Rage is a game that somehow manages to be cutting edge and a little old fashioned all at the same time. id Software’s megatexture technology has helped create a truly breathtaking game world, one as graphically impressive as the finest that the FPS genre has to offer. The ‘partially’ open world, hub locations and array of side missions have been designed with modern game design at the forefront of their creation, and the enemy design throughout is varied and imaginative.
Rage is also a game that’s almost completely uninterested in storytelling, has extremely simplistic AI, no cover system whatsoever, a hero who can carry as much loot, ammunition and weaponry as he can find/pay for, and is also home to an array of extremely linear missions in the vein of the corridor shooters from yesteryear. Enemies aren’t there to outsmart you, they’re there to be destroyed, with each level more interested in providing you with an attractive shooting gallery than an array of tactical options.
Rage, then, is a strange beast. For all the technological wizardry under the hood, it often feels like a decidedly old school shooter, but in a world in which we are used to having exposition rammed down our throats every two minutes by an assortment of shooters that can’t seem to see the funny side of their utterly ridiculous stories, it’s refreshing to find a game happy to let you blast away at a vast collection of beautifully designed enemies without feeling the need to explain everything away.
That’s not to say Rage is without story or character though. Despite the simplistic story of a world all but destroyed by a meteor strike and the minimal dialogue that comes with it, Rage is actually a game chock full of interesting NPCs and a wide range of detailed, highly imaginative locations. From the open world Wasteland itself to the precision design of each linked underground corridor and the dilapidated beauty of the Dead City, Rage is a game that delivers a consistent collection of artistic highs….and all at a silky smooth 60fps no less. id may no longer be the driving technological industry force it once was, but with a larger emphasis subsequently put upon design and gameplay rather than pure tech advancement, id have one again proven themselves to be a highly talented team of artists and developers.
While the characters you meet on your journey through the Wasteland and on your frequent visits to the game’s two major hub worlds are rarely anything less than interesting, it’s Rage’s varied cast of enemy types that really steal the show. With only relatively basic AI to back them up, it’s the unique design and character diversity that really brings these troublesome scamps to life. Of all the enemies in the game, The Authority are the group that drive the barebones story forward, but sadly also happen to be the least imaginative of all the enemy types in the game. Playing more like your traditional FPS enemy, these guys are gun totting, military types and, despite some nice artistic flourishes, are relatively cliché in design and….just a bit boring to be honest.
Despite their position as the primary enemy though, they are only a small part of the overall package that Rage has to offer – there’s the curse-happy group of head first lunatics, The Wasted Clan; the goth-on-Red-Bull aerial attacks of the Ghosts; the tech-based Gearheads, and the more tribal, melee-centric Jackals. I’m sure there are a few others I have forgot to mention, but the point I’m trying to make is that, despite the basic AI, Rage is a game that loves throwing new enemy types at you – specifically ones that force you to change your approach to battle. Now, when I say change your approach to battle, I don’t mean taking the stealth route or attempting flanking manoeuvres. No, I’m talking about being forced to choose the right kind of gun for the right kind of enemy.
The core weapon types aren’t hugely varied in Rage, but the ones there are really pack one hell of a wallop. The sniper rifle hits with all the weight of a cannonball and the shotgun is easily one of the more brutal examples seen in an FPS for quite some time. What really sets them apart though are their imaginative alternate ammunition options. Both affordable and easily found amongst the game’s numerous loot drops, these unconventional ammunitions types are readily available and hugely fun to use – think that shotgun is fun to use now? Just wait until you can load it with grenades. That’s when it really comes into its own.
Rage is a game that revels in the destruction of your enemy and delivers a fitting arsenal with which to deal out the levels of devastation necessary to succeed in its harsh, unforgiving world. You won’t be using just traditional weapons either, as Rage also offers up an extensive collection of unique killing machines that can be created from your additional loot found throughout the Wasteland. From spider bots to remote control bombs, you’ll rarely be without a new and interesting way to destroy your many would-be assailants.
It’s not all loot and killing mind. Rage’s Wasteland – essentially a rudimentary open world used to link the hub worlds together with the linear story missions and random selection of glorified fetch quests – is used as the perfect excuse to get some fantastically fun buggy-based driving done. The first buggy you receive is underpowered and drives like a piece of crap, but from the point you receive your second buggy and begin upgrading it with all manner of nasty, killing apparatus, Rage’s forgiving, arcade-styled handling model really starts to shine. Just driving around, taking out bad guys is enjoyable, but the Wasteland also offers up an array of driving-based stunts and challenges to keep you busy while you’re just having a wander. It’s nothing particularly groundbreaking, but the random challenges were enough to keep me happily driving around for quite some time and certainly proved a pleasant diversion from completing the core missions.
As welcome an addition as the buggies may be to the single player campaign, they’re even more fun in multiplayer. Despite the lack of any competitive first person shooter action, Rage’s fantastic online buggy-based races more than make up for its absence, with their high octane mix of skilled racing and destructive weaponry. The events available are little more than basic races and competitive fetch quests, but when you take into consideration the selection of pre-race loadouts available, the perfectly suited Wasteland environments and the fact that you can level up your ride as you go, competitive racing in Rage is a huge amount of fun and actually does a decent job of remaining varied and entertaining for quite some time.
On top of that, there are also nine co-op, Legends of the Wasteland missions for those looking to extend the game’s first person shooter gameplay. Although not hugely different to many of the missions and locations found in the single player campaign, getting the chance to experience the Wasteland with friends in tow is a welcome and largely enjoyable experience.
Despite some technical hic-ups and a few too many invisible walls, Rage is a brilliant coming together of old and new. Some will inevitable be disappointed by the lack of competitive first person deathmatches, while others will begrudge the game’s mission based linearity, but for most, Rage’s fantastically enjoyable mix of brutal corridor shooting and open world vehicular action will provide a pleasant reminder of why we have missed id so much over the past few years and why sometimes an engrossing story just isn’t all that important.
REVIEW CODE: A complimentary Microsoft Xbox One code was provided to Bonus Stage for this review. Please send all review code enquiries to firstname.lastname@example.org.