After two E3 shows it has finally arrived. Let's begin.
You're a lone survivor on a nearly destroyed Ark. What do you do? Enjoy the scenery, of course!
An astroid tumbles to earth and humanity struggles to survive by launching lifeboats into the earth called Arks. Once the dust settles, the arks are called up to the surface to start rebuilding humanity. Regretfully, your character wakes up to find a desolate planet that has been inhabited by survivors that have done their best to keep the world going. Regretfully, some folks have banded together to create a group known as 'The Authority'. The Authority have a tight grip on every city and person around them. They are also hellbent on finding, and ultimately destroying, Ark survivalists to hide the truth and future of a strong humanity, and keep control of the world they constantly terrorize. On top of 'The Authority' problem, there are also blood thirsty creatures called mutants, who look to clean out certain areas that are giving problems to The Authority.
What a way to start a game, huh? One of the best things about first-person shooters, that completely separate the good ones from the bad ones, is the establishment of a good story. Once you can create a solid story to put gamers into then the rest isn't that difficult. That's why not all first-person shooters can be great. Sure you have mechanic issues with some, but the real empty void that needs to be filled is putting your character in an environment that they feel like they must live and survive in. That's why Call of Duty games got so popular. When they first made those they were basing the gameplay off of real World War II battles, which instantly puts people in the game; RAGE is no different.
RAGE places you in this environment where you're told from the get-go that you're not safe. The first person you meet in the game is a survivor named Dan Hagar, who pulls you from getting killed by some wasteland clans. He tells you the story of the world and how The Authority will be after you soon, and then sets you on your way (after a few missions, of course). The set up is perfect for this game, and it puts you instantly in the mood to 'survive' in this world that id Software has created.
The main story of the game will keep you nervous until the very end. The fact that this unknown entity is trying to track you down will keep you moving through the game. What's great about what id Software did with the story is that they kept the missions flowing, and somewhat short. You get a lot of missions to complete before you can conclude the game, but along the way you find new enemies that up the ante as the story rages on towards its climax. Believe me, the game sure as hell doesn't get any easier as you move forward.
With all that said, there are some rare moments in the game where the story feels a bit linear. You get forced to go one direction, even though you wanted to try another. For example, when you get to a place called Subway Town, you're forced to complete some missions for the mayor otherwise he'll rat on you to The Authority. You literally have no other choice, and what comes of it is anti-climactic (if you're playing the main story only). A game like RAGE shouldn't have these moments that bind you to the story. Although they do allow you to make choices to accept his mission offers or reject, you're better off to go along with things.
Again, the majority of the story is very compelling, but there are moments that will have you scratching your head wishing you could go another route.
Bring on the pretty!
To even make the story more compelling is the fact that the visuals in this game are by far the best seen on the Playstation 3 to this point. While the graphics will never match that of a high-end PC, the PS3 does a damn good job with the detailed textures, shadowing and lighting. For example, when you visit one of the cities take time to notice the small intricate details like the cracks in the steps (that are unique from one another, no repeating), the facial expressions of the people around you and the very detailed environments that feature lots of rich, unique texture. The majority of the game looks simply breathtaking, as you'll just sit and stare at clouds in the sky, as you're waiting to ride off into certain death.
All of the graphics, textures and environments originated through id's new id Tech 5 engine. This engine seems to do a remarkable job of keeping textures together and details where there should be details. For example, when you're looking through the scope of a sniper rifle at your enemy, you get a very clear and accurate depth of field. It looks like something you would find if you shot video with a Canon 5D Mark II. The depth is well placed and the scope accurately portrays what you should see if you do this in real life.
What's especially cool about the visuals is how the physics play out in the game. When you shoot an enemy they will react properly to where they've been hit. If you shoot in the abdomen then they will act like they've been shot there and clutch in that area. If you shoot them in the legs then they will start limping. The physics help make the game a bit more believable. What's even more fun is when you think you've killed someone, but instead they are on the floor bleeding to death waiting for you to approach them, so they can get one last shot. Seeing how people are shot, move and die is a strong point of the game.
Related to that is the AI. When you are fighting enemies they come at you in a variety of ways, depending on the enemy type. For example, if you're going up against The Authority you're going to find a very 'army' type of fighting ahead of you with very structured lines and slow approaches. If you're going against The Jackal Clan (they are tough as nails) they are going to go balls-to-the-wall fighting you via hand-to-hand combat. The mutants will just find a freaking way to make sure you can't aim straight. Regardless of who you fight, the computer is going to do its best to stay alive. If you start taking out people in a single room (say you kill 5 out of 8 people) the computer will yell, "Fall back!" or something to that effect. The NPC knows when it's losing, which is a good thing. There will also be moments where the NPC will change cover and find a new place to try to confuse you. It's not too impressive when it comes to confusing, but it is still neat to see. Picture the enemies in Crysis 2 and you got the idea. With all this intelligence in mind, the bastards still tend to raise their heads repetitively during a gunfight. Still, overall the AI is very intelligent to an extent.
Now, getting back to visuals, there is some rendering issues that occur thanks to the hardware limitations of the PS3. You will find a lot of rendering going on with textures when your character walks through environments. Flat environments will instantly change to detailed environments. While there is no backgrounds popping-up in the huge environments, there are rendering issues. It's a little distracting, but that might be for the reviewer's eyes. It is a huge example of why PC gaming is probably always going to trump console gaming.
In the end, the game still looks and plays damn gorgeous. Again, I haven't seen a game that can visually beat RAGE on the PS3. Skyrim or Battlefield 3 might surpass it, but it's going to take one helluva showing for that to happen.
Macros, engineering and weapons
RAGE is a fundamentally well thought out game. You can tell right from the get-go that id Software had PC gamers in mind first and foremost; and believe me there is nothing wrong with that. They did their best to use every facet of the PS3 controller on this release. You have every button completely occupied with some very useful function. It's definitely more complicated than the typical first-person shooter, but it's done so well that your gripes and complaints will be resolved with knowing that they put whatever it is there for a reason. For example, the directional pad is direct access to secondary items in the game. You can assign each direction on the pad to fulfill a specific function. For example, if you want to put grenades on the right pad or health on the top pad then you can assign them as such. This method of controls reminds me a lot of the macro days of the PC gaming world (it's been a while since I've done PC gaming, so bear with me as I reminisce on something that still very much exists).
With that said, it's difficult, at first, to get in the right mindset when it comes to remembering that you need to push up on the directional pad to get health and not accidentally launch a grenade into the sky. In the heat of battle the console folks, like myself, will have trouble remembering this process. You will find it frustrating at first, but as soon as you near the middle of the game you're going to have these controls down pat.
Speaking of assigning objects to controls, the creation system in RAGE is damn good. I'm not a huge fan of collecting items and then making something out of them (feel free to call me lazy), but along the way in the game you're going to find oodles and oodles of strange objects that can be engineered to form a single item. For example, if you're looking to create a Lock Grinder, you'll want to create those so that you can collect some valuable items behind locked doors, then you'll need to collect gears, electronic parts and another object. The Lock Grinder is a device that fits onto locked doors and that 'grinds' the lock into pieces, so you can get into the room. Again, it's a very useful item that can be engineered through collecting smaller pieces. The process of engineering is quite simple, so once you collect those parts then you would go into your Dossier and just simply build. You can build one or you can use all your collected parts to build a supply. Why wouldn't you want to build them all every time? Some of the parts for the Lock Grinder can be used for other engineered devices, so you'll want to check your current situation to make sure you're not wasting items on something you can't immediately use. Still, very cool stuff when it comes to engineering items.
Speaking of items, let's talk weapons.
While i can't say for dead certain, there appears to be no limit on how many weapons you can hold at one particular time in your inventory. Why do I mention this? It's nice having the ability to carry multiple firearms without the 'Resident Evil' concern of having too many weapons at once. You'll need every single one of those bastards to get through the game. The weapons range from a simple Settler pistol to an assault rifle all the way up to a giant BFG (yep, that's in the game). Each weapon has multiple types of ammo you can choose to use in the weapon, which is a sharp way to play. There is nothing like having a Striker crossbow armed with dynamite arrows (no, really. they have dynamite attached to them) and striking an enemy from afar and watching them panic as the dynamite wick is slowly shortening to their ultimate demise; it's joyously breathtaking.
The weapon accessing works just like the engineered items, as you'll have the ability to select one of four weapons from the onscreen HUD. The weapons can be accessed by pushing down on the R2 button and toggling with the right analog stick to the weapon of your choice. While the weapons choices are pulled up on the screen, you can also toggle the left analog stick to the ammo of your choice (up to four choices as well). Again, at first this method of choosing weapons and ammo will seem daunting, but once you get use to it, much like with the secondary items, you'll find it's a genius way to do combat. What's even more remarkable is how quickly your character locks and loads a new weapon. None of this slowly reaching in your back pack and taking a good 2-3 seconds to get a weapon, it's simply BAM! There's the weapon. I really like this, as it makes battle far less stressful.
Get your engines started
A large part of RAGE is driving. While the idea of driving will most likely get on the nerves of gamers before they even play the game, please give it a chance. Right from the start of the game when Dan Hagar (played by John Goodman) introduces you to the desolated world that you wake up in, you're instantly given a crash course on driving and survival on the brutal land. You're given a four wheeler that allows you to get use to the driving controls pretty easily. After a few missions you're introduced to a junked up dune buggy that allows for quicker movement and gunfire. At some point during the beginning you'll see this as annoying process from getting from point A to point B; it's much better than walking across a desert on foot -- trust me.
What quickly attaches you to the process of driving is when you begin to race competitively for other vehicles and money, and when you start customizing your ride. It's a slow process to fall in love with, but somewhere near the middle of the game you're going to be very concerned about how to arm your vehicle, how to best prepare for battle and what logos you want on the outside. You'll find that driving becomes a lovely process of getting from point A to point B, and hell you might even have some reckless fun with it. id encourages you to have reckless fun by placing Feltrite drones all over the desert. Your goal is to ram the hell out of these drones to gather Feltrite (which is a precious element that fell to earth from the astroid).
Little games like this mixed with purposeful story driven driving make for an enjoyable experience. You can tell that John Carmack's love for sports vehicles was a heavy influence on this portion of RAGE. It's a big part of the game and it works out very well.
As for the races specifically, that's a bit of good fun, but not tremendous fun. The ability to competitively race in RAGE is good and bad. The good part is that the races are simple, fun and engaging. The bad part is that the races are pretty darn simple. For such a big portion of the game, the race tracks are pretty barren. You've got mountains and deserts, and there's nothing particularly tricky about driving in them. id Software tries to break up the racing monotonous nature by putting in different types of races. The first type is a three lap time trial that requires you to complete the three laps assigned in a certain amount of time. If you win then you get racing vouchers (allow for add-ons, etc.), but if you lose then you'll have to restart again. The other styles to race in RAGE features a target/light chasing race where the goal is to drive through the beams of light before your competitors do. By doing so, you gain a certain amount of points per light beam and the first player to 50 points wins the match. The other type of race is a more traditional race where you go around in laps, but it features the ability to use weapons and blow the sh*t out of each other. The racing is fun when you want to take a break of killing mounds and mounds of mutants, but it's not so much fun that you're dying to play it.
While you can certainly go the main story route and beat the game in 11 hours, the game can be extended through the acceptance of side quests. The first major town that you hit when you leave the comforts of Dan Hagar's homestead has a job board where you can pick up extra gigs to earn cash and what not. if you can think of Red Dead Redemption, but on a smaller scale then you have an idea about the side quests.
Outside of the job boards, you can also approach people on the streets, or at bars, that need work done for them. Sometimes it's simple stuff, other times it's more sinister deeds. Regardless, the game time is extended thanks to these side quests, but the motivation to do the side quests is only driven by your desire to prolong the game. For me, I just wanted to see how the game ended, so I zipped right through it. When I go back and play, i will focus more on extending the life of the game and seeing how far I can take it before I need to finish the main quest. Again, it just depends on how driven you are to end the game (and that's not necessarily a bad thing, as the story is positively fascinating).
Multiplayer drivin' and divin'
The multiplayer portion of RAGE is surprisingly fun. It's broken up into two main elements: Driving and Co-op.
The driving portion of the game is called Road Rage. It's a bevy of games that take the same form as the racing games in the single-player game. You run around collecting points, blowing the hell out of other cars, running through beams of light to create chains of points, and doing sinister little things to ensure you come out on top. The tracks are a bit more varied in comparison to the single-player mode, and the added human element helps make the experience better. With that said, when you play three people at a time you are basically going to run circles around each other trying to get the best firing angle, when it's a 'deathmatch' type of play, and the enjoyment really starts thinning out. Once you get more than three people on the grid then things start getting interesting, and more importantly fun. Having a massive amount of cars in a destruction derby-esque symphony just makes for better madness.
So, the more people the merrier, which produces a better experience.
What's also nice in Road Rage is that as you level up you can improve your vehicle. Improvements include better weapons, better armor and also better vehicles. The work/reward system is pretty good and it makes you want to continue races to blow the sh*t out of people.
As for the other side to the multiplayer coin, the co-op, called Wasteland Legends, is fantastic. You and an offline/online buddy are sent into missions to take out enemies and accomplish various tasks. It's like playing the actual single-player game with someone you can depend on (maybe). It's very involved, very quick and it's fun. You score points by killing enemies and moving forward. The points are distributed just like a typical FPS; various points for head shots, body shots and assets. I think between the two different modes, I liked this one this best.
Not a bad set of multiplayer modes. They compliment the main game quite well.
Let's move to the summary!
Driving and surviving...
While RAGE does have some issues here and there you can rest assure that it does deliver in the end. It has a solid mix of good first-person shooting action, fun driving moments, and solid multiplayer modes. Add to all of this the fact that you're seeing one of the more gorgeous games produced in this generation, and it's a tough deal to pass up.