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First-person shooters are a dime a dozen these days, and it's clear the genre is possibly starting to suffer fatigue. But now, FPS veterans id software, known for Quake, Doom and Wolfenstein - 3 key innovators in the FPS genre, bring a new game to the table called Rage. Rage has been in development at id for a good four years now, and is so technologically advanced it has been pushed onto a whopping 3 discs, something usually reserved for large role-playing games rather than shooters. So, is this shooter a revolution, or a mumble of random noise?
One thing is for sure, the story is not a key aspect of Rage. A large asteroid has hit planet Earth, and people are evacuated and put in cryogenic lifeboats. You play as one of those people, whose lifeboat crashes back down to Earth. You get a warm welcome, as Ghost Bandits immediately attack you. However, a nearby settler kills them and takes you to his settlement. You start doing jobs for him, but you eventually advance through the campaign to two main cities, both of whom house resistance forces against a group called The Authority. It's really quite bland, though the voice work and character interaction isn't too bad. It's just not particularly engaging.
Thankfully, despite the weak story, you have something else to immerse yourself in. This game, to be frank, is bloody gorgeous. You'll immediately notice that the game runs at a whopping 60 frames-per-second, something which games rarely can achieve today without sacrificing graphical quality. And Rage certainly doesn't do that. Characters are extremely detailed and beautiful animated. Locations are stunning, especially the cityscapes where civilians are randomly gambling to some video game or filling up water to a nearby fountain. The weapon models look sleek and sexy, and this applies to the car models too. The world is huge, and yet you never feel like the place repeats itself whatsoever. It does a great job of catching the same kind of post-apocalyptic vibe as games such as Borderlands or Fallout, but feels more alive than both those games.
Obviously, you can't judge a game based on its graphics, as easy as it would be. Rage is somewhat of a hard game to discuss, mainly because it's not extremely bad but doesn't reach extremely high heights. The game has a perfectly competent structure, something similar to rival wasteland trekker Borderlands. You find people, they give you a job, you go to the location required, kill whoever is in the way of completing such job, and come back for rewarding. It never really changes outside of that, so the game is somewhat repetitive. However, spice is thrown in with the varied enemy types and locations - one minute; you'll be in a cave fighting off mutants, the next a factory fighting off some hockey-mask and armour breed of bandit. Though eventually, the game does start to lose its lustre in terms of interest.
Luckily, the weapons in Rage are fun and funky to use. There are some RPG flavourings here for good measure, in terms of inventory spacing and ammo types. You can acquire a pistol, shotgun (in combat and sawn-off form), assault rifles, a crossbow and a rocket launcher, plus a badass weapon given for the very last mission of Rage. And each weapon comes with special ammo - pistols can acquire 'fat boys' which do double damage, shotguns get explosive rounds which are basically half-grenade, half-shotgun bullets and the crossbow can use electric bows, giving a nice shock to those half-wits hanging around in water. It's very fun to experiment with the different weapon ammo, especially when the variety of enemies increases. This definitely helps keep Rage interesting past the first two or so missions, especially once you start making enough money to buy ammo types yourself rather than scavenge for it.
You can also build a lot of weaponry yourself, with the game's makeshift item section. You will find scrap and items as you go through levels, and while some is complete crap used to help boost your bankroll by selling it, others can be used to make new items. You can build bandages to heal yourself in tough situations, EMP grenades, and a couple of other offensive items such as Sentry turrets, sentry bots and RC Cars which can be detonated to explode so long as the enemy doesn't shoot the darn thing first. One helpful item to those looking to scavenge every nook and cranny of the game is the lock grinder. This piece of tech opens doors which have special locks on them, and usually behind these doors are special scrap items to help you through your quest such as equipment to help build new weapons and items.
One major frustration, and probably Rage's biggest complaint, is the awkward and outdated save system. It's safe to say most games these days have adopted an autosave system, but perhaps id software is somewhere stuck in time. The game, truthfully, does have autosaves, but these only come when you move between the game's areas. Now, if you happen to make significant progress through a level, but die, guess what happens? Back to the beginning, my friend. Thankfully, you can use manual saves so in essence, this shouldn't happen unless you're forgetful. But, now that most gamers are accustomed to autosaves and the game just is barren when it comes to these, major rage (no pun intended) will be caused if you forget. I know, a couple of times, I lost nearly half-hour chunks because I forget to save and then some big grunt ends up killing me. Thankfully, the game isn't particularly hard, especially if you have bought the game in its 'Anarchy Edition', where you can unlock the game's best power suit as well as several weapons and a vehicle.
One thing about Rage is that it is almost as much a driving game as it is shooting. It's made very clear that trekking through the wasteland sections without a vehicle will most likely result in insta-death from bandits in crazy hot-rods. So, you acquire a vehicle fairly early on, and driving through the wasteland becomes a breeze. Thankfully, the handling of the vehicles and steering is much like any decent racing game would be, so you won't dread when you have to put the pedal to the mettle. But, don't think you'll be escaping combat in vehicles. Attached to your cars are machine guns, purchasable rocket launchers and more as you move through each tier of vehicle. You can put your driving to the test, as in each city there are several races, time trials, and special events called Rally Races where you try to capture as many points as possible to earn 50 points first, as well as destroying other vehicles.
There are plenty of other activities to keep you occupied if you happen to tire of the story missions periodically. This mainly comes in the form of sinning, or in less religious terms, gambling. There are several mini-games which require you to bet money to enter. Tombstones is a simply luck game where you throw a die, and if it lands on a target sign, the sheriff shoots a bandit. Each throw brings the bandits closer, and if you don't kill all of them after your third roll, you die and lose your credits. The quicker you deal with them, the higher multiplier is placed on you money. 5 Finger Filet relies much more on skill, as you try to avoid stabbing yourself with a knife for 5 rounds. It's not too bad for rounds 1 to 4, as the patterns are the same. However, good luck with round 5, where the speed is at its fastest, and the pattern changes each time. Strum requires you to remember the pattern the guitarist is playing, and keep adding more patterns each round as well as faster.
Finally, Rage Frenzy is a card game in the same vein as Magic: The Gathering, if you've played that before. There are 3 difficulty levels, each giving more cash rewards for victory. This game revolves around finding or being rewarded collectible cards throughout the game. It's good because you actually find use for your collectibles for once, rather than simply picking them up for the 100% completion or achievements. Each card has a damage level and health. Different kinds of cards do different painful things to your opponent's cards. You have standard foot soldiers, which shoot the other cards, as well as vehicles which serve to distract the opposing cards, grenades to damage all the enemies' cards and more.
It feels strange saying that Rage isn't fantastic value for money, because it's split into 3 discs. But, you come to discover that it's not quite the value you were expecting. It somewhat leads you on, because a vast chunk of the game takes place on disc 1. You spend close to 7 hours on disc 1, and I personally was thinking 'wow, this game must be pretty big'. But, in actual fact, disc 2 doesn't take even a couple of hours to polish off and finish the campaign. It feels rather unbalanced, and highlights that the reason its split into 3 discs is more technical reasons, rather than length. The final disc, then, is for the game's multiplayer component. Here, you can choose between competitive, with road rages and races, or co-operative, with special missions crafted specifically for that mode. However, I could find zero people to play Legends of the Wasteland with, but there were a couple of people playing in the Competitive mode. It was okay, but a bit too chaotic for my liking, though the game servers were incredibly stable despite the action going on.
It's safe to say Rage isn't quite the genre-breaker the developer name gave the impression of. It's definitely, however, a technological advancement into what this console can do, and is probably one of the best looking games made to date. So, in that way, Rage pushes the boundaries. It's definitely a fun shooter - the weapons are fun with all their cool ammo types, and the missions, though repetitive in structure, keep throwing different enemies at you to keep things fresh. And there's also a very good driving aspect to this game, as well as fun mini-games for a short period of time. It's just got some frustrations, minor and large, that hold it back from top-calibre, or even greatness. If you're intrigued, definitely find it for about £20 somewhere. I paid that for Rage, and though it's far from blockbuster, I don't feel its wasted money. But don't go expecting some evolutionary like Doom or Quake was back in the day.