After a five year hiatus, id Software is back with another graphic
card-straining, groundbreaking shooter. Is Rage
a game of the year
contender, or have we somehow spun our wheels through this wasteland
experience before?


Cautions

Blood and violence abound in Rage,
but despite the occasional headshot
decapitation and oogy mutant mess, the game never revels in spurting
gibs. Even foul language is understated; apart from Subway City's
usually taciturn standaround NPC Clint finally dropping the F-Bomb on
the Authority, I can't recall another instance of obscenity. With a
family history of video game violence headlines, Rage's
lack of
stomach-churning gore and vulgarity is almost a disappointment.


Gameplay - 90 / 100

One of the crowning glories of Rage
is in the pacing of weapons and
ammo. The game does a good job of offering players the right tools for
the job, and teaching the virtues and vices of each weapon and
ammunition type. And weapons and ammo there are a-plenty: from
mind-control crossbow bolts (maneuver your target close to other
enemies before he or she explodes - "a party favorite") to C4 rigged RC
cars and a nice late-game tribute to Doom's
BFG9000. The chainsaw was
conspicuously absent, but id has to save something for Doom
4
.


href="http://www.tentonhammer.com/node/196877"> style="border: 0px solid ; width: 600px; height: 398px;"
src="http://www.tentonhammer.com/image/view/196877"
alt="rage first person shooter review">



Rage
is, at its core, a retro shooter, spurning magnetic cover systems,
a convincing stealth system, headhunting ammo, and other namby pamby
niceties common in today's shooters. The closest Rage
gets to true
innovation in the gameplay department is in enemy AI and behavior. The
wasteland has a talent for breeding melee mobs adept at dodging
gunfire, and more than once I marvelled at the mutants and bandits
repertoire of parkour moves. Enemies leapt to overhead pipes, ran up
the side of walls, somersaulted, tumbled, and otherwise evaded my
shotgun shuffle and scored a few whacks to my face with regularity.



In an era of hard-charging zombie villains, Rage
brought a pissed-off
Cirque du Soleil cast, complete with flaming spiked baseball bats.
Ranged enemies, on the other hand, will sometimes withdraw to stronger
cover, but more often act nearsighted, exposing their noggins for an
easy headshot or standing inexplicably still. The only real
negative in the core gameplay is the arena wave battle feel of enemy
encounters. While it's not the rote room-by-room cover and kill now en
vogue across the shooter genre, Rage
does play a little too much to its
acrobatic AI strengths and resorts to simply bum-rushing the player a
shade too often. That said, there's plenty of story twists and map
cleverness to help me overlook the occasionally tiresome sequence of
tripwire spawns.



Rage
also offers a comprehensive vehicle travel and combat system
complete with its own racing circuits. Players can acquire four vehicle
classes of increasing toughness and weapons variety, and can race (or
hunt bandits) to buy better modules like engines, boosters, tires
(including spiked tires), and more. The switch from behind the wheel to
boots on the ground is seamless and puts me in mind of games like
FarCry
or what I hoped Auto Assault
might be.


href="http://www.tentonhammer.com/node/196887"> style="border: 0px solid ; width: 600px; height: 375px;"
src="http://www.tentonhammer.com/image/view/196887"
alt="rage first person shooter review">

Vehicle Combat



In addition to the racing circuit, Rage
offers minigames in spades. A
card dueling game, a dice game called Tombstones, a memory game called
Strum, even a rehash of the Five Finger Filet from Red
Dead Redemption
.
Even death offers a second chance minigame - if the two electrodes are
stopped when they intersect, the player regains more health and
electrocutes nearby enemies. Each but the last has Steam achievements
tied to it, and offers a fairly reliable source of money. Also
available are vehicle-based Stanley Express missions to deliver
packages to a number of drop boxes in a set time, a demented TV game
show called Mutant Bash TV, and job board postings that require a
second clear of game areas or much more enjoyable sniper cover missions.



Storywise, however, the game's veneer is rather thin, which is to be
expected from anything in the FPS genre.  The game reached its
emotive climax about halfway through, for me, and the end sequence was
disappointingly short after an exceptionally long run-up. 
Still, as a shooter with RPG tendencies, Rage
keeps players busy and,
in the end, more than satisfies.  


href="http://www.tentonhammer.com/node/196883"> style="border: 0px solid ; width: 600px; height: 400px;"
src="http://www.tentonhammer.com/image/view/196883"
alt="rage first person shooter review">

Mutant Bash TV

Graphics - 82 / 100

id Tech 5 features top-of-the-line graphics rendering and, on the
backend, what we're told is revolutionary approach to system resource
management and texture loading. The short, non-technical explanation is
that Rage
is supposed to be better than any game before it at guessing
how eye-popping a visual experience your rig can handle, and delivering
that experience without lengthy load screens or the need to tweak
advanced settings.



That was the plan, anyway. In reality, a combination of AMD driver
gotchas and bugs made the game essentially unplayable for a large
percentage of the PC install base until the weekend after launch. AMD
came out with a href="http://support.amd.com/us/kbarticles/Pages/GPU121AMDCatRagePerfDriver.aspx">Rage
Performance Driver hotfix for
sluggish framerates
two days after the October 2nd launch, and id Software followed suit
this weekend with an href="http://store.steampowered.com/news/6464/">extensive
patch that exposed many graphics
settings and fixed issues like artifacts and screen tearing.
style="width: 400px; text-align: left; margin-left: auto; margin-right: auto;"
border="0" cellpadding="8" cellspacing="2">
href="http://www.tentonhammer.com/node/196874"> style="border: 0px solid ; width: 279px; height: 277px;"
src="http://www.tentonhammer.com/image/view/196874"
alt="rage first person shooter review">


href="http://www.tentonhammer.com/node/196875"> style="border: 0px solid ; width: 300px; height: 277px;"
src="http://www.tentonhammer.com/image/view/196875"
alt="rage first person shooter review">




On the plus side, once you're patched up, Rage
is a gorgeous game,
enlivening the sterile climes of a post-apocalyptic wasteland like no
other game before . I loaded up Fallout
New Vegas
just for comparison's
sake, and its absolutely astounding how much difference one year and a
whole new engine makes. Most of what you can see in Rage,
you can
explore, and you'll want to explore, given the collection, crafting,
and side mission hooks (not to mention the sheer joy of roaring through
the wasteland in your Mad Max-mobile).



While the wasteland environments were pleasingly terrifying at every
turn, the unsung hero on the art team might be the character model
artists animators. Rage
constantly surprised me with the level of
detail, style, and (I daresay) personality of both NPCs and enemies.
Though Rage seldom scaled up the size of enemies, those few encounters
were memorable. I can't recall a game that more convincingly matched
lips and facial expressions to spoken dialogue.



Driver issues shouldn't take away from what's assuredly the best
looking FPS title of the year, but first impressions count for a lot.
Our early pain with Rage
is detailed in a href="http://www.tentonhammer.com/reloading/2011/october/6">recent
edition of Ten Ton Hammer's
newsletter, so I won't belabor
the point here. It's a shame that a game
with astounding level of detail and view range has to suffer a point
drop for an issue that should have been caught early in QA, but we
(with some chagrin) review games as they launch.


href="http://www.tentonhammer.com/node/196885"> style="border: 0px solid ; width: 600px; height: 375px;"
src="http://www.tentonhammer.com/image/view/196885"
alt="rage first person shooter review">

Sound - 95 / 100

The sound design mirrors the quality of the rest of the game; it's top
notch. In one particularly memorable area, the voices of a particularly
nasty Mayan-esque bandit group echo off the walls of the canyon,
creating constant unrest as I wound through tight passages. Nearly
everything has a contextualized sound effect, from the pop-ting of the
toaster you collect as vendor junk to the loading servos on the
Authority machine gun.



The soundtrack features composer Rod Abernethy (Dead
Space
, Alpha
Protocol
), and is a clever
blend of musical styles - from techno to
tribal to twangy southwestern to Wagnerian to, interestingly, the
drifting koto riffs in the Japanophile supply girl's shop- which never
fails to create an appropriate layer of tension or immersion. 
The game fell short of anything anthemic from the arcadey splash screen
to the ending credits. Still, the sound design and music pushed the
boundaries and complimented the game very well.


Multiplayer - 77 / 100

Players can rage through two multiplayer modes, the vehicle
race-and-rally centered Road Rage, and a series of co-op scenarios
called Legends of the Wasteland. While both modes feature their own
lightweight progression systems (entirely separate from the campaign)
and Steam achievements, the maps are almost entirely recycled from the
single-player campaign.



Legends matches put players in the shoes of NPCs they've encountered
along the way and features a little voiceover narration at key
junctures, offering tongue-in-cheek backstory to the campaign. Playing
to the next level unlocks the next Legends scenario (there are 5 in
total), and the session length is a comfortable 10-15 minutes. That
said, the layout is so similar to the campaign version in the maps I've
played that you're advised to save yourself some spoilers and play
through the game once before tackling Legends of the Wasteland.


href="http://www.tentonhammer.com/node/196886"> style="border: 0px solid ; width: 600px; height: 375px;"
src="http://www.tentonhammer.com/image/view/196886"
alt="rage first person shooter review">

Tombstones minigame



If you're as enthused about vehicle combat as I was, Road Rage has
slightly more to offer. Five unlockable vehicle classes (compared to
the four in campaign) plus a bevy of weapons like cluster bombs and
nailguns that aren't available in single-player mode. The competition
is a lot stiffer than I encountered in campaign mode; all races are
rallys (first to checkpoint scores, with smaller point values for
kills), a mode that's more difficult than all out racing. If you like
the taste of racing you get in the campaign, Road Rage will be your
kind of multiplayer.

Value - 70 / 100

The $US 59.99 price point at launch is consistent with top-tier
shooters like the Call of Duty
and Crysis
series, and happily Rage
mirrors the latter more than the former in terms of gameplay variety
and campaign length. My first campaign playthrough clocked in at
roughly 15 hours. That's a healthy amount of time, and admittedly more
than the dozen hour sessions other press sites are reporting, but I
have a thing for completing racing circuits and messing around with
minigames.  Better yet, very little of that time was wasted in
the open-world FPS bugaboo of  needless travel and
backtracking through completed maps.



As pleased as I am with the campaign, I felt short-changed on
multiplayer.  Rage
is most commonly compared to Borderlands,
due of course to the setting but also due to the graphics style, which
is a cross between a comic-book like "cell shaded" look and the
"idealized realism" so common in franchise video games. Yet Rage
is a
step backward in terms of multiplayer, offering none of the drop-in
cooperative play that made Borderlands
revolutionary and lacks a
competitive PvP mode. What we're left with is a mostly rehashed take on
aspects of the single player campaign with the lightweight progression
system described above.


href="http://www.tentonhammer.com/node/196884"> style="border: 0px solid ; width: 600px; height: 375px;"
src="http://www.tentonhammer.com/image/view/196884"
alt="rage first person shooter review">

Lasting Appeal - 70 / 100

Rage
is a lot of game, and what's more, it's a solid platform in tech,
tale, and style to iterate upon, and I'm not just looking ahead to Doom
4
.  id Software and
Bethesday weren't  vampiric with
Rage's
DLC program as, say, Gears of
War 3
and its encrypted DLCs on
the disk, so there's likely to be a sizable market eager for Rage
DLC
and, of course, the entirely possible sequel.



That said, Rage
didn't leave many loose ends in its story aside from
the big one: a rather sizable sequel hook in the main story. I left no
feltrite crystal unturned in my first playthrough of an already rather
long campaign, so despite my enjoyment of post-apocalyptic vehicle
combat, there's just not enough in multiplayer or campaign to keep me
coming back. I'm glad I played it, but barring a DLC with real buzz I'm
done. Until Rage 2.


Pros and Cons

Pros:
  • Brilliant
    AI and animation
    has enemies shuffling when in my sights, shifting their angles of
    attack when charging,
  • Vehicle
    combat is
    unexpectedly satisfying and engaging.
  • Solid
    progression and RPG
    hooks- Rage
    introduces new enemy types with powerful new weapons, along
    with plenty of "job board" side missions, minigames, collection, and
    crafting.

Cons:

  • While
    it's not the Gates of
    Hell appearing on the surface of Mars, the last few story missions felt
    underbaked, missing staples like a story twist, memorable boss
    encounters, and even a gratifying cinematic.
  • No
    co-op campaign, and
    multiplayer maps are almost wholly recycled from the single-player
    campaign.
  • No
    multiplayer deathmatch or
    competitive PvP.
href="http://www.tentonhammer.com/node/196873"> style="border: 0px solid ; width: 600px; height: 398px;"
src="http://www.tentonhammer.com/image/view/196873"
alt="rage first person shooter review">

RC carbomb under my control

Conclusion

While not quite a must-play title or game of the year contender, Rage
hearkens back to the glory days of 3D shooters. Long on the mix of raw
fun and terror - hallmarks of the light FPS - and gameplay
variety yet short on story and multiplayer, Rage
has already come a
long way with patches and could go much farther with DLCs.


Overall 82/100 - Good

Metacritic
Last Updated: Mar 13, 2016

About The Author

Jeff
Jeff's interest in online games stretches back to organizing neighborhood Unreal tournaments as a teenager, but when a college roommate introduced him to EverQuest, an interest became an obsession. Jeff joined the Ten Ton Hammer team in 2004 covering EverQuest II, and he's had his hands on just about every PC online and multiplayer game since.

Comments