Game over, man!
Rage (id Software)
Great artists have prolific periods in their career when they produce their best work. They also have the “fall from grace” period, when they lose their way and struggle to reclaim the magic of their past work.
id Software had their prolific period in the 1990s, inventing the first person shooter, revolutionizing the gaming industry and producing Wolfenstein 3D, Doom and Quake.
Sadly, id is in their “fall from grace” period. Rage, while a competent and beautiful post-apocalyptic shooter, doesn’t live up to the legend of id, and shows a development house struggling to adapt to a modern era.
- Side of Wings Please!
Rage features all the weapons you’d expect in a first person shooter. Pistol, shotgun, sub-machine gun, machine gun and rocket launcher. What gives Rage some jazz and differentiates itself from the crowded FPS market, is the side weapons.
The most effective of these weapons is the wingstick. Wingsticks are boomerangs from hell, allowing you to decapitate any mutant, bandit or solider that crosses you in the wastelands of Rage. If you time and aim correctly, your wingstick is returned and resources aren’t wasted. You can also fire your primary weapon AND throw wingsticks, as they are controlled by the left trigger on your controller. Throwing these suckers around and seeing heads explode was one of Rage’s highlights.
- DeathKart 64
The dark horse gameplay of Rage is the vehicular combat and racing. Rage is a partially open world game, and there are two main towns you inhabit: Wellspring and Subway Town. The only way to get around is a vehicle. You start out with an lowly ATV, but you acquire upgradeable vehicles as Rage progresses.
Wellspring and Subway Town have races that you enter to win certificates to upgrade your vehicles. There are several different types of races: Time Attack, Racing, Rocket Racing and Pulse Racing. The vehicles handle very well and the vehicular combat is excellent. There’s been a real dearth of car combat games for Xbox and Rage fills the void nicely.
- Reality TV
Rage’s best sequence comes in Wellspring. To complete an early story mission, you need a Cuprino, one of the vehicles in Rage. To get a Cuprino, you must win a race. But in order to race, you need a corporate sponsor. Sounds like American electoral politics, right?
You find your corporate sponsor at Mutant Bash TV. It’s a reality show where the participant, you guessed it, kills a bunch of mutants. To win the Mutant Bash TV sponsorship, you must star and survive an episode.
Rage’s pacing is slow and follows one formula throughout the game. You get a mission from a lifeless character then you travel to the destination. You kill a bunch of enemies, walk, kill some more enemies, walk some more, kill a few more enemies, pick something up and drive back.
Mutant Bash TV was the only mission with kinetic energy. It was an exciting level! There were brights lights and constant action! I played another episode after I won the sponsorship just for kicks. Mutant Bash TV was essentially several monster closet levels that culminated in fighting a giant mutant squid hybrid, but it was fun! I wasn’t bored playing Rage, but I wish id brought the same level of pace and excitement to the rest of the campaign.
- AI That’s Actually Intelligent
Rage features the best artificial intelligence I’ve seen. Mutants dart across your line of sight and climb on ceilings to avoid fire. Bandits and soldiers do a great job of getting behind cover and using the environment. Enemies never walk in a straight line or leave themselves vulnerable for a kill shot.
Most publishers like to market their in game AI, but very rarely do they deliver on their promises, i.e. Crysis 2. id Software has cracked the code for realistic enemy artificial intelligence. Hopefully, they can incorporate this fantastic technology in Doom 4.
- What’s In A Name? (Everything)
Your character doesn’t have a name. As Rage begins, you awaken from an Ark after an asteroid collided with Earth. You are then rescued by Dan, voiced by Walter Shoback. But you are never told who you are, your back story or anything to make you personally invested in the character.
There’s also a government army you fight in the second half of the game. Their name? The Authority. Later, you join up with some rebels in Subway Town to take on The Authority. Their name? The Resistance. I guess The Empire and Rebel Alliance were taken.
It comes off lazy and leaves a bad taste in my mouth. Rage has been in development for seven years and they couldn’t hire a writer with more imagination?
- Waiting to be Saved
Rage’s game saving process is completely broken. The game only auto-saves as you leave a destination. The dungeons you fight in are long and are filled with enemies.
It seems logical that id would place save points throughout them, right? Unfortunately, id didn’t see that logic. To save your progress, you have to pause the game and go to the save menu. It doesn’t sound like much, but doing that 15 times during a session is clumsy and ruins any pacing Rage had.
- Take the Power Back
Rage is a first person shooter and developed by the people who invented the genre. Rage has problems, but you wouldn’t expect shooting to be one of them, right?
Save for the rocket launcher, the guns in Rage are criminally underpowered. I routinely had to pump 20+ rounds into enemies to kill them. Several pointblank shotgun blasts were needed to take bandits and Authority soldiers down. I’m all for making games more challenging, but the whole point of shooters is having powerful weapons, right?
- Really, that’s it?
Rage’s final level is poorly designed and executed. Next to Crysis 2 and Bulletstorm, it might be the most anticlimactic finish to a game this year. It consists of traveling to Capital Prime, The Authority’s base, and fighting mutant/Authority hybrids. That’s what Rage had been building up to: a hybrid of two enemies you fight. After you kill the hybrids, you press a button.
No final boss fight, no epic finish.
You press a button and the game ends.
Recently, developers either get lazy or run out of money to properly finish games. Crysis 2, Bulletstorm and now Rage have concluded with weak sauce endings. It’s an awful trend, and I hope this is the last I see of it.