Wednesday, 4 July 2012


Post-Launch Review
Developer: id Software
Released: October 2011


Rage is a post-apocalyptic, sci-fi FPS game set years after an asteroid impact has wiped out most life on Earth. In preparation for the asteroid, Arks were set up across the world, which would protect a small group of humans and release them after the asteroid. But something went wrong, and only small numbers of arks release their charges a few at a time. In the confusion, bandit tribes have sprung up to harass the beleaguered wasteland settlers, and an oppressive government calling itself the Authority is hoarding tech and resources for its own nefarious purposes. To make things worse, mutants roam the wasteland, killing everything they find.
You are a just-awakened ark survivor, thrust into the ongoing conflict between the settlers, bandits, mutants, and Authority... and it seems everyone has an interest in you.

At Launch

Rage received a lot of attention pre-launch for its graphics, which were equally praised upon full release, with review scores averaging around 80%. Reviewers enjoyed the solid shooter mechanics and wide variety of quality character animations. The main criticisms were of the game's plot and characters, as well as the lack of content in the open outdoor areas.

Post Launch

The PC version of Rage received an update that fixed some bugs and added more video setting options, as well as a benchmarker to test how quickly textures will load on your hardware.
id has said they're not done with Rage, and have plans for it, although it's not clear if this means DLC or a sequel.

The Good

Environments & Megatextures
Rage uses megatextures - extremely large and high-resolution texture files. These megatextures prevent patterns from being repeated across the landscape and increase the detail level of the world. As a result, the wasteland looks incredible. The terrain is highly detailed and looks amazing. Despite the wasteland being populated with only rocks and dust, Rage has some of the best-looking environments of any game. Seriously, it's awe-inspiring to just drive through the canyons.
Enemy Differentiation
One thing that Rage does very well is make each group of enemies feel distinct by giving them their own tactics and movement styles in addition to different models. In terms of the gangs, the Ghosts are fluid and feral, leaping and rolling to evade your weapon fire and coming from all angles; the Wasted specialize in assault rifles and wear helmets to protect from headshots; the Shrouded are techies, using explosives and cover; the Gearheads are the smartest bandits and employ armour and sentry bots; and the Jackals are mostly melee berserkers who can absorb tons of damage.
The two remaining factions are the Authority and the mutants. Mutants are totally feral and vicious, scurrying and climbing after you with no sense of self-preservation, unlike many of the humans who tend to retreat when things go badly. The Authority are the toughest enemies in the game: highly armoured, professional soldiers who use cover, grenades, and shields effectively.
Character Animation
This might have fit in with the enemy differentiation, but I felt it deserved its own thingy. The animation is quite good; one thing I appreciated is that many characters will move around a fair bit when talking to you, making arm gestures and such, instead of just standing stock-still like many games. Further, the enemies are all animated differently: the mutants and more feral bandits act animalistic and fluid; the Authority is precise and militaristic; and the other clans all have their own little quirks.
What really stands out here is the way that enemies react to damage and death. They'll clutch the part of the body you shot, fall to the floor and take a few breaths before struggling back up, and limp when retreating. If a melee enemy is killed while charging at you, his momentum carries him stumbling past you instead of just dropping to the floor.
Alternate Ammo
The weapon selection is mostly standard, but the ammunition system helps keep things exciting. Okay, so you've got a pistol, assault rifle, shotgun, crossbow... yeah, whatever. Except you can get pistol rounds that go through everything but walls, or that explode into bullets which turn into more bullets. Your shotgun can fire EMP bursts or grenades. Armour-piercing rounds are available for your rifles. But the coolest is the crossbow ammo. There's standard steel-tipped bolts, of course. But then you have electrified bolts which fry any enemies in water; TNT bolts that explode a short while after impact, and mind-control bolts that allow you to briefly control, and then explode, a single enemy. Awesome.

Early on in the game, you're given a choice of three outfits to wear, which kind of function as minor classes since you can't change your outfit later. One reduces merchant prices, one provides additional damage reduction, and the one I chose gives boosts to many of your crafting recipes. It's a neat way to add a bit more choice into an FPS game.
At first I was disappointed with the engineering suit, since it didn't seem to provide much benefit, but it's absolutely worth it later on when you can build some of the cooler stuff.
Rage employs a crafting system, which... well, it's not the greatest or most complex thing ever. There's no experimentation or variance; if you have a recipe and the ingredients, you can make a thing. That said, some of the stuff you can make is fantastic. Some of the special ammo is craftable. There are a couple of buff items that increase your health regen or max health temporarily, and one that permanently increase your health (though the ingredients are hard to find). You can craft wingsticks, which are like smart boomerangs: they have a degree of homing capability and return to you if they have the space and don't break.
Far and away the best items, though, are the sentry turret and the sentry bot. The turret is an immobile gun that tracks and fires on enemies, while the bot is a spider-like machine that follows you, fires on enemies, and makes melee attacks when necessary. These two are really cool and surprisingly powerful once you find the advanced recipe - especially if you're wearing the engineering suit, which gives the bots added durability. Used at the right moments and positions, my turrets and bots helped me blow through dozens of enemies with ease.
Rage features a surprising selection of minigames. There's a dice game where you try to get your holographic sheriff to shoot the holographic mutants before they eat him. There's a knife game that... well, I don't really know what you call it, but it's that thing where you stab the table between your fingers and try not to cut your digits off. You know, the thing that Bishop does in Aliens. There's a note-matching game that's basically Simon. There's a whole collectible card game where you fight various creatures and characters from the world against each other.
And, of course, the big one is racing. There are two major hub towns and each offers a wide selection of race types and difficulties, separated by car class. You've got basic time trials, non-combat races, combat races with a predetermined weapon, and rallies (which involve capturing the most points in a frantic combat arena). Winning races earns you race certificates, which you can use to buy upgrades for your cars. I wasn't a huge fan of the wasteland driving, but the races are more fun, though still often pretty easy if you're buying your upgrades. A couple of the rally courses can get frustrating, though.

The Neutral

Much of Rage is played in a vehicle of some sort: travelling between objectives, racing to win better gear, hunting down bandits. Driving feels fairly mediocre most of the time, and often it feels like the only reason it's there is to make the world feel bigger by putting a few minutes of travel between you and your objectives. Even vehicular combat doesn't feel particularly exciting due to the auto-aim and lock-on weaponry.
That said, the upgrades and quick-use items do a lot to make things better. You can win races to buy upgrades for your vehicles (or better vehicles), which will make your car faster, more responsive, and more durable. The quick-use items add some complexity to combat, though the fact that enemies don't really use them is a bit of a downer. You can purchase temporary shields, turrets or bombs that follow you and target enemies, a quick-repair, and a couple of other neat things.
I really like Rage's setting, however, the story isn't quite as strong. It's a fairly standard overthrow-the-oppressive-regime thing. The Authority are totally 100% bad guys, and the friendly responsible settlers have to overthrow them to gain their freedom. Yawn.
I would have been more interested if the Authority had some motivation beyond controlling the world, or if they were at least morally ambiguous somehow instead of just bad. It might have been even more interesting if the bandit gangs played a stronger role than simply being more bad guys to shoot.
There are two multiplayer modes: Road Rage and Wasteland Legends. Legends are two-player co-op missions that fill in some background story: you play as characters that appear in the campaign and live out events that occurred before the campaign, like the fight against the Authority for control of Wellspring. Road Rage matches are fought in vehicles - three types are rallies where you compete to be the first to achieve an objective, and the fourth type is simple vehicle combat. It's odd that id didn't include an actual multiplayer race mode, given that you can race in the campaign.
Multiplayer is fairly depopulated right now, which means you have very little chance of finding a Road Rage match. Fortunately, Wasteland Legends can be played solo, but they're harder and don't grant achievements if you play alone.

The Bad

Texture Popping
This is an issue that's received fairly widespread attention, and unfortunately it's one that's not going away unless you upgrade your rig. Since the texture files are so huge, if your computer's RAM or GPU aren't top-notch, you simply won't be able to load the texture files quickly enough for them to appear on demand. What this means in practise is that if your settings are too high for your hardware, whenever you turn around, your textures will briefly not be there at all, and then be muddy, and gradually load the high-res version. If you find the right balance it's hardly noticeable, but if you turn things up higher than recommended you'll really notice it.
Basically, if you expect Rage to look nice, you'd better have good hardware.
Empty Wasteland
The wasteland is pretty empty. Well, duh, it's called the wasteland. What I'm actually saying is that there's hardly anything to do there beyond travel to your next objective. The game's tooltips tell you to explore every nook and cranny so you don't miss anything, but in the wasteland there's really nothing to find. It's all in the tighter indoor areas.
This is only a minor quibble, but it's worth pointing out so that you don't make the same mistake I did.
Early on in the game you're told to hold on to any feltrite you find, since it's rare and valuable, and to only trade it for something really good.
However, there's only one feltrite trade you can make in the entire game, and it's not even essential if you're a skilled player or have stocked up on bandages. After that, any feltrite you find is only good for selling. You can't even use it in crafting, despite some materials being derived from feltrite. I didn't realize this, so I was hanging on to every piece I found, and then the game ended with 46 pieces in my inventory. I could've sold those for a ton of money and had more supplies for some tough missions.
You may have heard of, or played, games that end abruptly. Well, they've got nothing on Rage. Even though it's obviously set up for a sequel, there's nothing remotely resembling a proper conclusion, which is still important even if you intend to continue the series. The final cutscene is about thirty seconds long and features no dialogue or even a single person. And, here's the really bad part, there's not even a climax!
The missing climax is due almost 100% to the Authority pulse cannon that you're given for the final mission. It's so ridiculously powerful, and ammo is so plentiful, that I blew through dozens of the toughest enemies in the game with ease. Without this weapon, the last level would have provided some intense and challenging fights, but with it I was never in enough trouble that I thought to use a bandage or deploy a sentry bot. There still wouldn't have been an ending, but at least there'd be a climax of difficulty and intensity in gameplay.

The Verdict

Recommendation: play it.
Rage has some really cool ideas, and looks great in just about every way. If you're a shooter fan you'll definitely enjoy the core gameplay, which is very solid and intense, and offers quite a bit of variety in terms of enemies and battlegrounds. Crafting is fun and gives you some cool options you won't find in other shooters. There are some weak points, but you probably won't mind too much when you're blasting your way through some really cool enemies in some of the best-looking environments there are right now.


  1. This review has made me want to play rage :) Thanks for writing it!

  2. Really objective and good review. In my opinion, with all flaws Rage have best single player FPS campain of last year...

  3. Fair review, unlike a lot of the initial launch comments from high expectation players who expected the best game ever made. Rage has a lot of untapped potential.