RAGE is an absolutely beautiful game. Regardless of what else may be said about the game, RAGE brings its post-apocalyptic world to stunning life with an amazingly crafted environment, wonderful character design, and smooth animations. And let me tell you something…by the time you get through the first disc of RAGE, you’ll be glad that it’s so beautiful…because you’re going to see a lot of the same places a lot of times.
A nanite-enhanced human, you are a part of the old world. Before the fall of civilization, the world’s greatest people were put into a deep sleep onboard various “Arks.” You awake to find the rest of your Ark dead due to a technical malfunction, and are immediately drafted by a small settlement to help rid them of the wasteland’s bandits. Most of the game follows this pattern: the townsfolk aren’t strong enough, or well-enough equipped, to brave the wasteland. But hey, in you walk, full of nanites and willing to brave the wasteland! You are quickly inundated with requests to go grab an item, go find an item, go deliver an item, etc.
And that’s most of RAGE.
Don’t get me wrong, the gameplay itself is really fun. The first-person shooter mechanic is as good as you would expect it to be from the developers of DOOM and Quake. FPS is in their blood, and you can tell. The game is essentially a directed open world mission game. Your available world is limited, and when you do a mission, there’s generally only one path to completion. The engineering system used for crafting items is nicely done, showing you each recipe you have, what items are needed for each recipe, and how many of each item you have in your inventory. Most of the engineering items are incredibly useful. Weapon/ammo selection can be quick cycled by tapping the right bumper, with a more detailed selection available by holding down the right bumper and cycling through weapons with your right joystick and ammo types with your left. Similar to Borderlands, there is a mechanism for reviving yourself should your health be depleted. Instead of having to kill an enemy to get a second wind, however, there’s an interesting mini-game that uses pattern matching and reaction time to defibrillate yourself while shocking nearby enemies.
The third-person racing, driving, and combat are all really fun as well. The vehicles handle well on the dirt of the wasteland. There’s good control, but there’s also a good handbrake mechanism for sliding around sharp turns and making abrupt 180s. The abrupt 180s come in handy when you’re driving through the wasteland, as some of the bandits will show up in vehicles of their own. Vehicular combat is really fun, and feels almost like a violent game of tag. Aside from driving through the wasteland, you have the races. The races earn you race tickets, which can be used to buy vehicle upgrades for performance, weapons, or design. A tuning screen is available to let you fine tune your vehicle with your available upgrades. You can fine tune suspension, tires, paint theme, weapons, engine, and boost to customize how your vehicle feels and operates.
Multi-player consists of two major categories: first-person two-player co-op missions (splitscreen or online) and third-person four-player vehicular races/objectives/free-for-all. There is no co-op campaign option, local or online, which is kind of a bummer. The main draw of Borderlands for me was the co-op campaign, and I miss it in RAGE. The two-person co-op missions, called Wasteland Legends, are side-story or back-story missions that all follow a standard pattern. You and your partner are tasked with fighting through a closed environment to fetch (surprise, surprise) an item at the end, then fight your way back. A dozen or so missions later, and co-op multiplayer is exhausted. The vehicular multiplayer, called Road Rage, consists of four gameplay modes: Meteor Rally (collect the fallen meteors and drive them to capture zones to score), Chain Rally (take rally points and chain them together for increased score), Triad Rally (capture three consecutive rally points to score), and Carnage (free-for-all vehicle combat; kill enemies to score). The maps are large for the four player limit, which takes away from the frantic fun that it could have provided.
The best part of RAGE, however, is the RAGE Frenzy in-game collectible card game. As you travel through the RAGE world, you will come across pick-up items that contain collectible cards of nearby enemies, vehicles, allies, etc. Using these cards, and a starter deck that you can purchase from a vendor, you build your very own Frenzy deck, playable against one of two dealers in the RAGE world. All cards have a defense value and a point cost. Most cards have an attack value, and some cards have a bonus effect that enhances other cards. Your useable deck, when placing a bet and starting a hand, can not exceed 12 cards, and must be built with a limited number of points. The point values of the cards you select from your master deck reduce the number of points you have available as you build your hand, so while you may want to put your strongest, best cards into your hand, you’re going to end up with a very small hand. Once the hand starts, you blindly draw from your stack and play the card. You then continue until all of your opponent’s cards are destroyed. It’s like a very limited version of Magic: The Gathering. Or, more appropriately, an even more limited version of Yu-Gi-Oh, but don’t ask me how I know that. Regardless, it’s unique, and one of my favorite parts of the game.
RAGE is not the best game of 2011. It is not, however, a bad game. It is not even a mediocre or average game. It is a good/great game. Despite its problems, including long loading screens, fetch-based mission gameplay, and lack of co-op campaign, it is still definitely worth your time. Welcome back, iD.
|No co-op campaign|