When id Software speaks, gamers listen. This month, the developer that brought the world such classics as "Wolfenstein 3D" and "Doom" has released "Rage," their first original title since 1996's "Quake." Fully developed from the ground up, with an all-new engine, "Rage" proves that one of the most respected studios in the industry has still got it, even if it takes a few delays and multiple discs to get the game out the door.
Set on an Earth that has been decimated by the 99942 Apophis asteroid, players take the roll of an Ark survivor, a group of humans that were frozen with the purpose of reawakening to rebuild earth. Very shortly after exiting your cryo-pod, you realize that the world is nothing like you left it: bandits and mutants are running wild through what is know as the Wasteland, and civilization is relegated to heavily protected and scattered towns. The only thing that is keeping society together is The Authority, an ominous, and mysterious ruling group, who are constantly on the lookout for Ark survivors. Needless to say, it's every man for himself, but our unnamed hero, quickly finds that he has friends, as long as he can help people out.
The gameplay in "Rage" is split between a first-person shooter with light RPG elements and vehicular combat. While there is a strong emphasis on the single player campaign, there are a couple multiplayer modes that allow you to take your driving skills competitively online, as well as complete side missions with your friends.
At first glance, "Rage" may come off as another shooter in a release season riddled with competition in the genre. However, the core gameplay is actually rather deep, offering light character customization elements, mixed with inventory management and item crafting abilities. Layered on top of that is a fully fleshed out vehicular racing element. In games like this, typically driving is something that used to awkwardly get from one mission to the next, and while that occurs in "Rage" the driving is actually a solid experience. So much so that there are story based elements that center on racing and upgrading your buggy to be able to venture to new parts of the Wasteland. Instead of being a tacked on element, the races can actually turn into a bit of a distraction if you're the type of person that finds himself or herself easily sucked into side missions.
The Wasteland Is Easy On The Eyes
This deep into the first generation of truly HD gaming, it's hard to be blown away by a game's graphics, but "Rage" manages to up the bar when it comes to creating a world that's both detailed and beautiful. While there aren't a huge variety of environments spread throughout the game, the ones that are included rival the best games released in the last ten years. Graphics should never be something that overshadows gameplay, but it's likely that you'll find yourself admiring the work put into the skybox on more than one occasion throughout the game.
(Spoiler Free) Easter Egg Hunt
There's always room for a little bit of levity in games, even in something as serious as "Rage." id Software have done an impressive job of hiding Easter Eggs for their fans throughout the game. No strangers to this fan-pandering, id have hidden things in plenty of their previous games, but "Rage" seems to take the cake with something special hidden in almost every area of the game, giving the game a sense that there was some extra love put into it by the developers.
Perhaps it's not fair to assume that all first-person shooters will come complete with a first-person shooter based multiplayer. However, since "Rage" does such a great job of creating such an amazing world around the FPS experience, it seems like a missed opportunity not including competitive FPS multiplayer as part of this package. What "Rage" owners will get is a four-player vehicular combat game that is pretty entertaining, but still seems very limited. Alternatively, there are a series of co-op levels, but the satisfaction that comes from completing them just isn’t on the same level as winning a round of deathmatch.
Into The Sewers
Shortly after you complete the first mission you start to learn about the mysterious sewers that are spread throughout The Wasteland, and how they hold a wealth of treasure in them. These sewers basically serve as challenge dungeons throughout the game, but can only be accessed by entering a code (included with new purchases of the game) or by unlocking them via paid DLC. This is an unfortunate practice that the industry is starting to see more and more of in order to combat used game sales. While there isn't anything hidden in the sewers that will keep you from completing the game, it seems like another in a series of cheap tactics to encourage players to buy games new.
When's The Next Battle?
Simply put, the pacing in "Rage" seems to be just a bit off. If you're popping this game in and hoping to instantly plow through wave after wave of mutants right out of the gate, you're going to be sadly let down. "Rage" takes a page from the RPG playbook and actually does quite a bit of character building around NPCs, which isn't necessarily a bad thing. Unfortunately, a lot of that character building is done through running errands for them. There are points in the game where you'll find yourself wandering around towns for extended periods of time, wondering whether or not you'll ever need to fire your weapon again.
"Rage" is a tough game to classify, and that's not because it tries to do so many different things, but because it does so many different things well. It doesn't fit into the standard RPG, FPS or driving game genres since it switches things up so often and seamlessly. While the game doesn't come off as entirely original, (the plot and setting make it perfect fodder for comparisons to "Fallout" and "Boarderlands") there isn't anything else like it come out this year. So if you're looking to fill the 2011 gap between RPG/FPS titles, "Rage" is well worth your time.
Check out preview and behind-the-scenes videos for Rage below: