id Software are well-known for making the first-person shooter a popular genre, with titles like Wolfenstein 3D, Doom, and Quake that are now popular franchises. They're also well-known for the Quake engine, now the id Tech engine, which is one of the few engines that are used by different third-party developers, next to the Unreal Engine.
Their latest engine, id Tech 5, is now used for their future games, with Rage being the first game to showcase its capabilities. The biggest feature being MegaTexture, or Virtual Texturing, where you can have one large texture to create terrain, instead of repeating multiple small textures. Although it was used in the game Enemy Territory: Quake Wars, this is the first game I experienced using the technology.
This is cool stuff and all, but when the textures take time to load, a below-average story, and a short single-player campaign, graphics don't matter.
You take control of an Ark Survivor, who was meant to be one of many to rebuild civilization after an asteroid hits Earth. As you can imagine, things go tits up and you find yourself as the only survivor after you wake up from your cryogenic sleep on the account that all of your pod mates are dead.
You discover that Earth is now under a totalitarian society run by an organization called "The Authority" and it's up to you to take this Authority down by helping the local resistance and hopefully, rebuild society, the right way.
It's all fair and simple, with unique locations and some interesting characters, but the plot is horribly lacking. For whatever reason, id Software has this reputation for telling really simple stories with no engaging characters or backstories. That might be fine back in the 90s, when video games were still in their infancy, but we're now in an age where story is now a big part in game design.
Let's take this "Authority" figure, for example. They are mentioned by name for the first part of the game and they slowly reveal themselves by appearing in different parts of the cities you explored. As it turns out, "The Authority" is led by an ex-Ark survivor and uses his knowledge and skills to take over Earth as the Ruler of All Things Post-Apocalyptic.
Yet, you never see this guy. They mentioned what a terrible person he is, but you never see what kind of horrible stuff he does. You fight his goons, yes, but that's not extensive enough to make us hate the bad guys. We hate "The Authority" because we just do. No real reason. We don't see them do terrible things. We see them keep people in prisons, oh no. Oh, and they shoot people. And when I mean people, I mean the player.
The ending should be on the list for "Worst Endings in Video Games" because it doesn't accomplish ANYTHING! You invade the fortress of "The Authority", shoot a bunch of bad guys, you activate a satellite to activate all the Arks, shoot some more bad guys, watch a cutscene, and that's it.
A couple of questions. First, what would be accomplished by releasing all the Ark people? They are people of the past and have NO idea what has happened to the world today. Their survival chances are pretty slim when you have a bunch of mutants running around. Not to mention all the Mad Max motorcycle gangs could use them as target practice.
Second, where's the Ruler? I thought we're going to have an epic showdown with the big man and waste all our ammo until he falls down. In fact, there is no final boss to begin with. We're just shooting a bunch of bullet fodder until we get to the cutscene to finish the game.
It's obviously setting itself up for the sequel, Rage 2: Adrenaline Rush! Given that the game took more than four years to develop, we probably won't see the next sequel for a long time.
With a lackluster story and script, what about the gameplay?
Fortunately, the gameplay is pretty damn sweet. The first-person shooter mechanics work well. Shoot all the enemies until there's nobody left, aim down your sights for the perfect shot, get shot by enemies until the screen goes red, take cover and wait for the red corn syrup to go away, rinse and repeat.
What makes the gameplay engaging is both the sound design and the animation. Sound design is not much of a concern unless it's the main focus of the game. For instance, the weapon sounds here are awesome, having a sense of weight and booming every time you shoot. The assault rifle is a good example, but the shotgun is the best. Listen to it. It gives meaning to the term "boomstick".
Also, when you shoot at enemies at a specific body part, like their arm, they actually grasp their arm and continue onward to either hit you or shoot you. Yet it's ridiculous that I'm shooting them in the head and it takes more than one shot out of a pistol to take them down. I thought that in reality, if you get shot in the head by a regular gun, BAM, instant death. There are some exceptions, but in most cases, you're done.
The game also has some RPG mechanics to it, if a bit light. Most of the RPG mechanics are used for inventory management and looting bodies. You can build different items based on items you collect either in stores, looting dead bodies, or collect junk off the floor.
You can also take numerous missions to make extra cash and you have different hub worlds to explore, even though it has two.
There's also driving mechanics in this game, which you can own a vehicle and either explore the locations or join race tournaments that give you the cash you need to upgrade your vehicle, both in the world explorin' or in the racing tournaments.
The problem I have with this mechanic is that when it comes to handbraking, it spins way out of control and it's hard to gain speed unless you have your thumb on the speed boost. The sound design is also pathetic when your death machine sounds like a lawn mower.
The demolition derby races are also frustrating because most of the time, when you're in first place, you will always get hit by rockets and most of the time, you don't have the necessary shields to protect you. Make sure you have plenty speed juice and keep that thumb on the speed boost!
Despite having a powerful engine with new technology, the MegaTexture seems to load every time you turn around fast enough. You quickly look to the left and the terrain looks like one big blotch of a tan color before the texture loads up within a few seconds.
What I will say about the graphics is that the characters are animated really well. When they talk, the lip-sync matches real-life talking and emote like real people, much like Half-Life 2. People may say that Mass Effect has the best lip-syncing and real-life animation, but I think it's more with Rage than Mass Effect, since that game has a bit more of a robotic, dead-eye feel to the facial expressions.
When I heard of this game, it reminded me a lot of Borderlands and when playing it, the influence shows. They're both first-person shooters, they have vehicular combat, and the characters have a cel-shaded appearance, although Borderlands has more of that than Rage.
However, with Borderlands, there is more replayability where you can play the game over and over again until your level rank is at its maximum peak and you have the biggest guns the game has to offer. In Rage, you're playing the same game over and over again with very little change to the gameplay.
So that's it, then. After many years of development, we get a fun game, yet a story that is unimpressive and ends on a sour note, leaving it open for sequels. I never got the chance to play the PC version nor the Xbox 360 version, but from what I hear, the PC version of Rage got the shaft by the developers to the consumers and drew many complaints, which is odd, because id Software was built on PC game development in the past.
I'm guessing for both the Xbox 360 and PC versions of the game, it's packed with more than one disc that you need to swap, which I'm blessed to have played it on the PS3, so it's all on one disc. Maybe technology can improve for the 360 and the PC. Give them their own Blu-Rays. That way, we wouldn't fear losing any of them and accidently step on it in our messy rooms.