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Posted by Chris Scott Barr on Oct 4, 2011

Review – RAGE (Xbox 360)

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Product Information

MSRP: $59.99
Publisher: Bethesda Developer: id
Platform: Xbox 360/PS3/PC Rating: M for Mature
Genre: Action/FPS/RPG

id is a company well-known for both Doom and Quake. In many ways they are responsible for creating the first person shooter that we know and love today. We haven’t seen a lot out of the company since the release of Doom 3 way back in 2004 (although Doom 4 is currently in production). Today the company launched their latest title, RAGE, which takes a somewhat different approach than we’ve seen from the company in the past.

Story

Roughly a hundred years prior to the game an asteroid impacted the Earth, causing massive destruction and killing off a large portion of the population. In an effort to ensure that humanity survives, groups of people were placed into “arks” where they were kept in stasis. These are no ordinary humans though, as they have been injected with Nanotrites that help their bodies adapt to the hibernation. As a side effect, it seems to have enhanced their natural abilities.

Your character awakes when their ark has been disturbed, and goes outside to find a barren wasteland. No sooner do you step out into the sunlight than you are attacked by bandits, and subsequently rescued by a passerby. Your savior takes you back to town, and informs you that a group known as the Authority pays a high price for ark survivors such as you. He then sets you off to first kill the rest of the bandits that attacked you, and then to complete a number of tasks.

Get used to doing tasks for people, as you’re going to find it to be a recurring theme. At first, I was a little bothered by the fact that I was spending the majority of my time running errands and such. However, when you’re a man from the past with no real place in the world, what else are you going to do? At least when you’re helping people, you have a purpose in life. And who knows? Maybe it will lead you to a greater cause.

When playing a game that is primarily a shooter, you tend to encounter NPCs that are stale and unemotional. I think that’s one of the things that surprised me the most about RAGE. Not only did they get some good talent for the voice acting (John Goodman lends his voice to one of the first major characters you meet), but some of the character details are spot-on. Their movements aren’t jerky or stiff. When a game can incorporate believable body language into their conversations, it gets some good points in my book.

Combat

Having an enjoyable chat with the mayor is nice and all, but since this game is a shooter, most people are going to be more concerned about the enemy AI. This is definitely an area where id’s years in the FPS market shines. Almost never will you encounter an enemy that just stands there and shoots you (unless they’re wearing enough armor that they can get away with it). No, these guys will advance on you until you return fire, then drop back and find cover. One person falls on the front line, then someone from the back comes up to take their spot. Once you kill enough of them, the last ones might decide to double-back and regroup with some others. Not all of them are content to sit back and shoot, either. You’ll encounter plenty of enemies that prefer melee attacks, and they can be more deadly than their ranged counterparts. Quick and agile, these fighters will jump off of walls and perform acrobatic flips to not only dodge your fire, but to get close enough to inflict massive damage. It’s enough to keep you constantly on your toes, and checking your back.

With these intelligent enemies, you’ll need firepower to take them down. This is where my first real frustration came out. For the first mission you’re handed a pistol and told to go take down a group of bandits. When you get to their hideout, it becomes apparent that they have nicer guns than you. Naturally, I’m thinking that I’ll just take out a group, then snatch a gun and step up my killing a bit. Wrong. No matter what weapon they have, it will disappear a few seconds after they fall, with no chance to pick it up. The only way you can get a new weapon is to get it as part of a mission, buy it, or happen upon it in a secret area. It’s hard to complain about “realism” in a post-apocalyptic game, but when I see a gun fall to the ground, I really would like to be able to pick it up.

Guns aren’t your only means of taking down the bad guys. The wingstick will be a good friend once you master it. Think of it as a very deadly boomerang. You’ll throw it, hit an enemy, and it will fly back into your hand, most of the time. If you miss and it hits a wall, it might come back, or it might just shatter. Other times it will just stick right into your victim, and you may or may not get it back. But it can be invaluable if you’re using a rifle, and then someone jumps out right in front of you. Rather than trying to spray them and getting hit in the process, you can hit your left bumper and lodge one of these right in their head. That will stop most of them right in their tracks…permanently.

The game has a nice little crafting element, which I tend to enjoy. It doesn’t go over the top or anything, though. You’ll pick up components that are lying scattered around most areas. Schematics are given to you during quests, or purchased from vendors. There aren’t a ton of them, but you’ll be able to make alternative ammo for your guns, EMP grenades, explosive R/C cars, bandages, and more.

Driving

When you’re not walking around shooting people, you’re driving. This may actually be my favorite part of the game. Not because the combat is sub-par, but because driving can be so much fun. You have a few different vehicles that you’ll drive, from a 4-wheel ATV up to a heavily-armored car. Over time you’ll be able to add weapons, as well as upgrade the armor and engine. These are necessary for taking down the bandits you encounter while driving through the wastelands. You’ll get money for taking down groups of them in different areas, so you’ll want to invest in the extra gear for your car.

Now if you want to upgrade your vehicle, you can’t just walk up to a vendor with cash. You’ll need to earn racing tickets. As their name implies, you’re going to need to win races to earn them. There are several different types of races to compete in. You’ll have time trials by yourself, standard races, and rocket races. The last ones are much like the standard races, but this time everyone has homing rockets, which adds to the excitement. The final type of race is probably my favorite. It’s a rally race in which a series of waypoints will appear in a specific pattern. You’ll be racing to each waypoint, as the first person there will get the points for it. Every time one waypoint is taken, another will appear. The race will continue until the first person accumulates 50 points.

Multiplayer

You’ll be able to compete with your friends in the races mentioned above, which is a lot of fun. In fact, my only complaint is that there aren’t enough tracks and game modes. If id took the racing from this game and fleshed it out into a standalone game (with the appropriate amount of content to justify a full title) then I would buy it in a heartbeat.

The other multiplayer mode is rather interesting. Instead of running co-op through the storyline, or having a deathmatch mode (which is surprising, given id’s history), you will play through a series of special co-op missions. These missions each tell a backstory that makes other elements in the game make a little more sense. They’re fun to run with a friend, though I am still a bit disappointed that we don’t get to duke it out head-to-head with our friends.

Conclusion

I’ll briefly touch on the visuals, as this game is beautiful. You are in a post-apocalyptic world, so you are still going to see a lot of grays. However, there is a much more diverse color palette to be seen than in some other similarly-themed titles. Seriously, take a moment to look up at the sky while you’re driving sometime, it really is beautiful. It also runs at 60fps on the 360, which makes a huge difference when compared to most other games only running at half the rate.

So how much time are you going to spend playing through the singleplayer story? Obviously that’s going to depend on your difficulty setting, and whether or not you choose to take part in the side quests and such. I’d say if you’re playing at the proper difficulty level for your experience, and you are doing the side quests (because, why skip them?), you’re looking at around 20 hours of gameplay. For a title that is primarily a shooter, I’d say that’s a decent number.

Overall, I have had a good time playing RAGE. Whether or not you will depends on what you’re wanting out of it. If you’re expecting Fallout 3, you’re going to be disappointed by the lack of RPG elements. However, if you want a good shooter with some fun driving experiences, you’ll probably have a good time.

The Good

  • Great combat.
  • A surprisingly fun racing system.
  • Excellent graphics.

 

The Bad

  • Generally weak storyline.
  • A few more RPG elements would have gone a long way.

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