It could be said that RAGE is more of a technical achievement than anything, and for sure many of its nuances will become part of the gold-standard for shooters, but provided you don’t expect the world of it, the game is a lot of fun. It might not be the most original title on the market, but it at least provides the appropriate amount of bang for its buck.
Published by: Bethesda Studios
Developed by: id Software
Available On: Xbox 360, PS3, PC