"Rage, rage against the dying of the light." id Software returns with RAGE, their first new title since 2004's DOOM 3. How good is RAGE and their new tech engine? Jump in the buggy, we have a wasteland to cross first. Keep an eye out for bandits.
On August 23, 2029 the Apophis asteroid crashes into earth. Planning for this, the nations of earth place scientists and other notable people into cryo-pods, called Arks, underground and froze them so they could rebuild the earth. The player, you, wakes up in their pod 106 years after Apophis' impact. He quickly finds that the reason he was woken is that his Ark is heavily damaged, to the point that he is the only survivor.
Upon exiting the Ark the you are attacked by bandits, but are quickly saved by Dan Hagar, a settler in the wastelands. Dan brings you back to the settlement he founded. Along the way Dan informs him that a faction called The Authority are offering huge rewards for Ark survivors. Their purpose is unknown, but seemingly nefarious, as survivors who are turned in are never heard from again.
After arriving at the settlement Dan explains that the wastelands are dotted with settlements and small city that provide safe havens, but in between the lands are populated with bandit clans that will kill just for the thrill and mindless mutants that just kill. You help the Hagar settlement and the neighboring Outrigger settlement with odd jobs and dangerous bandits. Eventually Dan tells you that, while he appreciates the help, eventually The Authority will find out you are there and put the settlement in danger. Dan suggests you make your way to the city of Wellspring.
So as to not spoil anything for people wanting to play I'll stop there here.
Controls and Gameplay
RAGE is a first person shooter game, something id Software is well versed in. With RAGE they added in third person vehicle combat to the mix. This was done mostly because of the large distances between settlements and to give players a sense of danger and action from roving bandits. Both First person and third person elements control well and transition between the two are seamless. My review copy is on the PC which has the option of either keyboard and mouse controls or gamepad control. Gamepad controls had an odd placement for the jump button on "Y," even so it was easy to get used to.
Graphics and Sound
Here is where things start to go bad. Part of the reason RAGE was in development so long was that id Software was developing a new game engine that would help in the creation of games across all platforms. While everything went well in development and testing, somewhere on the way to release the PC's version's video driver elements fell apart, some folks even found the game unplayable on the PC. This is an issue that id is well aware of and is working hard to fix. At this point there has been at least one fix released to address this. Reports from other people point to this being a PC only problem and that the console versions are fine.
I received my PC review copy of RAGE after the first fix was released. The graphics show a post apocalyptic earth in all its gritty reality, but there is still texture pop-in. As you move around you will still see the texture being quickly loaded in. It hasn't hampered gameplay for me, but it can be distracting. Especially when items you can interact with in the world "blink," so the pop-in can be mistaken for this "blink" at times.
Sound in RAGE is great except for one part, vehicle engines. Depressing and releasing the accelerator gives pretty much and "on or off" sound. The voice acting is great. Dan Hagar is voiced by John Goodman, which at first I thought was a bit odd, but soon seemed a good fit. It's too bad his character isn't with you throughout the game.
"Do not go gentle into that good night. Rage, rage against the dying of the light." What do the video game RAGE and poet, Dylan Thomas, have in common? Not a lot really, though a poem about a dying man fighting against his death and game about a man fighting back against dying planet seemed appropriate.
RAGE does find id Software doing what they do best, fun first person shooters. They even merge some old school elements with newer shooter styles. For example you can carry a bunch of weapons and ammo, but can only access one of the four weapons that you have ready.
The enemies you face each have their own characteristics to keep you on your toes. The Ghost Clan will quickly charge at you, climbing and tumbling out of your sights and before you know it they are bashing you with a club. The Shrouded Clan make use of grenades and other explosives. They all will make use of cover and even fire blindly from it. The mutants by far are the most challenging. Quick, deadly and in some cases seemingly bulletproof, the mutants to me were the best enemies. id I think are well aware of this. They have an arena set up as a TV station that broadcasts "Mutant Bash TV" where you fight waves of mutants.
While it is great to see id Software introduce a new series, RAGE has a similar feel to other games on the market. It's like id took some of the best elements from Borderlands and the last two Fallout games, mixed in some of their id-y goodness and the result is RAGE. Similar to others as it feels I still would like to see id explore the world of RAGE more, maybe even follow a different survivor in possible future games.
There is also the sensation that id wanted to make a more open world game, but it is pretty linear in presentation. There is a job board you can get a few side quests from, a racing track for those that want to race more and a delivery service that puts you in a bit more vehicle combat, but outside of those the main storyline is the driving force.
RAGE is good, but graphical problems on the PC really hamper the experience, at least until id Software fixes it. For now I give RAGE a 3.75 out of 5.
RAGE is rated M for Mature for Blood and Gore, Intense Violence, Strong Language. RAGE is available now for Windows PC, Sony's PlayStation 3 and Microsoft's Xbox 360. For more information see the RAGE web site.