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ID Software are often famed as the studio that introduced us to First Person Shooters, with games such as Wolfenstein, Doom, Heretic, Hexen and Quake exploring the newly created FPS space in different ways.
Jump ahead a few years and the developer has created Rage, a vastly expanded experience from the previous games. In a nutshell, you play a survivor in a futuristic world which has been mostly destroyed by an asteroid. The environments carry a kind of wild-west steampunk feel to them for a fairly unique setting.
Rather than this being a linear FPS, ID software have attempted to install elements of games like Zelda and Skyrim to create a more RPG / Adventure style game with FPS elements. You are expected to perform quests for people whilst also keeping on the look out for bandits which flood the environment. Each character in the game feels distinct and has their own personality and you can interact with them and talk to them to obtain information, plot filling and for performing quests.
In addition to the overworld / dungeon feel to the game, there is also a big emphasize on driving, where you are able to customise your vehicle to travel between sections of the map to enable you to better take out bandits. There are also races you can participate in to win yourself upgrades.
Overall, this feels like a strange mish-mash of games that doesn't really excel in any one area. The unique feel to the game is welcomed but in the end, it just feels repetitive and there isn't any great urgency to see what happens next.
For 20 years, id Software (pronounced 'id' not 'i-d') has been releasing corridor shooters that are certainly quite dated now, but are hugely influential. Starting with Wolfenstein, id went on to make two very famous gaming series', Doom and Quake. It inspired Valve to make Half-Life and that game has made a huge impact on the gaming industry. But now, the company is taking a step forward in terms of gameplay variety with Rage (stylised RAGE). It features a mix of first-person action and racing in an open-world environment. So, it's a huge change from the norm for id. But was it a risk worth taking, or not? Sadly, it's more towards the latter. While Rage occasionally shows glimpses of greatness, it's not brilliant for the most part - mainly because it's very repetitive, despite the premise.
Rage's plot isn't much good either. An asteroid has devastated Earth, leaving humanity in ruin. The survivors are left to make it a safe place again, but it seems they aren't doing too well. Land is controlled by seemingly cannibalistic bandits ("I've got flesh stuck in my teeth!) and horrific-looking mutants. To make things even worse, you are being hunted by a mysterious organisation called The Authority.
The story isn't great, but at least it's not as generic and boring as some other first-person shooters out there. Where Rage does succeed in terms of story, though, are characters. Multiple NPCs (non-player characters) are found across the world. Each one has a unique personality. The people in the small village of Wellspring are mainly very interesting and friendly, generally giving you a smile at the least. Just to add, two people can be found here called Houston and Dallas - obvious references to id's location, Texas. Then, the characters in Subway Town, a place found late in the game, are often depressing and angry. It's a shame that no-one in the game is developed enough, and last a few hours at the most.
First-person action takes centre stage in Rage, so let's start there. Combat isn't much different from the norm. Simply use R1 to shoot, and L1 to aim. Surprisingly, aiming is a first in id's games. Your first mission leaves you with only a strange-looking pistol in a bandit hideout, where you realise enemies soak up a lot of bullets, even the humans. It takes from three to five shots to kill one, so some will have to get used to the fact that one shot to the head isn't the end for your opponent. If you can't, then you're going to hate the later opponents, who can take five bullets minimum. Obviously, the devs aren't striving for realism. As you get further into the game, you unlock a more diverse range of weapons including a crossbow, shotgun and machine gun. It doesn't stop there, though. More types of bullets can be bought or found, including lethal electrical bolts for your crossbow or powerful bursts of fire in your pistol. You can even get a bolt that allows you to control your enemy for a short period of time. With a press of X, the enemy blows to smithereens. Any other opponent around him will also explode.
The racing is pretty good, and id should be commended for getting it right on its first try. You drive in a third-person view and start with an ATV. It's pretty fast, but much easier than other games not to crash. Your vehicle has a boost bar, which can either be used to speed up ramps, gaining enough momentum to hit floating droids, which earns you points or just to evade enemies if you have run out of ammo. This brings me onto car combat. While the range of weapons isn't as big as it is on-foot, they certainly pack a punch. The minigun is pretty powerful, and as long as your enemy doesn't have shields you can tear through the paintwork easily. If you are in close view of an opponent, the homing missile will turn their car into a fireworks display in just two shots. Racing is pretty similar to Evolution's MotorStorm. Rage also uses the festival card setting. In other words, you pick from a selection of cards, each one containing a series of events. The races get harder as you go further. Sadly, the selection of offline modes and number of vehicles isn't fantastic, but that's made less of a blow by the adrenaline fuelled driving.
RPG elements proves that id is trying to take a massive step forwards. But don't worry! If you are interested in the action and nothing else, you'll be OK. The RPG elements are really simple. The first one that is featured in a lot of RPGs these days is looting bodies. With a simple tap of X, you grab all the items you can find. A menu allowing you to select which items to pick out doesn't pop up, however. All the items found are automatically sent to your inventory. Second is crafting items. In the SELECT menu, you are given the opportunity to create items, providing you have the right 'ingredients'. Ingredients can be purchased from several merchants across the world. Third and lastly is upgrading your vehicle. By using the racing certificates you earn from getting a podium finish in races, you can purchase multiple upgrades for your buggy. One example is a boost upgrade, which lets you reach top speed in just a second or two. Don't go expecting a massive RPG experience full of stats, but in my opinion id have balanced the RPG elements well so it isn't too much but isn't a really slim feature, either.
Yes, it all sounds good, but where Rage really fails is structure. The mix between combat and driving is very unbalanced. You're constantly sent out on missions that nearly always only involve combat. In fact, you're only forced to in one or two missions and of course, getting to missions and to the next. Then there's the world; there's not much to do at all but destroying enemy vehicles and destroying the floating droids. Finally, the save system is one of the most frustrating I've ever seen in a game. The quicksave function is only available on PC, so you must manually save on PS3 and Xbox 360. Admittedly, it does prompt you to save often at one point, but going through a half-an-hour mission, forgetting to save and dying, being taken back to the start of the mission, is unacceptable. Checkpoints every ten minutes, maybe, would have been fine. Soon into the game, the battles become so tedious that you'll be manually saving every minute.
In addition, there's not much to say about the multiplayer. 'Road Rage' is based around driving and features three modes, which are all pretty fun. The co-op component named 'Wasteland Legends' can be played split-screen and while its not brilliant it provides a fun distraction.
--Graphics and Sound--
Where Rage does succeed, however, is in the graphical department. It looks absolutely stunning, from the seriously realistic clouds down to the muddy wasteland. Nearly everything looks perfect. Unfortunately, texture pop-in is a big problem. After quickly turning around or entering a room after a loading screen, all the detail takes a few seconds to load, and is very noticeable. But other than that, it is a visually beautiful game. You can't really complain about the sound, either. The guns make a great noise when you fire and so you feel an impact when you shoot at an enemy. Voice acting is also good. While some characters sound oddly similar, there is some talent here. Overall, the audio, while not an utterly fantastic part of Rage, is very good.
Despite the fact that id were going for a T (Teen) rating in America (but received an M 17+ rating in the end) Rage is a gory game. It's rated 15 here for strong violence and language. There's a medium amount of blood splatter when you shoot at an enemy. You can perform a decapitation when you throw a 'Wingstick' at an enemy and even make them explode when you throw a grenade. So, it's basically id like they always have been. There's a lot of gratuitous language. Uses of f**k, sh** and w****r isn't rare. In my opinion, it's not really needed at all. If id really did want to make it a lower rating, it should have cut down on the bad language in the game. I'd say that the game's 15 rating is very fair.
I can't help but feel disappointed by id's latest effort. The combat and driving may be good at first, but the boring structure makes both gameplay elements feel stale after just a few hours of gameplay. The combat makes up the most of the game, and there's not much to do in the world. There's also the frustrating save system. The lack of a quicksave function, even when it is present in the PC version, is very annoying. Plus, there's a shortage of checkpoints. If they had been more frequent, it wouldn't have been such an issue. The painful texture pop-in is a shame, because the graphics are some of the best ever seen on the PS3. The story isn't very good, plus it lasts a short 10+ hours, which isn't really worth £35. If Rage is anything to go by, it looks like Valve is going to be King of FPS titles for a while now.
But in the time you do enjoy Rage, you'll be having a great time. The combat feels familiar and refreshing at the same time, with a large range of weapons to enjoy using. A small number of cars is a pity, but the driving itself is very good. I just wish that more of the missions involved driving, so there would have been a better mix between gunfights and racing. The RPG elements are excellent, as they aren't too complicated that it won't appeal to shooter fans and not too simple, either. The graphics are fantastic and make the most of the id Tech 5 engine. There is also some fabulous audio, with satisfying gunshot sounds and good voice acting.
Overall, Rage is good in a some areas but after a while the game begins to feel repetitive, and you know what's going to happen next. If you want a much better FPS experience at a far cheaper price, go for Half-Life 2 or even one of id's earlier games like Quake II.
Thanks for reading! This review is also posted on Ciao, under my name YoshiCheesePuff.